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An exhausted woman leaning back in a lounge chair with her eyes closed.

Situational Depression: Feeling Inactive & Unaccomplished

Multiple sclerosis (MS) has made many different aspects of my life difficult: getting around, doing simple chores, staying awake, functioning while in pain and being able to remember important dates (to name a few examples). But MS can affect life in lots of indirect ways as well. Because MS can limit what you can do in life it can cause a deep depression to grow in some and I am definitely one of those people. Though I try not to talk about it too much I have occasionally blogged about my being depressed but I have never actually seen a therapist about my issues with a sometimes debilitating depression so if there is a magic cure I am currently unaware of it. Yes, antidepressants can help but what not everyone understands is that the goal of an antidepressant is not to “make you happy”, it is to help balance the chemicals in your brain so that you feel more “normal” but here is the thing, it is “normal” to feel depressed about a depressing situation. That is what I am talking about here; feeling depressed about an actual situation in life, not because of a chemical imbalance that causes you to wake up feeling depressed for no reason.

Now, as I said, I have never really talked to a therapist about my depression so I have never really learned how to “properly” deal with these feelings. Usually, a crappy situation comes about and I will just try to distract myself until I basically forget why I was depressed to begin with. Well lately (as in the last year or so) my life situation had become so much of a daily hindrance that I could no longer try to just ignore it and so my depression overwhelmed me. I was really starting to feel “like my life had no meaning. Like on a day to day basis I was just so inactive and unaccomplished”. I looked at my life and the lives of the people I grew up with and I just felt so behind! Because I started to really dwell on these things I became even more depressed which made me even more inactive causing me to accomplish less and less in my daily life. I was stuck in a vicious circle; catch-22 became the theme of my life!

It became pretty clear to me that I really needed to get in to see a therapist but because I had zero motivation to do anything I could never get myself to make an appointment! But one day I just had enough! Something had to change! So I approached this situation the way I approached any other problem in need of solving. First I needed to identify the problem; I felt like I was literally wasting life itself because I was not doing anything but waking up and trying to kill time so that I could just go back to sleep. But was I really doing nothing or did I just feel that way? So I started a list; on this list I would write down anything and everything I did throughout the day even if it was as simple as “brushed my teeth” (which can sometimes actually be really difficult when you are extremely depressed). At the end of the day I would read over my list so that I could see that “actually, I did get a lot done today”.

This eventually motivated me to want to try to get more done so at the end of the day I would have a longer list to look at; like trying to score more points in a game than you scored the day before. So I did a little more every day and surprise surprise, feeling more active was directly solving the problem of not feeling active. As the depression lessened I was able to get myself doing really basic exercises and even though I have always hated exercising I can say that it definitely started making me feel better. I did not feel all tight and shriveled up but more importantly when I sat down to watch TV because I felt so exhausted I did not feel all guilty about it because I felt like I really needed that time to rest after actually moving out of bed! Ironically, if I actually get up and move around it helps my fatigue especially when I sleep so well the night after a day of busy work! So not only was I feeling better mentally but I was feeling better physically which most people with MS can agree is a typical cause of depression; feeling like crap every single day!

Now, because I have always dealt with some form of depression since my teens this is an issue I really care about. So while this is a simple solution to my own depression I recognize that depression affects everyone differently just like MS does. Because of this, I really do recommend seeing a therapist if you are feeling depressed so that someone can work with you to determine the best approach to treating your own depression. Looking back at my life I can say that I definitely handled this problem like a stereotypical man; I kept convincing myself that I did not actually need help even though I clearly did. Don’t let pride get in the way of getting help; if anything, look at it like you are just going in for some free advice because that is what I will be doing!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Shirleymeeks
    4 months ago

    I can identify with feeling “worthless” (my word). Due to my disabilities, I can’t do anything but move from bed to recliner. I read my Bible and novels and watch TV. I dreamed last night I could walk. It was wonderful! My depression, with medication, is always there. It’s just worse some time. I know I’m still here because God needs me to do something. That helps my depression in that I don’t understand God’s plans for me, but I trust Him, so I’ll keep on.

