It seems there’s been a lot of talk amongst some personal finance bloggers about their experiences with depression. They have shared their stories bravely and have offered their experiences as way to inspire and help others going through similar things.
For myself, I struggle with depression and I know it’s played a big role in how I got myself into this kind of a financial situation in the first place. Having a major mood disorder means you don’t always have a lot of control over your feelings on a day to day basis – it’s kind of a roulette wheel of crappy.
Even after it’s treated with anti-depressants, it’s still touch and go. The pill just kind of buffers you against the worst of the feelings and then you deal with whatever else your brain hands you that day. Most days, my brain is a total douche bag.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get up in the morning, go to work, come home, and engage in semi-meaningful hobbies and bonding with family and friends in my spare time – it just makes it harder. Generally, it just means that many interactions and/or activities require a little extra ‘umph!’. And by ‘umph!’, I mean that noise you make when you’re trying to get that little extra effort required to move that heavy box into the back of the truck.
Here’s my default setting for most things:
When I default on ‘angst’, I get really interested in things that I can use to kick start my mood into a forward feel-something-else motion. I take shortcuts because it’s less work than letting things run their course – most of the things are pretty harmless but they do add up.
For example, coffee:
But it gets to be a problem when the little things aren’t enough. It’s harder to think straight when I get desperate and I don’t always properly work through all the options when I’m in that frame of mind. Before you know it…
So what to do? There’s some really important things I learned over the years to combat my bad moods and the need to escape them.
First lesson: Just accept that it’s crappy sometimes
When I understand and accept that It’s crappy and I don’t fight against it, it’s easier to deal with because I’m not fighting a war on two fronts. It’s reality and there’s no point in trying to pretend that it’s not; if you do, you end up getting desperate to avoid feeling crappy and you make stupid decisions.
Instead of being “OMG, I’m so not feeling crappy right now – this is not happening AT ALL.” Then going out and spending $400 on stuff so I can convince myself that everything is fine.
I can be ‘Wow, this really sucks” and ride it out. Most of the time, the fear of the feeling is worse than the actual feeling itself. If I’m not trying to convince myself that everything is fine all the time, it’s likely that the crappy will run its course and I can get on with life without being worse for the wear.
Second Lesson: When it’s crappy, have a distraction list
Feeling really down, or irritated, or numb or anything along those lines can be really difficult to tolerate. Especially when it happens enough to make me wonder if there are other feelings besides the crappy ones. I know that life has highs and lows but when I’m low, that’s all I see. When that happens, I need to have things around me that I can turn to for positivity. For example, I keep a happiness project on my Ipad: I have a photo album of people and places that I really like; catchy music that never fails to make me smile (Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke); and a couple of fun shows/movies that I love (Despicable Me – “IT’S SO FLUFFY!!!”). Sometimes I forget about it but when I use it, it’s great.
A distraction list is basically a bunch of things that you can do in the moment if you’re having a hard time. It can be anything from calling a friend, to painting a picture to meditating for twenty minutes – it’s usually best to have a couple portable ones that can be done anywhere (like meditative breathing techniques). I list ten or so things that I can do instead of making an unfortunate spending decision.
Third Lesson: Know your triggers
There’s a bunch of things that can make it harder for me to get through a day and knowing what those are helps me either avoid them or know what to expect when something happens. Like someone who gets headaches because of changes in barometric pressure, emotional triggers can work very similarly.
For me, it’s important to structure my free time. If I have a whole weekend full of nothing, I can implode by late Saturday afternoon and be off spending because I’m feeling bored and anxious.
Keep a journal and track moods and behaviours can be a good start. A lot can be learned from getting a feel for how thoughts, emotions, and actions all interact to create a current situation. I could actually benefit from doing this again because I’ve started slipping again personally.
I’ve done a lot of work to keep myself as well as I have and my depression is managed. I understand that this it’s going to be a chronic, lifelong illness and that I might have to go in for more treatment if I ever enter into another ‘major depressive episode’.
If you do struggle with a lot of ‘negative’ feelings and you haven’t gotten help, I would strongly urge you to talk to someone. Start out with someone in your personal circle if you’re not up to talking to a professional, or vice versa a professional. Get the help you need because it might not go away on its own.
If you have emotional triggers with money – maybe these tips can help!
What about you readers? What do you do when you’re feeling blah?