June 30, 2014 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Breaking The Low Mood Cycle - a guest post at Captain Awkward discusses how to change your behavior to feel good about yourself and be better at doing you. The post has a humorous tone, reminiscent of Allie Brosh.
posted by desjardins (31 comments total) 167 users marked this as a favorite
This is good, and timely. Thank you for posting it.
posted by headnsouth at 12:01 PM on June 30, 2014

I look forward to having some Pizza of Getting Shit Done tonight after I do some dusting. Thanks to MeFit Elsa who posted this to HealthMonth today.
posted by sarahnade at 12:28 PM on June 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

And on this day I will unfuck a very small portion of my habitat.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

We are all grey sometimes, but under the lights, we are really bright and great – and we are inherently, wonderfully worthy.

*Writes on Post-It, sticks to computer monitor.*
posted by alynnk at 12:37 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

That was awesome and thanks for it.
posted by yerfatma at 12:37 PM on June 30, 2014

This is FANTASTIC, thanks for posting!
posted by insectosaurus at 12:39 PM on June 30, 2014

I like to share my small accomplishments on Twitter; it's great to get feedback from friends who may also be struggling with getting things done.
posted by desjardins at 12:40 PM on June 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

"If you want a quality, act as if you already have it." William James.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Eating creates the appetite." French Proverb
posted by OmieWise at 1:04 PM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is a good summation of cognitive theory and how it thinks about mood, and a good primer on how to put that to use.
posted by OmieWise at 1:05 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am currently working on unfucking my work habitat. Previously I was calling it "getting organized"; now I am unfucking. The later is somehow more fun.
posted by nubs at 1:06 PM on June 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would never, ever eat the Pudding of Getting Things Done, but I definitely from time to time enjoy the Ice Cream of Not Smoking Today or the Lego Time of Putting Away the Stuff.

Thank you for posting this.
posted by gauche at 1:21 PM on June 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

This is one of the funniest things I've ever read. Reading this at work was a mistake. Also, good advice.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:33 PM on June 30, 2014

It's been linked before, but anyone looking for a longer-form (mostly) non-humorous look at this and exercises to deal with it, check out Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns. Reading it can really help pry that monkey off your back
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:37 PM on June 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

Take everything out of your Sock Collection and give all the lonely socks some sock friends and fold them up together like “heck yeah, I’m shipping these two socks. NOW KISS”

I will never look at my sock drawer in the same way again.
posted by meronym at 1:39 PM on June 30, 2014 [19 favorites]

This is generally good advice, the sort of thing that I've been working on. What follows is a long story of me coming out of long-term depression, being happy, and currently dealing with a resurgence of depression. I put this sort of thing down because I hope it can help someone, in some way. It's too long and self-indulgent, but the tl;dr is small incremental steps are the way, and creating a structure of happiness helps you deal with the slings and arrows.

I've been dealing with depression my entire life, and it was only a few years back when I could finally admit to myself that A) this was true and B) that I needed to do something about it. 2010 was a really rough year for me, and after finally getting a job in 2011 after nine months of soul-crushing unemployment, I had health insurance and a job (in that order). After a few months of reorienting myself, I started getting the therapy I needed. First doc didn't work out, second doc did. After a while of that, I was doing better. Not amazing, but better, and I was finally able to accept that I should be on anti-depressants, a prospect which had scared me so much that I had avoided therapy all those long years because it seemed like a foregone conclusion.

So I got on meds, and it helped. It didn't necessarily make me happy, I was still in a job that I didn't like, stuck in a career that I didn't want and that felt harder and harder to get out of. But it pulled me out of the black fog I had lived in for so long, made the lows less less (while not making the highs less high). The meds (and the therapy) gave me the space I needed to work on other things, make incremental improvements.

I applied to grad school after putting it off for years (at least partly because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do). I got accepted, and got to quit my job. Then one of my cats died, and I was devastated. Just completely destroyed. But I had a framework, a way to stand back up. And I did. I started grad school, and I would still get depressed, I would still be sad. I still had low points, low moods. But I was in grad school now, I was on a different path, or at least I was trying to be. I was still dealing with a lot of social anxiety which made it difficult to make friends and networking connections in grad school (also not helped by being 5-7 years older than everyone else in my program).

But grad school was a good thing. I was using parts of my brain that I hadn't in a while, I had hope for a different future. Now the other (or one of the other) thing that I had been dealing with my entire life was my weight and the negative self-image engendered by it. In many ways, this was the root of my depression, or at least a major contributing factor. For a long time I was keeping steady at 250 despite all "efforts" but after the horror of 2010 I was flat at 290. And by September and October 2012 I was breaking 300 and even 310. I had tried diets and exercise before, to no great effect. But at some point in early October of 2012, I started working out every weekday morning. And tracking it. I had no routine at first, I didn't know what the fuck I was doing, and frankly I didn't even have a lot of hope that it would have an effect. I just got up in the early early morning (no easy feat for me) and grimly went to the gym and worked out.

