I’ve suffered from chronic depression most of my life. I’m on the drug Lexapro, and it helps. It does a better job with my social anxiety than it does my down periods, but taking it has been generally beneficial. Spoiler alert: The title “A Lifelong Depressive’s Guide to Motivation” is hyperbole. I don’t have much in the way of sage advice. Think of this as more of a handy dandy tip.
If you have depression yourself, you know that one of the greatest casualties is motivation. I wake up several mornings a month thinking, Nothing I do matters. Why do I even bother? As you can imagine those aren’t the best circumstances under which to start or continue projects — particularly creative projects where the quality of the work is subjective.
I get going most of the time, but clearing that initial hurdle can be tough. I wish I could say what I’m about to tell you is a cure-all — or even that it’s clever. It’s simple enough you will probably say, “That’s it? That’s all you got?” Yes, my method may seem brutally obvious, but it’s the only thing I know that works.
What do I do when I’m battling a crippling case of self-loathing and I can’t get my engine going?
I start. I just start.
If I sit down in front of the computer and I go through the motions of doing my work, I generally overcome the initial resistance. If I’m working on something interesting, it’s an even smoother transition. I guess what I’m saying is, your brain — regardless of how obstinate its initial state — can be tricked. Problem-solving is the best way to perform that bit of self-hypnosis.
Today, I woke up feeling useless. I snuck up on my computer (so my cranky brain wouldn’t suspect anything), and I began working in Scrivener. Within a few brief minutes, I was engaged in the slow dance of iterative creation. I wrote something; I adjusted it; I looked at it again; I adjusted it again. Becoming engaged in that process has a miraculous effect on depression, at least for me. I get so absorbed in what I’m doing; I forget to be down.
Of course, this doesn’t work for more severe bouts of depression. It doesn’t even work every time I do it. It does, however, offer a first line of defense. It’s my go-to when my needs for the day and my feelings are at odds with one another.