Mental health reversing since being let go

This is related to another post I wrote here.

After the above post, I was let go and have been unemployed since - about a month now.

I’ve been reflecting over the past few months, and noticed that my motivation had been steadily dropping over time. I love writing and used to make sure I wrote all the time. I stopped writing both for hobby, and for my blog. I also used to really love WordPress and now just feeling really meh about web development in general. Like I want to sleep and wish the world away most days - especially after being used and discarded by my last job. It’s hit me hard.

When I do have energy, it’s to do the things I need to do - wash dishes, cook, buy groceries etc. Other than that, I’m having a hard time doing the “fun” things. Also since being let go, my situation financially doesn’t seem to be improving.

One potential job has asked me to complete a test project, but I’m staring at it right now and feel like I’m looking at a completely different language. Like I’m staring at a blank page or a bunch of gobbly gook I can’t make sense of - but I know that on a good day, this would make sense to me. It’s happened to me before, and I used to take a focus supplement that helped me somewhat. I’ve decided to start taking it again but I think it’s going to take a little time for it to either help again, or prove useless.

Things don’t seem to “click” for me like they used to two years ago since my mental health took a dive before I’ve gotten to the point where I am now - which in spite of everything else, is better than what it was. For context, a few years ago I was a web development “machine” - got up every morning without fail and climbed up the career ladder within a few years. I was, and would still like to think somewhere in me, I still am super ambitious. I had all these plans, both personal and for my career. My mother got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and it hit me so hard, I mentally crashed and have been steadily trying to find my way back ever since. I’ve made progress since that time when I couldn’t even get myself out of bed but feel like since being let go, I’m going backwards again.

I don’t feel like myself anymore. I’m creating checklists just so I can feel accomplished about getting out of bed and doing every day tasks to function. I tried an anti-depressant a few months ago and it was a terrible experience. I just want to feel like me again, be ambitious, pursue everything and function every day like I used to. Will I ever be that person again? I was told that some people are never the same after the breakdown I had - but I don’t want to be this person forever. This person isn’t going the places I wanted to go…

Anyone ever have a breakdown or setback like this and managed to “make it back” to where they were mostly the person they were before it happened? What helped? What didn’t?

Sorry to hear about your situation. I was at a similar point a couple years ago. I didn’t have a specific event, more like a bunch of smaller things that I ignored until they turned into one big problem for my life that hit me hard. My day-to-day experience felt a lot like yours. I had once been very ambitious, but it felt like I had completely lost it. Even doing basic programming tasks like writing a bunch of simple tests felt like a huge hurdle. Just getting out of bed at a reasonable time and eating meals at the proper time, or getting dressed and out of the door felt like huge accomplishments.

The bad news is that even after two years I’m still not back to 100%, and some days everything feels like a drag. The good news is that things to do get much, much better.

The first thing I would suggest is to see a mental health professional. If you’ve had success with some medication, but not others, seeing a professional who can guide you towards proper treatment is the best thing you can do for yourself. Second, I would suggest taking a real break, if that’s possible. In my case, I took three weeks off, doing pretty much nothing, and then spent a couple months working a straightforward software engineering job. That gave me the time to really clear my head and focus on myself without worrying about other things.

The third thing is to invest in proper self-care. Getting regular exercise, strenuous enough to break a sweat or leave your muscles a little sore made me feel much better. Regular exercise and the resulting endorphins are known to help with depression. Try to eat good food: regular meals with lots of fresh vegetables and protein, minimal carbs, and as little sugar as you can manage. Even up to this day, getting regular workouts and watching what I eat is the best way to maintain my mental health and feel better about myself. I’ve found meditation really helpful for calming myself down and getting my mind in order, but I know that meditation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Another short-term hack is to get showered and dressed in the morning everyday. Just looking cleaned up and put together made me feel better about myself.

I know that doing all of the above sounds like a lot, especially if you are short on money and time. I would suggest starting with exercise and good food. If nothing else, go for a long walk, or a run along the block. There are lots of websites with simple recipes that will help you get started cooking and eating well.

Like I said, I’m not back to 100% even today, but I’m much better than I was two years ago. Most days I can put in a few solid hours of work, there are very few days when I get nothing done. Some times I slip because I’m not organized even to do everything I want, but I manage to eat well, stay healthy (mentally and physically) and be fairly productive.

Do let me know if you have any further questions.

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This hits home for me. I love making lists irregardless when I’m unwell - their functionality definitely has a different angle to or vibe to it. It could be a remnant of the undergrad psych students from however many years ago but it sounds like you’re in a place where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs took root for a while. You are using your energy to get the ‘needs’ done rather than the extracurriculars.

