I’ve recently started counseling with Thriveworks, but I am at a complete loss on how to turn my life around. Every day, I feel like a zombie who is not actually living life but going through the barely functioning motions of life (I am currently diagnosed with chronic anxiety, depression, and ADHD).
I work, I take care of my cat and sleep. I barely eat, or when I do it is all candy and snacks right before bed.
I stayed in my college town after graduation and have no friends or life. I hate my job and I hate my life. I don’t want to live this way anymore because I’m barely living. I am for sure on my way to a mental breakdown and am disconnected from everything around me.
I don’t know what to do anymore and I just want someone to tell me what I need to do to feel like a person again.
Dear “Feeling like a Zombie”:
First thing’s first, I want to commend you for taking the first step in scheduling an appointment with a counselor to address your clinical issues. Please take my advice with the caveat that any insight I’m able to offer cannot replace ongoing treatment.
Often, the first step in beginning treatment is the hardest as it takes courage to open up and ask for help. I would highly recommend you continue treatment, even if it gets difficult, and encourage you to open up and be honest with your counselor about how you’re feeling. Treatment can only be as helpful as the work that you put in. (Also, since you mentioned “I don’t want to live this way anymore” – I just want to make sure I say, if you ever feel like you’re in danger of hurting yourself, please seek emergency medical services right away).
It is very common to feel isolated and alone after major life transitions such as completing college, whether that was a recent transition or happened a long time ago. In my experience as a Licensed Clinician, I have found that the common denominator in the life situations of people struggling with depression is a loss of a sense of identity which is tied to our areas of strength in life such as social and family relationships, academics, career, hobbies, interests, spirituality, and our health, among other areas.
I often find that depression onsets for people who have experienced a loss in some important area of their life. If you can identify the last time you felt happier and compare it with your life now, it could be a good starting point.
If you can’t identify a time that you’ve ever felt happy, do not despair. The good news is that, to a certain degree, you have control over most areas of your life, which means that you have the ability to identify areas that are most important to you and can start the journey of working to improve these areas.
My advice is to start small.
You may find that by setting small attainable goals, such as healthy activities of daily living, you may start to experience an increase in your self-esteem that comes from knowing that you are putting in the work and achieving results.
This may include mapping your current daily routine and identifying any areas that you want to improve. Once you start to feel a little bit better, you can start to tackle the areas of your life that cause the greatest amount of discomfort and prioritize setting goals for improvement in these areas.
Additionally, the more that you can focus on challenging negative irrational thoughts and replacing them with positive more realistic thoughts, the better you may feel.
You can’t stop negative thoughts from coming, but if every time they come, you identify them, and work to challenge them and replace them, eventually you can train yourself to start thinking more positively. These are the major tenets in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, so you may consider asking your therapist about incorporating it in your treatment.
The other advice I’d like to give you is that life can be really hard sometimes and it’s okay to feel unhappy about it.
You may find that the more you are able to accept the things you can’t change and focus your energy on changing the things that you can, the happier you will be.
Remember that your feelings are valid and to be patient with yourself. It can and will get better if you put in the work. Therapy can really help. I hope you stick with it.
I’d like to wish you the best of luck and my sincerest regards.
Heidi Faust, LCSW