How to better manage mental health


#1

Hello everyone. I am not sure how appropriate this is to have on this forum, but I have been dealing with depression and anxiety basically since sixth grade in middle school. I didn’t really address my mental health issues until I was in the University of Texas at Austin, or UT Austin for short. I actually went to a summer orientation event at UT Austin before my first Fall 2010 semester and I had a bad experience there. There was a lot of people at this event, which made me pretty anxious. I just also felt uncomfortable there, but I can’t really point out why. I tried to tell my parents that I didn’t want to go there because I just didn’t like it, but they dismissed my issues by saying that I was (paraphrasing here) just a teenager who didn’t know want I really wanted.

So when I went to UT Austin, I had one of the worst experiences in my life. I went into a deep depression where I could not feel emotion for the vast majority of my first semester there. I did not shave for months until I went back home and my father shaved me. I am lucky that I cared enough about my body to shower. It was in October when I first started to go to therapy. I was just trying to figure out if and what I could do to manage my mental health. The therapist there recommended that I go to another university since I wasn’t able to cope at being in UT Austin. I tried to leave UT Austin, but my parents said that I would have to find a job if I left UT Austin.

I was too scared to actually find a job, so I decided to stay at UT Austin. I was able to function a bit better for about four years or so until my depression and anxiety kicked in again. My last two semesters went very badly and I went to a very intensive group therapy for both of those semesters. I actually had to leave UT Austin for both of those semesters because I didn’t turn in any assignments so I was failing my classes. I haven’t been back to UT Austin since May of 2015.

I have been living in my parents house since then. I haven’t done much of anything since then to improve my situation. I don’t work. I can’t drive. I don’t seem to be able to manage my mental health well at all. I am asking for help on here because I am not sure of what to do. I have been to different therapists, but that doesn’t seem to help. I took medication for managing depression, but that didn’t seem to help either. I would ask friends for help, but I don’t have any friends. Does anyone have any tips on managing mental health? Sorry for the long post. I also apologize in advance if I choose the wrong topic.


#2

Hi. Very sorry to read about your experiences and please know that I wish you well. Having said that, please also know that what follows is not the advise of a medical professional or anyone with any sort of formal qualifications; I am simply a person on the internet who feels for you and wants to offer my own insight as to how I cope with my personal mental health.

So, having said that, I first have a question. In your post you pay particular attention to what you don’t do… but what do you do? What does a typical day look like for you?

Personally, I find that I fare much better when I have a set routine to follow. It gives me a sense of purpose and helps a lot when I feel particularly depressed or anxious. It can be something as simple as saying “I will wake up at 7:00 AM and have breakfast by 7:30” to mapping out my whole day or week–simply knowing that I have structure helps me tremendously. Combined with having a schedule, I like to give myself activities or tasks to complete; it’s again providing myself with a sense of purpose but also the satisfaction of, at the end of the day, knowing that I accomplished things and have more to accomplish tomorrow.

In treating your mental health have you ever tried meditation or some form of calming exercise such as yoga? Recognizing that different folks have very different reactions to this, I have personally found both meditation and yoga to be incredibly helpful for my own mental health. I was deeply skeptical about both but, once I opened myself up to the experience (and realized you could try both in the privacy and comfort of your home thanks to videos on YouTube) I was surprised at how helpful they were. If that doesn’t seem appealing, I would also recommend taking walks throughout the day. Simple movement and “fresh” air really do me wonders.

I hope this advise is maybe useful or doesn’t come across as too cliched. I would be happy to elaborate on any points made in further detail should you wish.

Wishing you all my best.


#3

Very sorry to hear about your struggles. I can relate to a fair amount of what you’re talking about although I began my life with anxiety issues and didn’t really start struggling seriously with depression until my mid-to-late twenties.

I would say that the most important thing you can do is try to find a person or persons who you share interests with, even if it’s just over the internet. For me, therapy and my family could only do so much; I needed good listeners who I could also have fun with. Fortunately, in the time we live in this is easier than ever before; back when I was first dealing with depression I struggled to find people who were really into the things I liked. (This could be especially difficult when you lived in a small town, as I did.)

