Monday, November 3, 2008

Handling a Low-Grade Depression

Despite all my best efforts I am experiencing a low-grade depression, and have been for the last month. What's different about it this year is that I'm accepting it for what it is, and I don't feel bad that I've got it.

In years past, I've been very disappointed that I've done everything "right" and still experience a seasonal depression that usually lasts from October through March. But this year, I've said to myself, "It's okay. The Adderall is working at 30 mg. You get up every morning and live your life despite the depression. You're still playing badminton twice a week even if you have to force yourself to go sometimes. You're still playing music. You're going to volunteer at the pet rescue organization.

"You're continuing to write your blog. You're doing your household chores. You're actively participating in your son's and husband's lives. You're participating in the presidential campaign--albeit with a small effort. You're learning about digital photography. You're spending time outdoors every day. You're walking, and listening to music. You're reading, and learning how to knit.

"You're recognizing your limitations and accepting them, but you're fully engaged in activities you enjoy. You're spending time with people you find uplifting, and for your own health--you've stopped spending time with people who aren't.

"This isn't a bad depression. You may not have a high energy level, but you're neither terribly tired nor do you need to nap. You're pacing yourself better than you have in the past.

"Maybe, the answer is that you finally realize it's okay to have low-energy periods. You no longer feel you have to apologize to people for experiencing these lulls. You no longer have responsibilities--either work or a young child--that require you to be 'up' all the time. A change in mood truly doesn't have to be a problem as long as you're feeling okay about it."

How do you handle low-grade depressions? What are the greatest challenges? What tips and advice can you give to others?


Jazz said...

Not sure about low-grade depressions, as I haven't had any for a long while now, but I've found that getting my thyroid levels right is a constant challenge. The symptoms of low thyroid are similar to depression in that there is a lack of energy, lack of motivation, lack of pleasure in things you enjoy, and I've been dealing with this periodically for the last five years as my dose of thyroid replacement hormone slowly goes up and up.

Like you, I've found that the best thing to do about it is to accept my limitations and do what I can with the energy I have. A lot of times that means setting priorities. It's important to me that the children don't suffer because I'm feeling like crap, so I usually save my energy for them--helping with homework, taking them places they need/want to go, baking cookies for them. If that means the house isn't as clean as we'd all like it, or that dinners are the same few really quick and easy things, I have to accept that and move on, knowing that eventually the medication will kick in and I will feel better. It's frustrating, but it's what I have, and getting angry about it only wastes what little energy I have to spare...

Hope you're feeling better soon!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
Thanks for sharing. That's interesting about your thyroid. I remember researching this once and there was some correlation between a low thyroid and feeling depressed. I just can't remember what I read.

What's interesting about this so-called depression is that I am still motivated, and I do experience pleasure doing things I enjoy.

Yet, I call it a low-grade depression because there are other symptoms that are typical of depression, at least for me.

I sometimes have difficulty coming up with commonplace words. I enjoy being with people--but prefer people I don't know well, like those in my badminton class, to friends. They don't have the same expectations, and conversation is easier for me.

Actually, now that I think of all the symptoms--which I've never read about elsewhere--I'll post about it tomorrow.

Everyone else seems to discuss depression as a totally non-functional and sad time. But, for me, it's just different, and if there wasn't an expectation that we remain the "same" all year long--it truly wouldn't be a problem (as long as I've got Adderall).


Immi said...

Mostly I handle low-grade depressions by setting priorities and trying not to overwhelm myself in light of my lower energy. Social events that can be put off for a week, do get put off for a week, and the like. I continue to do the basic things of life, but not push myself. The big thing, though is to not beat up on myself along the way. That just adds to the depression, and reasonably so.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Immi,
It's all good advice. Thanks.


P.J. said...

When I am slightly depressed, I do what my body tells me to. If I need to rest, I rest. If I need to cry, I cry. I tell myself that's it's okay to not feel like doing things, but I make sure I do most of them anyway. In low-grade depressions I find myself the most sappy, passionate, sensitive, and I try to use those things in my favor. I cuddle with the kids instead of playing with them. I am sensitive to my needs and obey my body. If I need to talk to a friend, I will. If I need to go to bed early, or sit in the dark, I do that, too. I take my time doing things, and let myself ponder and analyze if I need to do that. I write better when I'm a little low, so I take advantage of that and write as much as I can. I GROW when I'm LOW. It's when I learn the most about myself, and what I need.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear PJ,
Some more good advice. It's interesting to me that we all treat this kind of mood differently, yet there are similarities as well.

And I agree that it can be an opportunity to grow!


jipps76 said...

Susan and others,

I think we all have a common approach to these kinds of moods, with only slight variations. When one feels down, I believe it's essential to prioritize one's life and reduce commitments to a minimum. Otherwise, we set ourselves up for failure.

A consistent refrain in my life is, "I do what I can when I can." When I'm down, I unfortunately cannot be as productive and happy. I make up for it, however, when I'm feeling well. I'm more pleasant, thoughtful, productive and patient.

I, like P.J., "grow when I'm low." When things are lousy, I tend to become more introspective. It's my natural reaction to determine what is wrong, why I feel terrible and what I can do to overcome it. After all, it was during a time of extreme despair that I found this blog - proof that good things are spawn from bouts of depression.

For the past several weeks, I've been feeling much better. I was in such a bad place and struggling with the trial and error of medicinal help that I eliminated them altogether. I wanted to free of them, if possible, at least for a short while. This, I thought, would help me determine what worked and what didn't. I felt great for a week and then I crashed.

After a week of experimentation, 100 mg of Zoloft lifted me out of the depression a bit. The combination of medicines, primarily in combination with Depakote, was overwhelming me, I believe. I was over-medicated. I'm now in a low-grade state of happiness. This is the best I've felt in so long. I am not entirely content and free of melancholy, but I'm afraid to change my medications. This boost allows me to improve matters further through exercise, wellness activities, proper sleep, etc.

I owe this improvement, in part, to this forum. Reading your posts and contributing every once and a while has been very helpful. Thank you, Susan, and everyone else who posts regularly.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Josh,
So glad to hear it. I awakened this morning feeling quite melancholic and while the Adderall works for me, it's got a short shelf life.

Unlike antidepressants, it's like starting over each day. There is no residual effect. I awaken feeling quite awful, and have to try and figure out what the lowest dosage is that will help, and it usually takes 45 minutes to kick in.

If it's the wrong dosage, I have to take more and wait another 45 minutes.

Anyway, I just awakened, read what you'd written, and felt good that despite everything, my readers and I have been able to provide information that has helped you.


Tamara said...


I am finally realizing that is okay to have low energy periods. And, I am even finding out that it isn't even always depression. I am so used to no energy meaning depression that I catch myself being extra tired some days (such as today) and immediately fearing, or assuming, depression. But, once I really think about it sometimes it is just tired and nothing more. My mood is still fine. I might not want to be around a bunch of people, or even leave the house, but it is simply tiredness and nothing to do with mood.

Wellness Writer said...

I couldn't agree more. I guess the problem is that most people pretend they feel good every day, when I can't imagine they truly do.

I would guess that everyone has periods where they feel like being more or less social, when they like being with people or enjoy being alone,when they like to be active or less so etc.

It may just be a mood rather than a depression. And that's certainly okay. It's just that we have to work at believing it's okay.