  • Diomed1
    11 months ago

    I wish I had read this 7 years ago. It is exactly what I have been going through minus the pain. I have been in a bubble of depression this whole time. It took my husband asking for a divorce to wake me up. I am taking steps to have a better life. I got a car so I can drive myself around. I am going to therapists for mental and physical. Changed my diet. My number one focus is my health day by day, bit by bit. I am a fighter. Too bad my husband gave up on me.

  • Matt Allen G author
    11 months ago

    It’s too bad for HIM because you are on a good path to better yourself and when you finally feel your best he won’t get to be there to see it, that’s his loss. Anyway, as you said, the key is to be doing SOMETHING, no matter how small it seems, do SOMETHING each day to move forward: bit by bit.

  • jessforeverafter
    1 year ago

    Thank you for being open enough to post this! I struggle extremely badly with this.. I am 26, I have had MS since I was 13. The part I can’t seem to get past is that I know I am accomplishing a lot during the day, but not working anymore I feel like my accomplishments are practically trivial… like compared to other people’s i feel like I should be able to be doing so much more with my life… and even when I do feel accomplished simply by keeping up with my pets (one of which is a husky pup so he definitely keeps me on my toes lol) And housework and such, I can’t seem to keep it up consistently. I start to get exhausted practically a week into my routine. How do you find the balance between your daily accomplishments and pushing yourself to keep doing a little more each time, and maintaining your MS without overdoing it and screwing yourself in the long run?

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    Yeah I feel the same about my accomplishments. “yay, I managed to make my bed today! Go me! I deserve a nap now!” Every day I make a list of what I want/need to do and what I managed to do even if it is something as simple as “brushed my teeth” because at the end of the day, when I cross everything off that I did, it helps me feel like I got more done when I see so many things crossed out and that motivates me to do a little more the next day (or TRY)

  • ASAPcindy
    1 year ago

    I have the same issue. I hate going to friends houses because it’s all like we just redid the basement, come look at our new kitchen, ect and I feel left behind because it seems like the has been no progress in my life. I’m stuck in a time warp where the highlight of my day is a good 8 hours of sleep and minimal pain. I’m jealous, something I have never been. It’s a new emotion I don’t know how to handle it. So I avoid going places, places with stairs and sunken living rooms. Through my husbands work we have access to an EAP program, (employee assistance program) and I did phone counseling. It was nice to dump out all my feelings to someone I didn’t know. When the six visits were up she suggested I continue, so I went looking for someone. I found one I liked, near my house, but totally inaccessible due to a flight of stairs. So I didn’t go. It seems like that’s how my life is: I figure it out, make a plan, then ms causes me to lose traction and the whole thing blows up and then nothing. I have accepted where I am, have hobbies to amuse me, and a dog and a cat who want nothing more from me than warm lap. So this is how I live and I count my blessings daily because even tho ms sucks it could always be worse. Yeah, so I tell myself every day.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    No you are absolutely right, it can always be worse so we DO have to count our blessings because we take so much of what we can do for granted. Maybe next week I will wake up and not be able to physically use the computer and just like that about 75% of my life would be taken from me! So I think it is important to really try to find what you can do that makes you happy and take advantage of it no matter how “simple” it may seem because there are things that I thought were simple and mundane 5 years ago that I WISH I could still do today.

  • Kimber
    1 year ago

    I began treatment for depression one year before I was diagnosed with MS at 42yrs,I felt good about my life, and family, job but was isolating myself. I believe depression is a symptom of MS. After MS dx- depression did worsen, situational as you pointed out. I began therapy and it was helpful though it took several yrs to stabilize. My take is anyone who becomes disabled should get behavioral health care as part of complete tx of MS. The head games going on in my head at that time were difficult for me to deal. I’m much better now however I still set small goals for myself daily. I set a timer for 10-15 in which I work. Then rest for 45minutes. This plan has been working for me. It’s a lot different than when I worked in a stress job with little to no breaks.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    It’s funny that you mention this, I have been doing well with depression for a while now, I feel like I can’t really remember the last time I was just overwhelmed by depression for no reason. Yeah, sometimes something in life (or my MS situation) will get me down but I feel like that is kind of to be expected but yesterday it just hit me out of nowhere; I was having a good day but then, at random, I just started feeling terribly depressed to the point that I just could not function. I had no idea why, what could have triggered it? All I could think of was I was in a hot car for a while, was it really just triggered by heat like any other MS symptom?