You might feel unworthy of friendship right now (at least I did when I was struggling), but please know that simply isn’t true. There are people out there who will appreciate you and who will want to be around you and who will want to help you. You will find them.

But also: be patient. Don’t get frustrated with yourself if you can’t improve your situation as quickly as you’d like, or if you find a potential friend and it doesn’t work out, or if you get caught in a loop where you stagnate for a while. These things happen when you are struggling with mental health. It is okay to fail or falter. (Know that everyone does, whether they are willing to admit it or not.) Allow yourself the time that it will take to slowly move toward feeling better.

Finally, I want to say that I think you picked a great community to reach out to. Waypoint is good people, and I believe that there are others who will express the things I hoped to say here even more capably than I have. Bottom line is this: you are a good person and a worthwhile person and the fact that you are here and looking for help is a step in the right direction. You will find your way. I believe in you.


#4

It’s incredibly brave that you’re posting this and it’s already a huge, positive step to be seeking out help and advice. You’re capable of achieving so much more than you realise and you should be proud of yourself for working towards feeling better.

Please don’t give up on therapy. It’s a lot like dating in the sense that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince (personally, I tried 7 different therapists before finding one that actually suited my needs).

In the mean time, there are little things you can try on your own. Exercise, even a simple walk outside, can do wonders for your mood and alleviating stress/anxiety. Maybe this week you could download the Waypoint podcast and take a stroll whilst you listen to it?


#5

as the poster above me mentioned, you really shouldn’t give up on therapy. there is never a point where it’s going to be helpful to your situation to declare that therapy doesn’t work for you and to give up on it. it can be tough to find the person who is just right for you, but it’s worth continuing to look. as somebody who also suffers from depression/anxiety, i’ve also felt at times like therapy wasn’t working, but overall i think it’s almost always positive. even if it isn’t “curing” you it gets you out of the house once a week and keeps you connected with somebody in the world outside of your mind. i think that stuff is important … please try to keep up with it if you can.

other advice… work on developing positive habits, i guess, and trying to ditch negative ones. if you’re drinking, it might be a good idea to cut it out. start an exercise routine. make sure you’re doing something that gets you out of the house as often as possible, even if it isn’t a social activity.

i’m just some dude on the internet, i know, but i genuinely feel for you. i’ve been there. you can get to a point where this situation is managed. i believe in you.


#6

I just spend my day playing video games and watching videos. I try to distract myself from my low mood and depression, but it doesn’t really work.


#7

This is important advice. It’s also important to give therapists a chance. Acclimating to therapists is not always elegant and can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. We only get something out of therapy by investing in the relationship with a specific therapist; seeing a variety of therapists is not itself the process of therapy. I hope you’ve found one that suits you, and if you haven’t, don’t stop searching.


#8

A lot of the recommendations already mentioned above have helped me a lot especially therapy although I understand it can be rough to find the right therapist & especially so if money is a concern.

While some will advise calmer activities like yoga or walking for me personally I realized my anxiety & self harming thoughts were best relieved through activities that raised my adrenaline, such as skiing which is why I took up long-boarding.

Finding a small goal, that you want to achieve & working at it little by little every day, be it “learning to skate” or “building gunpla” or “walking X number of steps a day” can help focus oneself & release some of that anxiety. Regardless of what you chose as a reliever your goals should always be reasonable, within reach & genuinely be something you are interested in doing. Also consider having two or more activities that you can use to alleviate some of that anxiety in case one just isn’t working that day or it’s it’s impossible to do one that day.


#9

Would you say you try and distract yourself primarily through video games and watching videos or is there other stuff as well?

I would really recommend giving what @Moom, @SeriuzBiznus, @ox_out_the_cage, and I all suggested: take some small steps to finding a positive or challenging activity/hobby and once you have one you can add on others. Maybe take some time this after or tomorrow morning to go on a walk around your neighborhood–it doesn’t have to be far. If that seems boring maybe consider @Moom’s recommendation and think about activities that may raise your adrenaline instead.

If nothing else, as @mundanesoul noted, “Waypoint is good people” and it sure seems like you’ve got some people here who want to help you and see you take positive steps forward.


#10

Just a few things from my own experience of dealing with anxiety and depression. It’s really common for mental illness to arise/become apparent during uni/college and I had a similar experience to you, including moving back home for a while.

