I saw a special about Terry Bradshaw who has depression and I read a book by William Styron on his depression. This morning I felt like I could not bear to work today. I did and feel fine now but it is a common thing for me. I don’t want to take pills but I will try it. I would like to know if there is something I can do to avoid this incapacitating reticence to do anything.”
BG, Canton, TX, USA
First of all, BG, I’m assuming that you have checked with your doctor to make sure that there are no underlying physical conditions which might lead to your feeling reticent to do anything. If you have the physical all-clear, then, because, as you say, it is a common thing for you to feel that you can’t bear to work, perhaps your doctor could refer you for counselling to help you identify and resolve what may be underlying your feelings.
I am wondering, have you experienced any recent changes in your sleeping patterns, your eating habits (either over or under eating), your use of alcohol or other stimulants; do you have a tendency to sigh a lot, to cry a lot, to withdraw from friends and family and feel unloved? These are some of the possible signs of depression, but remember that almost everyone experiences mood changes and periods of feeling “low” in response to life’s normal challenges, and they pass quite quickly. It’s when the conditions are severe and/or persistent that therapy or medication might be necessary. Sometimes, there’s an unrealistic expectation that we “should” love life and be happy, energetic and fulfilled at all times – but if you’ve just lost a loved one or maybe experienced some mental or physical trauma, then a period of reflection, of mourning, of adjustment is not only necessary but desirable.
I’m curious about how long you have been experiencing these feelings, and if you have experienced a recent trigger in the form of a major life event, such as a bereavement or loss through divorce. After such events it can take a long time for recovery to take place, and strong emotions are quite normal during these times. Talking with a trusted friend or relative can help to alleviate the burden – the old adage that ‘a trouble shared is a trouble halved’ has much truth in it. A counsellor or therapist would fill that role for you, also, if you prefer to keep your inner ponderings confidential. And if you can find no reason, and your feelings have been present for a long period, then it would certainly be advisable to seek a professional helper.
Perhaps, BG, you might ask yourself where this reticence, this incapacity comes from, what does it mean, and what purpose does it serve? What is it that you are not paying attention to in your life that your feelings of incapacitation are guiding you to attend to? What do you have in your life that you no longer want? What don’t you have in your life that you would like to be there? What steps can you take to make the changes that will create the conditions which will allow your greater fulfillment?
I also wonder how you relate to your work, your workplace and your workmates. Do you perhaps work alone, at home or in your office, and rely on your own company for motivation and encouragement? Is there something about your current work which causes you to avoid engaging with it? If you are involved with a creative profession, there can be a loneliness and reluctance which are necessary to the process of conceiving original work, and many artists experience a stage of reluctance before they find themselves in flow and being productive. Many of the great artists and performers of the world – Claude Monet, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, to name but a few – have suffered from depression, and the understanding of this condition is growing all the time.
If it were to prove that you do suffer from depression, there are things you can do to help yourself. You can start by keeping fit and well, rested and well-nourished. (Exercise releases “feel good” pheromones which enhance you mood, for example.) There are proven talking therapies, which can intervene and help you modify your responses. There are of course pills, as well, which your doctor may recommend as a measure to help you in the short term. What you decide to do will also depend on your assessment of yourself and the steps you are prepared to take in feeling better about yourself. For that is where you are in control, and the route you take is under your own direction.
Many of my clients, whatever issues they present with, find that writing is a superb therapy in itself. Perhaps you can keep a diary or journal of your daily moods and their relationship to your activities. An illuminating pattern may emerge, which will give you insight into, and possibly even assist in resolving, the triggers for your incapacitation. And writing an essay or a short story about your life as it is now and as you envisage it as an ideal can be a delightfully liberating experience in re-authoring yourself. Whilst you are deciding, such steps as have been suggested here may give you some inner peace and a calm place from which you can move to find what you want in your life.
And remember, as someone once said to me:
“Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance”
I wish you contentment and the resolve to change that which is within your power to achieve the happy and active life you desire.
I want to thank you all for your insights and help. I didn’t expect anything so thorough but I learned a lot.
I am an artist and my work is important to me. I want everything to be great. I do fear failure but I love the work and the opportunity to feel very strongly about it. Maybe that has something to do with it. I know I want approval and I work a little too hard to get it. I don’t know why I want approval.
Talking it out would help I am beginning to see. Your generosity with your time is truly appreciated. The bad thing about it is I don’t really want to do anything about it for fear I will just start something I don’t finish again. Paintings are the only thing in my life I have ever finished. Well one other thing. I was a single parent (father) for my two boys from the time they were 3 and 4 years old. They are grown and gone now, for several years. I have time to do a lot of work just don’t have the passion. I guess I am finally feeling mortal.