  • LG67
    1 year ago

    Thank you Matt for your post. I too am suffering from deep depression and anxiety. I haven’t found my way out yet but I am trying!

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    For whatever reason I was super-avoiding it at first but when I eventually DID see a therapist it really helped and now I feel like that should be a default member of your healthcare team after being diagnosed with something like MS. It was really hard to build the motivation/energy to see a therapist but man was it worth it

  • Jacksonlowerkeys
    1 year ago

    My neuro put me on antidepressants a few years ago and i continued to sink further into depression. After reading a few articles I stopped taking them and within two months my extreme depression lifted.

    Go figure.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    Well, not everyone needs them to begin with but I think doctors are quick to prescribe them thinking it’s like a band aid for depression triggering a vicious circle of depression… but assuming you DO need meds it’s like most meds, they can trigger the very thing they are trying to treat. So if you aren’t on the right one for you yeah, it can actually cause depression, in fact, it took me years to find a medication that worked for me but at the same time, I am not sure if they can help with situational depression like they do for the chemical imbalance depression? I don’t know? Never really looked into it because it doesn’t help ME with that (situational).

  • lcal
    2 years ago

    Hi Matt
    I want to thank you so much for sharing. I have been diagnosed since 1995 and have always emotionaly within a few days pulled myself out of being down until the past 2 yrs.
    The past year for me has been very similar to how you describe your depression with the following quote of yours which totally stood out to me ” I felt like I was literally wasting life itself because I was not doing anything but waking up and trying to kill time so that I could just go back to sleep”, as I have this thought daily. I very rarely leave my house anymore and intellectually I know it is all a catch 22- if I can get motivated, exercise,etc I know the extreme fatigue and chronic pain will in turn become better. With this said, I love your idea
    of writing the accomplishments of the day because as I feel they are none I will probably find its more than I’m realizing definitely giving the incentive for the next days push.
    It helped to read your story and not feel so alone and like, well , honestly a piece of crap
    which is not me. So again, my heartfelt thanks Matt! keep positive on your journey!
    Lisa

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    I quickly learned that life with MS is full of catch-22s. I am glad you found this helpful and yeah, once you can break the cycle things feel better (at least for me) but the trick there is breaking the cycle. Way easier said than done. One day at a time.

  • Carol
    2 years ago

    This was great. I get depressed too and frustrated as well. I think I will definitely try out your daily activities count less to see if it helps me. Thanks

  • meissie47
    2 years ago

    Wow!… This is me and exactly what I feel daily. Thanks!

  • sucorone
    2 years ago

    OMGoodness, loved this. I love keeping score and scoring HIGH. I am going to use the ‘daily activity count’ to try and ‘score’ higher or the same each day. Knowing me, I will develop a spreadsheet with daily mean, weekly mean, etc, etc. Can you tell I am a ‘nerd’? LOL

  • potter
    2 years ago

    I enjoy reading your blogs, so get the therapy you need so I can keep reading your material. I know I am being a little selfish but I wanted you to know that you add a little happiness to my life. Today I was feeling a little blue because I couldn’t get out of the house. For a change it wasn’t my MS it was asthma, the wind is blowing hard now for two days and every time I try to go outside I can’t breath. I feel like a prisoner in my own house, I decided to work on a sewing project that I have been putting off for a year. I have it almost finished and I am feeling much better. Do you have any long forgotten projects you should work on? Potter

  • KimC
    2 years ago

    Exactly! I feel the same way Matt. I started using your list method and it works for me. Every little accomplishment counts.

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    I am glad you found that as useful as I have!

  • 18saogw
    2 years ago

    A good psychiatrist/therapist will work w/ the patient to find a treatment that helps alleviate the worst of the lows while still allowing you to feel and respond to all your emotions, including situational depression. The days of making the patient numb are gone. Find such doctors. Yes, it maybe quite a ways down the road to find one but it IS worth it!

  • Matt Allen G author
    2 years ago

    the trick is FINDING a GOOD therapist!

  • Dragon Lady
    2 years ago

    All I can say is, CONGRATULATIONS! Way to go, and I am sooo proud of you!!!

  • piestarmoon
    2 years ago

    Thank you for another post that resonates deeply with me. I have been diagnosed for almost a year now, and look forward to talking about this aspect of MS with my neurologist.