I had heard of the keto and paleo diets, and had considered them, before dismissing them. Give up carbs? I ate pasta constantly, my rice cooker was the most used thing in my entire kitchen. And even more, just tracking and measuring my food... ugh. I love to cook, and the thought of having to turn the artistic and freewheeling style of my cooking into a measured thing was not something I wanted to do. But I said fuck it, and said that I'd start doing it the day after the election. And I did. By the start of 2013, I was 25lbs down, and still losing quickly. It was noticeable, as was my increasing strength and ability at the gym. I continued to lose, by March I was down over 50lbs (I know, I have the spreadsheets). I was at least 1.5 wardrobes past know, and I was feeling better about myself in ways I hadn't in years. If ever.

I decided to try dating again (part of the horrible 2010 was a really bad breakup). I put up a profile, and a blurry iphone photo of me holding my new kitten (from January). In some sort of bizarro world, and contrary to all understanding of how internet dating works, women started contacting me. I can't even understand it. I went on a bunch of first and second dates, and while I enjoyed dating I didn't really feel anything romantic as such, so I broken it off. Then I met a girl. Actually, she contacted me while I was visiting a friend overseas, taking my first long trip in simply ages. I met up with her when I got back, and was smitten. And apparently so was she. We started dating.

There are few things that bolster my self-esteem more than being in a relationship. That probably not the healthiest way of doing things. But know that someone likes you, likes you romantically, mentally, and yes physically, is amazing. Just hanging out, reading quietly together is as great as regular sex (for the self-esteem). Though regular sex also does wonders for my mood, both the physical and emotional intimacy is something I crave. I was very happy, not deliriously so (though that as well a lot), but just at some base level. Again, in a way I had not been for a long time, if ever. I didn't even feel like me, I had become so used to the inner bastard that I was. It felt wrong even.

We dated through 2013, and while grad school was at times difficult, crazy-making, or just plain exhausting and frustrating, I persevered. I did things with my SO, we did things apart, and I was happy if busy. I actually stopped going to therapy, I didn't really need it. I had started to wean myself back on the anti-depressants, because again I didn't need them as much (all of this was done in conversation with the relevant docs). And I was still happy. I continued to lose weight, to get stronger.

We broke up earlier this year, or more accurately I was dumped. And while it's been months, it's still been incredibly hard for me. I'm not consumed by the rage that characterized my last (bad breakup), but it came out of nowhere for me, and I was just destroyed. I got back in therapy after a month or so, I went back up to my higher dosage of anti-depressants. It was necessary, I was trying to avoid falling into the pit, the dark place I knew I could go.

I haven't fallen, at least not yet, it's sometimes a day-by-day process. I feel stupid for still feeling sad nearly half a year later on a relationship that lasted less than a year. But over the past couple years, I put together a structure that made me better. I was single and sad, completely gobsmacked, but I was not the overweight and out-of-shape person I was. I dressed better, I felt better about myself. I had grad school as a distraction, and I threw myself into all sorts of other distractions. And even though I've been stalled on the weight loss thing for months now, I still kept to the diet, still exercised every day, still maintained my loss of 95lbs.

I graduated in May, and I went from being a grad student to being an unemployed bum. I'm still unemployed, but I was able to go to my career counselor and get help, something I wouldn't have been able to do before all of these changes. I send out a lot of applications every day, something I am able to do thanks to the anti-depressants and the ADD meds that I finally admitted to myself that I needed (and was prescribed).

So this is where I am at the moment. I'm bent, but not broken. I'm still sad a lot of the time, I still get depressed, and I still think of my ex more than I'd like or care to admit. This is hardly the life I'd want for myself just after 30, and certainly not the life I thought I'd have. But it is what it is. And what it is is a life in progress. I'm not destroyed, these are setbacks, things to overcome. I get up in the morning, I go to the gym, and then I send out at least as many applications and resumes as I have set as a goal for myself. I keep myself busy in the evenings, seeing friends, playing boardgames, doing glassblowing (a true joy of mine). I started dating a few months after the breakup, not necessarily because I thought I was ready, but because I thought I needed to take a step forward. I keep toying with stopping it, at least until I get a job (dating while unemployed is a drag), but I haven't yet.

The steps I took in the past to improve my future, to improve myself, they're still there. I can fall back on them on the changes to habit, the changes to perspective that I've made over the last few years. I know that this depression will pass, or that it can be overcome. People look at me now, and they say "wow you've come so far!" or "you've made such big changes!" But I didn't. I made a series of small changes, that built on each other. Microchanges, little force of wills.

At the moment, I'm having a rough time of it. Certainly not as bad as many other people, but not great for me. But this can be beaten, this can be done. I know that it can, I've crawled out from worse.
posted by X-Himy at 1:42 PM on June 30, 2014 [44 favorites]

I'm glad it acknowledged at the end that it's a not a cure-all. The thing I can't stand most of all when I'm in a low mood is someone telling me that it's my own fault for refusing to get off my lazy ass. As if lying around in silence for days like someone in a coma is preferable to being able to do anything else. One has to decide for themselves when it's possible.
posted by bleep at 1:53 PM on June 30, 2014 [9 favorites]

. It becomes hard to remember those times where you were really bright and motivated and funny, and you wanted to see your friends and go places and do new things, and you were completing all kinds of projects and doing good exercise and engaging with your life. And remembering those times can be kind of worse, because you’re like “I was that person? How?”