It is great that you can still sense the ‘you’ that you want to be and are recognizing that where you are now isn’t that version. That’s a huge step! You said someone mentioned that some people are never the same after a breakdown. That could be a true thing but how that manifests could look different depending on the person.

In my (ongoing) process, I have found it helpful to refocus what I think of as where I’m headed. It might not look exactly like it did before. It might not be able to be measured in percentages. I might dislike something I used to enjoy previously and find joy in a surprising new place.

It’s too bad that you had a rough go when you tried an anti-depressant a few months ago. It isn’t a cut-and-dry process and more often than not can take a few tries to find a good match. Have you talked to your doctor about therapy or trying other types of medications?

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Thank you for sharing your experience. I do have a mental health counselor who I speak to on a bi-weekly basis, but I had to stop seeing her because I can’t afford to pay for her appointments until I get some income. Her advice last we spoke was to structure my days from everything to job searching to making sure I make time to eat and do “fun” things. I did do that at first but slacked off and am having a hard time developing a routine - hence the checklists and taking it day by day approach.

The psychiatrist and social worker pair I saw a few months ago when I did try the anti-depressant were nice but I’m not confident they can effectively help. I only talked with the social worker like once a month for 30 mins and then the psychiatrist, I was supposed to follow up after taking the anti-depressant for a month and I didn’t last 3 weeks. The effects were so bad I couldn’t function at all, and I was employed at the time, so I couldn’t take it anymore. So I haven’t been to see them since due to the experience.

I also officially don’t have health insurance as of tomorrow so that’ll be another hurdle to overcome before I can re-think my mental health options. :frowning:

I have been trying to get back on track with eating and drinking right - especially since the holidays. I’m going to keep doing that. Also same with the exercise, usually walks do make me feel better so I’m going to try to give myself reasons to go out even though I don’t have a job to go to. Thanks for the advice, I’ll keep moving forward and getting there little by little. :slight_smile:

Yep I’ve heard of Maslow’s needs before, and it’s been definitely true in my experience. My insurance is gone as of tomorrow and I can’t afford to see my mental health counselor until I get some income, so I’ll have to hold on anything like that for the time being. And just get by with the knowledge I already have and natural stuff e.g. food and exercise.

I was on Zoloft as a teen, and I don’t remember any particularly bad side effects aside from feeling numb and I had suicidal thoughts - but I think the suicidal thoughts were present even before the Zoloft. I hadn’t been on medication ever since for like a decade, and the one I just tried a few months ago was Cymbalta. It was horrible - I felt like I was OD’ed on Benadryl or something, I couldn’t stay awake for more than a few hours, and I was walking around feeling like I was drunk or it was some weird out of body experience. Lots of digestive issues too like the worst heartburn and stomach acid of my life - was real bad. I couldn’t function on it at all and I even started with nose bleeds - so after about 2 weeks or so I got off and went cold turkey before I was on it too long to stop. I was a little traumatized by it - I wonder if re-taking Zoloft could be a possibility but I’d have to wait until I get my insurance again.

In the meantime, thanks for sharing your experience. I find the checklists do help and it’s satisfying to see when you’ve checked all or most of the items, even if they’re “basic” things like “eat 3 meals today” or “buy XYZ at the grocery store”. Even if they’re not mindblowing goals or tasks, at least I can feel like I functioned somewhat with a checklist. :slight_smile:

I’ll keep moving along day by day. Will keep everyone posted on progress. Thanks.

Sorry to hear about your financial situation. In my experience, seeing someone once a week is about right.

Structuring your days and using checklists is definitely a good idea, and if you find that helps, please do that. One word of caution from my experience though: starting out, I found that structuring every minute of my day, or making very long lists sometimes backfired. Often I wouldn’t be able to stick to the schedule, or wouldn’t be able to do all the things on my list, and so I would feel even worse at the end of the day. My advice would be to start slow: schedule much more time than you think you need, with lots of buffer room than you need. Start by doing only a handful of things every day. For me, that was one thing from every major life area: physical health, mental health, professional, chores, and journaling. Once you can reliably complete a small set of tasks, that will you more confidence and experience, and you can start adding more things and trying to do more.

I understand you had a poor experience with Cymbalta. Not all drugs are for everyone. I hope when working with your doctor he or she explained that many of these side effects dissipate after a few weeks. But stopping medication after only two does not allow it to regulate in your body for symptoms to subside. Ensure you are in close contact with your doctor when starting or stopping any medication. In the end, Cymbalta still may not have been for you. Thanks for sharing your experience. ~DrA

{Disclaimer: I am a professional psychologist. I volunteer for OSMI. I am not soliciting clients, taking referrals from this forum, or offering treatment. My participation in this forum is to offer professional input to be considered with the range of responses and support offered by fellow developers.}