    After learning MS can cause depression and anxiety, I had wondered how far back, before other symptoms depression and anxiety might correlate with MS. I’m glad to see in these comments that I’m not the only one thinking there might be a link. As far as depression, I cope similarly to you. It has also been with me since my teens, but being diagnosed (while a relief in some ways) really threw me into a new reel.

    On days when I’m too tired to get real exercise I, too, highlight the small accomplishments. “The laundry may not be done, but at least it got to the washer!” When I am “word vomiting” anger, sadness, and frustration into my journal I try to end with positive thoughts. The more down I am, the more positive thoughts I try to spew out. After a restless day of guilt from having no energy, sometimes that is the only way I can shut my brain off enough to sleep. It may not work all the time, but at least it helps some of the time!

  • JanK
    2 years ago

    One of the label diagnoses I had been given as a young woman by doctors was situational depression. There can be quite a debate on that term and what it means for the person living thru one difficult situation after another however is for someone else another day. Today, is the day to deal with feeling unaccomplished, just for today, one day at a time. “Get up and do something”. Get out of yourself and help someone else. It can be a very simple little thing, it doesnt have to cost anything financially but it does have to be something that helps someone else. I tapped into a group of volunteers who make phone calls to folks in their town who have no family or friends nearby to check in on them, see how they got thru the night or give them a fresh and friendly wake-up call to begin their day. I have a phone and I have the time to do it and it also helps me too to have something to “do” every morning too. I would also recommend a short walk around your apartment or your yard if you can get about. Change your scenery. At a seminar I learned if you havent changed your line of sight in an hour, get up and move! Go into another room in your house, open up the curtains and look outside, open your front door and look out into the world. Breathe deep, exhale, breath deep and exhale again. Step outside and venture a few steps. If you have a small pet, wonderful! Physicians recognize the benefits of having a small pet in relieving emotional tension and distress. The unconditional love a pet can give is great therapy for someone who feels so misunderstood by the humans around them. You know businesses actually allow folks to have their therapy dogs with them nearly every place one can go. The first time I took our little 12 pound dog with us on a car trip, my son remarked “mom, we should have been bringing the dog with us on all these car trips a long time ago. You are so calm and relaxed!” Indeed the dog sat right on my lap, strapped in his little harness for safety too and I stroked his fur and scratched behind his ears while he lay very still on my lap and I too felt comfortable in a situation I rarely find relaxing. Best wishes to you. Dont give up, just get up, and do something. 🙂

  • KimC
    2 years ago

    Amen!!!

  • 18saogw
    2 years ago

    Excellent advice! Don’t forget that the sun is a vital part of our bodies time clock, for production of our natural antidepressants. It only takes 10 minutes of those Ray’s falling onto your skin to get it done. And it’s free.

  • Dimitri
    3 years ago

    I find it very interesting that you started experiencing debilitating depression at a relatively young age. I started experiencing overwhelming depression and anxiety in my teens as well. I’ve also met several other people with MS that have had the same experiences. It’s also well documented that depression and anxiety can be one of the first symptoms of ms.

    What drives me crazy is that this makes me think of how long I have had this disease. If I count depression as my first symptom then I could have had MS for 20 years without knowing it.

    MS is such messed up disease. The other week as I was searching the Internet for more information about MS I came across an article about appendicitis and MS. They say there is a “statistically significant” correlation if you have had appendicitis before age 20 and being diagnosed with MS later in life. That blew my mind because I had my appendix removed when I was 10 years old. The theory there is that a malfunctioning immune system my be responsible for both MS and for appendicitis.

    When I look back through my life with all its ups and downs and with what MS has taken away from me it makes me despise this disease more and more every day.

  • Dragon Lady
    2 years ago

    All I can say is, CONGRATULATIONS! Way to go, and I am sooo proud of you!!!

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Yes, my neurologist (looking at my first MRI) said that my MS was definitely working behind the scenes in my teens so I think there is a correlation for sure. As far as my appendix? I personally never had issues there, but that’s just me,

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story, Dimitri! It’s almost staggering to realize how intertwined our organism is, and how something that seems relatively small can have such far-reaching repercussions. I thought you might be interested in a couple of the articles we have about comorbidities with MS.

    Thanks for being part of the community and for joining the conversation! -All Best, Donna (MultipleSclerosis.net team)

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