Kelly wrote to ask what to do about work since she's feeling so depressed and her performance is suffering. This is a difficult question to answer. Initially I said that by the time my depressions were truly debilitating, I was already a freelance grant writer so it wasn't a problem.
The value of freelance work is that you can do it whenever you feel like it. Even though I had deadlines I couldn't miss, if I was feeling a bit under the weather, I could work later in the day or even at night, and for most of my career I didn't miss a deadline. Later, when the medication caused havoc, it destroyed my career. And while it was salvageable, I no longer was interested in grant writing. These days I'm semi-retired so it's not a problem.
At first I didn't think I could offer Kelley any advice about how to handle depression in an organizational setting. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I do have some suggestions. The problem as she stated it is that she's feeling so hopeless that it's difficult to motivate herself.
First of all, I'm wondering if you're taking antidepressants and why they're not helping you get rid of the "hopeless" feeling. In the best of times, it usually took 14 days for the antidepressants to kick in--that is when they worked. And once they worked, I felt 100 percent better and could motivate myself. (Later, they didn't work at all, but I'm an unusual case.)
I've read a lot about work and depression and many of the books suggest you should discuss your condition with your boss to see if there can't be some accommodations made, which will help you in the short term.
Given my own experience, I've got to say I disagree. About five years ago I took a part-time director of development job for a nonprofit organization, and did tell the boss about my illness (primarily because the salary was way below my usual fee and I needed to explain why I wanted to be paid more).
My disclosure initially enabled me to get the salary I wanted and to work the hours I wanted. But, about a month into the job, I learned that my boss was a real "nut-job" and had a history of taking advantage of the people who worked for her. When I tried to see if I could report to someone else within the organization, she used my illness against me by suggesting the problem was mine rather than hers. It's a long story, but it was very unpleasant. Ultimately, I had to resign because my health is my most important priority.
A few years later, I accepted a book editing position, and once again disclosed the illness because the author/client wanted me to work side-by-side with her for five days a week and I felt I could could only stand to be with someone for three days a week since I was only recently feeling well.
Although I did a terrific job editing the book, I had numerous difficulties dealing with this client. Again, she tried to blame my illness for our problems rather than her behavior (which I learned had been problematic with a lot of former employees). Since I'd already been through this once, and knew that my own behavior was very professional, and hers wasn't, I didn't allow her to take advantage of me. But, I felt that if I'd never mentioned the illness, I would have been better off.
So...having said this, my own experience suggests that disclosing the illness is fraught with problems. If other people have other experience with this, please let Kelly know.
Back to your original questions, which is how to motivate yourself when you're not feeling well, I guess I would suggest the following: 1. Talk to your doctor to see why your medication isn't working. 2. If you're not exercising, try to start. Aerobic exercise, which is truly difficult to start when you're feeling depressed, can ultimately make you feel better if medication can't.
3. Whether or not you're feeling motivated, there must be things you need to accomplish each day. While I don't know what kind of job you have, I do know that as a writer and grant writer, it was critically important that I make progress every day. So I wrote myself a detailed daily list of what I needed to accomplish. Whether I felt well or not, I slowly worked through my list. While I may not have been enthusiastic, that was less important than getting the job done.
4. The worst feeling in the world is letting things slide and hoping no one will notice. Ultimately they will, and the last thing you want to have happen is to have a less than stellar performance appraisal or be fired (in this economy). So, even if you decide not to disclose your depression to your boss, is there a colleague (or a therapist outside the work environment) who can help you figure out what you need to do to be productive until you feel better?
5. Also, I'm not sure if your work environment is helping to cause your depressive episode. If it is, you need to make sure you're talking to a therapist or counselor about the problems caused at work and see if you can figure out ways to improve things.
Since I don't know enough about your specific situation to give better advice, these are my top five ideas for now. If anyone else has suggestions, I'm hoping you'll provide them. Kelly, if we need more info to help you, let us know. All my best!