First off don’t feel bad for the times when you can’t find the energy or motivation to do anything besides just play games and watch videos. That’s totally okay. Some days just getting out of bed is a victory when dealing with mental illness. It can be easy to beat yourself up for finding it challenging to do something most people don’t even think twice about but that’s down to minimising your own mental illness which is an easy thing to do.

I’d also recommend trying meditation as others have mentioned, which if you haven’t done before, is probably different from what you’re imagining. I’m really bad at having the discipline to do it regularly but it’s amazingly effective at helping me centre myself when I do. With mental illness it’s so easy for your mind and thoughts to completely get away from you without you even realising it, that it’s important to take a second to just stop and breathe for ten minutes. For me it’s almost like breaking myself out of a trance. I don’t even realise my mind is racing until I meditate for five/ten minutes.

Have faith in people like those in this thread who are offering advice that might not seem like some big monumental change but instead are small actionable steps. There’s no big revelation that will fix everything. It’s those small steps that’s ultimately what’s going to help you in the long run. Fighting mental illness is a sea change. No one thing will solve your problems but bit by bit you can start gaining tools that you can use to fight back.

How many different medications have you tried? It took a few different ones for me to feel any benefit.

Cognitive behavioural therapy might also be worth looking into if you’ve only done traditional talk therapy.


#13

I’m going through something similar. One big difference is I’m in my early 40s and once I figured out what my “bad moods” (that lasted for weeks to months to years) and panic attacks were I realized I had had them since I was in college aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way back to the mid90s. If you are like me, everyone is going to tell you to exercise and do all the things you aren’t doing. Well… I mean, no shit. That’s kind of the problem. But otherwise yeah psychiatrists and therapists and just trudging on to tomorrow in case it’s better. I start with a new therapist tomorrow, so here’s hoping! I also am lucky that I am married to a very strong and empathic woman, who will help keep me moving when I need to and shield me when I can’t. My parents also don’t really get it. They are in their late 60s and from the deep south (me too, but I went to fancy college with real books!) and have told me such helpful things as “you were such a happy kid, this isn’t like you” or “You just gotta quit thinking like that” and the one I legit laughed at by my dad “drink more water”. They mean well but do not do well in the actual Being There For Me part of things. My first deep hard fuck me up and make it hard to live depression happened in late 05. I lived in New Orleans and began the proceedings for a divorce from my first wife. Depending on your ages, you may not know, but 05 in New Orleans turned out to be a real goof em up. I had to leave home for 3 months from Hurricane Katrina and when I got back I didn’t have hot water for a year and the National Guard was everywhere with assault rifles enforcing curfew and everyone either moved away or had PTSD. I threw myself into drugs, drinking, and sex the holy trinity of all good New Orleanians. Anyhow yeah don’t do that. Do this instead:
Get a dog. I say dog because I like dogs, but you do you. One big benefit to a dog though is you gotta walk that little fucker every day multiple times per day. You have to make sure it’s eating right, getting check ups and grooming, not shitting in your new Nikes… that kind of thing. At the time it pulled me out of all my vices (I can’t stay out tonight girl, my dog needs to be fed, you can call me though.) Eventually getting a 2nd dog even led to me meeting my 2nd wife at the dog park. My fella dog was playing with her lady dog and my dog NSFW WARNING I GUESS just goes to town going down on her dog. I called him away and 6 months later we were in Vegas getting eloped and have been good for a decade now.
Also I love video games, but you have to have to find other interests. They are too sedentary. Also I’m a big hypocrite and as I am currently fighting one of my deeper depression ruts, I come in at night and if the wife is out with friends or working (she’s a special ed teacher and has a lot of take home work) and I will play hours of Destiny 2. ON THE XBOX NO LESS! Few stories will be this sad I hope. Just try reading more, read those basic ass classics that everyone says you should read and yet somehow you never read Gatsby in school, so read fucking Gatsby. Read the two Tropics book by Henry Miller. They horny as all hell, and it might motivate you to get out there and meet someone. Go to a book store, fuck go to a comic book store. I’ve made friends with people at comic shops as long as they don’t start wigging out on some obscure shit no one else cares about much less gets angry at.

