For me, it’s been many years since I fell into a depression from stress and anxiety and then “recovered” with the help of many. I do feel happy —or at least content on most days. I do enjoy living and don’t dread getting out of bed. There are many things I want to do and goals I want to achieve now.
But all that said, I have noticed something odd that didn’t ever fully return in my “recovery” (I put recovery in quotes because I now believe we are always a work in progress). In my dark days of depression, I lost the excitement and want to do many of the things I loved before. This is a very common depression symptom and is called anhedonia.
For me, it was one of the hardest symptoms to deal with.
Also, my return to the “old me” never truly happened. I love the new me because I believe it is the authentic me. But the new me still deals with anhedonia a lot of the time. I have to really push myself to get up and do things I used to love to do. This is the hardest part no one told me would last. But I know I am not the only one. I’m sure there are many people who never admit that this just did not return after their recovery. It’s not that I don’t do the fun things I used to love. I just need a good shove in the back from someone who cares. Once I am out there and doing the activity, my anhedonia lifts and then I feel totally good again. But after doing it, the anhedonia comes back.
I won’t let it stop me though. I think a classic example for most people, even those who have never dealt with depression, is going to the gym or working out. We read about it all the time. People make New Years resolutions to go to the gym, then stop going. Mostly it’s because they don’t ever really enjoy working out. But I found that part of my recovery was going to the gym and I enjoyed it. But I still struggle every time to want to go, even though I know it is good for me. So I go, usually walking in gloomy-faced and unmotivated. But by the end of the hour, the endorphins kick in and I am happy I went. Then the whole thing starts again the next day in a repeating cycle.
No one told me that anhedonia might last. It’s hard on my loved ones as they see me as lazy or unmotivated when actually a battle is going on in me. When prompted though, I do say yes to anything they want to do and the things I used to love to do. Once doing them, I remember the love I had. It’s really just the loss of motivation and a feeling of disinterest. The key for me is to continue the battle with my brain and to go and do and not sit on my bottom watching TV all day or not pushing myself to go and just “do.”
So if you meet someone that just completely seems uninterested and unmotivated, but has dealt with stress, anxiety and/or depression, don’t quit on them. I certainly wish I felt the way I used to in this area, but I also understand what is going on and I wake up ready to battle anhedonia every day. Most days I win the fight with the help of people that care about me. I think that’s about all I can ask for right now.
By Alan Eisenberg for TheMighty