There’s nothing like having another major depressive episode to totally derail your happiness project. My last post made my mom sad, and that made me cry. I’m no stranger to sadness but it was weird to be so sad after feeling happy for so long. A little over two months later, I’m getting back on track.
This episode wasn’t as bad as last one. I mean, I wasn’t crying day and night and I didn’t feel like throwing myself in front of the Q train this time. But this time was definitely different. This time I was tired. I was so tired I slept for 12 to 14 hours a day. In the beginning I could explain this away because I just finished another semester at school and I could tell people I was burnt out. Weeks dragged by and my routine hadn’t changed. No one seemed to notice either. I had been relying on my fear of comps and a paper deadline to provide the kick in the rear I so desperately need to motivate me to get some work done. Instead I would wake up in the afternoon, watch Grey’s Anatomy all day and think about all the work I had to do. But by the end of January I knew exactly what I was dealing with and that I wasn’t being honest with myself about my own health.
I figured I’d better start seeing a therapist before things got out of hand. At the rate I was going I was never going to graduate. So I call the university hotline to set up an intake meeting and in typical university healthcare fashion, I wasn’t able to get an appointment with a therapist for over two weeks. A lot can happen in two weeks and a lot did happen.
I had a frank discussion with my boss about the fact that I hadn’t been working for a month and that he hadn’t noticed. I told him I needed more structure, he agreed and suddenly I had concrete deadlines. I told close friends what was going on with me and asked them to hold me accountable for getting some help. For the most part, my friends think I am too hard on myself (this is partly true) and encouraged me to continue to do these relaxing and fun time-wasters instead of getting my life back together and getting back to work. The benefit of having a few friends with MSW’s is that they understand what I’m going through and can offer appropriate support, which was get back to your life even though you really don’t want to.
Of course by the time I actually had the appointment I was feeling much better and felt totally silly going to the doctor. It wasn’t so fun once I got in the chair and started talking. My therapist is urging me to “sit with my feelings” instead of drinking them away or my other not-so-helpful-but-totally-fun coping mechanisms. Even though I’m not a fan of this method, I am giving it a shot. I’m feeling all over the place and don’t feel in control my feelings, which is not fun but is probably healthier than what I was doing. I’m getting work done finally. I’m writing again.
This part of my PhD is incredibly isolating; I don’t have any more classes and I spend most of my time writing alone. I also live alone as well. The hardest part of getting better is that it’s all on me. No one knows what I’m doing but me, no one can make me do anything but me. I’ve gone back to the drawing board for my happiness project. Over the next year, I will need to make a few tough decisions regarding my dissertation and my future career. At this point in my PhD, everything I have left to do is not fun but I know I will be happy when I’m done.