This is a rambling bit of a mess, but my depression also comes with the mania from time to time. It’s similar to smoking hella weed and finding out that the dealer laced it with dust so you spend the evening in the bathroom feeling sleepy and horny but also like you want to scoop your brains out and dump crushed ice in your skull. Like I said, don’t do the drug and drinks thing, it’s a cliche because it’s so fucking cliche and sad and absurd.

So good luck, keep your chin up, it’s an illness just like any other and can be treated. If you can manage to just do any tiny positive change it may be the pebble for you that begins the rockslide of better times.

PS If you can’t make your round self fit in the modern world’s square hole, don’t get discouraged. Almost no one interesting and creative I’ve ever met ticked off all the school/married/missionary sex with the lights out/2.5 shitty annoying kids list. It will take effort on your part, but you can find your round hole somewhere and I bet it’s absolutely nothing like what you or your parents envisioned when you were in high school making plans.


#14

Thanks for the reply. I am 26, and I remember Hurricane Katrina. My sympathies for what you had to go through in New Orleans. I hope you can get yourself to a better place in the future!


#15

A lot of people have said the important things - don’t give up on therapy; it’s usually a combination of therapy, meds, and other things such as being active when you can make yourself or what have you that work for most.

In addition, I know you said you use video games to distract yourself from your mood. Personally, and this may just be me and not apply to you, when I do that I end up making myself feel worse because there’s something in the back of my head telling me I’m wasting the day and that I should be doing something else instead. On the days when I even manage to do little things, like tidy up a little, it goes a long way.

Setting yourself some small daily goals might help? Not even things like “go out for a walk” necessarily (although if you’re up for it, that can be great!), but like “move all the dishes out of my room and into the kitchen.” The tiniest steps toward bigger accomplishments.

Also, as Alveric said, habits can be very important. I use a habit app and it’s done a lot for me. All of this comes from my personal experience, though, so feel free to disregard.


#16

I really wish there were a “silver bullet” answer, but alas. Have struggled with anxiety since I can remember, and depression started at about nine years old, though I wouldn’t have the vocabulary to describe it until I was a teenager. Was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety at 18. A lot of the advice here (e.g. making a schedule, short term goals, meditation) is genuinely great, but for long periods I couldn’t find the motivation to do things I knew abstractly would make me feel better. One thing I’d add, if you’ve already been willing to go the medication route, it took me about 5 years of trial and error with dozens of medications to find the right ones for managing. There are so many options, and so many subtleties and nuances between right and wrong for a specific person. Not sure from your writing if you’ve given only one, a handful, or a lot a shot, but for me, doing some research, finding medications that seemed different from things I had tried before, and consulting with my doctor about them actually gave me a small sense of control over my life that had been difficult to find before then.

Beyond that, for me, a lot of what worked was consistently looking for new ways to understand myself and what I was experiencing. The early days were a lot of just doing research, looking at forum threads, just building a better vocabulary I guess. Definitely stick with therapy, as others have emphasized, but in my experience, beyond the difficulty of finding the right person, I had to learn how to actually benefit from a session. Not sure how common an experience that is, but for me it was a process of learning how to be honest with myself, without being judgmental. Particularly difficult if you’re sort of locked into a negative thought cycle about yourself, but you can get there (if you need to).

One last thing, and I think this should be slightly minimized compared to the other pieces of advice, but there could, possibly, be other factors involved you’re not aware of. I was diagnosed with high functioning autism at 23, which if you’re not aware is highly co-morbid with anxiety and depression. I think this kind of thing most likely only occurs for a vanishingly small number of people with anxiety and depression, and since there is no medication specifically designed to mitigate autism, it has really just informed/contextualized my approach to therapy and medication. The takeaway from my experience, from my point of view, is that looking for new ways to think about or contextualize your thoughts and experiences, whether those ways are research or just self-examination, can be extremely positive, regardless of whether or not you “fit” a particular diagnosis.

Always remember that it is a process, not an event. As long as you keep doing things like posting here, continuing therapy and medication, basically actively participating in the process even when it seems like nothing will work, you can get to a place where you feel like you’re managing. All the best, sincerely.