The bolded phrase wasn't like a slap to the face but it was like an equally shocking way of saying "Isn't this thing being described totally awful and you know why you know that...because you do it to yourself all the time without even realizing it."


Also I am totally having pudding tonight. Fuck yeah Pudding of Getting Shit Done. (And "making pudding" might be the only thing I get done to celebrate.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2014 [14 favorites]

This was so amazingly exactly what I needed to read right now, thank you. And also very very funny.

Today I will unfuck the kitchen bench. And then enjoy the nap of getting shit done.
posted by arha at 2:05 PM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm glad she mentioned that this is not a cure for depression. I know here on MeFi we tend to be pretty mental illness-aware but I hope people in the general public who are reading it realize that folks with depression and folks who are feeling low for rational reasons are sort of working on whole different terrains. Not that various therapies and techniques can't help people with depression-- but for some, "breaking the low mood cycle" without medical help might be about as realistic as a double amputee "breaking the low mobility cycle" without such.

Also I think calling the art "reminiscent" of Allie Brosh is extremely generous. :)
posted by threeants at 2:20 PM on June 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

I, too, need to remember that choosing a *tiny* bit of the habitat to unfuck is more likely to get it done than thinking "I need to clean up the habitat".

Hooray for unfucking tiny bits. Heh.
posted by allthinky at 2:34 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Metafilter: Hooray for unfucking tiny bits.
posted by threeants at 2:36 PM on June 30, 2014 [11 favorites]

"shutting off the part of your brain that deals in motivations, solutions, action plans and goals is a great way to keep you dependent on them. The Low Mood Cycle basically flicks that reward-switch off, making you a smaller person. It’s hard to program yourself out of it."

Hah. I am soooo there. I don't think my brain even HAS an area that has motivations, solutions, and goals any more. (Though to be fair, it never really did. My ambition is to first HAVE an ambition...) Beats me how to fix that, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:46 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's like having cancer. No amount of positive thinking is going to make you not have cancer. But you're going to get a lot further towards keeping your life from collapsing in a heap if you know how to do stuff like managing your energy. And overall, your chances of coming out of the whole thing in one piece are better if your life has maintained some structure through the whole thing.

I am, of course, very, very bad at this.
posted by Sequence at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Eating creates the appetite." French Proverb

I'm struggling through my third day of Ramadan, and a whole lot of not eating seems to create it too... *sigh*
posted by mykescipark at 3:05 PM on June 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

Thank you for the post! It was a good reminder today, which has been a day where everything's been just a little bit harder than it needed to be. I shall go home from work now and do some exercise so I can have the Takeway of Getting Shit Done and make dishes clean and go to bed filled with self-congratulation that even though I didn't want to get out of bed and do anything, I did. I totally did.

Or, as Allie would say, I win!
posted by Athanassiel at 1:41 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do all this kind of stuff but I also take the pills as well. Win combo.
posted by colie at 4:37 AM on July 1, 2014

I am grateful to you for posting this. I've been trying to find a sensitive way to address some struggles my SO is going through right now and this touches on all of them. This is a great way to broach a difficult subject. It's going to (I hope) help me preemptively unfuck a situation I would surely compound fuck up otherwise.

Thank you, desjardins.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:56 AM on July 1, 2014

Today is really, really hot, and I wanted BADLY to seize the excuse to sit in our one small air-conditioned room and eat ice cream all day.

Then I read this. I got up. I took the garbage out. Then I took a big pile of stuff that had been bugging me for ages and hauled that to the curb. Then I raked up all the crap that had been under the pile and hauled that to the curb.

Did I mention that it's really hot?

My big ol' dish of Getting Shit Done ice cream is going to taste SO much better now. Thank you.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:20 AM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I read this yesterday, and then thought about it after putting some oven fries in the oven.

I decided to turn those oven fries (which I did actual prepwork for) into the Fries of Getting Shit Done. My room is now somewhat tidy. There are 13 minutes left on the oven fries.

So thank you for that.
posted by smangosbubbles at 4:36 PM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

It so weird that until someone lays it out like this, we all find we have to invent this line of thinking. I know I did... last year I set a big goal for myself that involved a lot of preparation and training at ridiculous hours, and it was completely by accident that I hit upon the mindview of "I'm not doing [minor preparatory chore] because I want to do it, I'm doing it because I'm doing it." As if desire didn't even matter! It was revelatory to learn (again) that I didn't have to feel like doing something in order to just do it. And get an inch closer to the overall goal!

Also, it helped that Ben Folds put out the perfect single just as I was getting started with the process.
posted by psoas at 10:14 AM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

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