#17

A lot of the advice in this thread is good, but a lot of it is trial and error. Here are a few things to remember when your brain and/or your environment are telling you otherwise:

  • Depression lies to you.

  • You are not alone. Judging from this thread, a lot of people are here to help you out, and a lot of people have gone or are going through the same.

  • Try not to be too hard on yourself. You are doing your best. Try giving yourself one compliment a day, even if everything is bleak and all you can muster is “I lived today”. That’s enough. You lived. You did well.

  • Take baby steps. Be proud of those baby steps, if you can muster it.

  • Physical activity or excercise will not cure your depression, but it might give you a small boost that you need not to feel like utter shit all day. However, it is also fully understandable if you decide not to do it.


#18

This is something meditation has helped me with. It’s so easy to inundate yourself with external stimulation, just trying to distract yourself from how you actually feel, that you don’t take a moment to self-examine and think about your feelings. It’s so easy to develop your own false logic subconsciously that you might be being triggered by something you’ve never even spent time actively thinking about.

Volunteering for a charity could be something that helps with the job situation. It helps get you out of the house and speaking to people, can help with learning new skills, gives you new work experience etc.


#19

Thanks for all the replies. I should have made it more clear in the original post, but I haven’t been to therapy in more than two years. I haven’t taken any medication in about the same time as well.


#20

Thanks for sharing your experience with us and being open about it. There isn’t a surefire way to help combat depression, but you’ve been taking the right steps to identify and work on what could be causing it.

I think @sandalinbohemia has the best piece of advice in the form of “Take baby steps. Be proud of those baby steps”. Don’t minimize any of the work you’re doing for yourself and your victories.

I’ll just re-iterate the same from earlier in the thread and say therapy is a big help. It’s hard because a lot of times you may have to go from therapist to therapist to find someone you can really build a connection with and someone who has the proper tools to teach you how to combat these thoughts and build motivation. Everyone I know that has gone through or actively participating in therapy, generally took them awhile before finding a person or style that worked for them.


#21

Your experience reminds me so much of my own, and I wanted to bring up the (somewhat trite) saying that progress isn’t linear. For a time, I felt like I had “fixed” things, and that I was going to be okay, before eventually things sort of fell apart. I’m still struggling to internalize it myself, but know that failing does not make you a failure. As others have said, just keep trying to make those baby steps.

Here’s a few things that helped me personally (ymmv, of course) and things I’ve learned through my own struggles with mental health

  • Physical activity definitely helps, but god is it hard to remember that when all you want to do is go back to sleep/lay in bed. Try to do it if you can, but if you struggle to, that’s okay. It will come with time.
  • Having a hobby that gets me out of the house/interacting with other people has been very beneficial. My personal hobby is Magic: the Gathering, which I certainly would not say is a one-size-fits-all solution for a variety of reasons, but should it be something you were interested in, I could give some pointers on how to start/find a place to play. As with finding a therapist, finding the right hobby/group that works for you often just comes down to trial and error, which can be frustrating. For me, it has made me much more capable of dealing with crowds and talking to strangers, and it gets me out to see friends (which I find harder to do when things aren’t regularly scheduled).
  • There are a lot of well meaning people in my life who want to dictate the pace at which I progress (specifically regarding going back to school). I tend to be non-confrontational and want to make other people happy, but I’ve had to learn (and I’m still learning) not to let them do so. Letting others push me faster than I’m willing to go has historically gone very poorly for me. Note that in this context I’m speaking specifically about family/friends.
  • Something that sometimes helps me care for myself better is to imagine that a friend or loved one was in a similar situation to myself. I wouldn’t be hard on them, or feel they had failed, or that they were weak, etc. so why am I letting myself beat me up in that way?

This is longer than I meant for it to be, but also want to reiterate that you aren’t alone out there. This thread has definitely helped remind me of that as well, as I too often look around at people I know and feel like the only one struggling.


#22

Trying to find something to do outside of the house is a good idea. When I attended UT Austin, I was never able to get myself to go and find a club or really socialize much at all. In the five years I was there I made two friends but I don’t talk to either of them anymore. I was concerned that if I didn’t focus on my studies that I would not be able to keep up. There was also the fact that I never felt comfortable at any time in UT Austin. Thanks for the reply!