I can dream, but I’m stuck on the implementation phase!

Help me out of my depression! I want a great life but I'm afraid I'll never achieve it

Topics: Since You Asked, Psychology,

I can dream, but I'm stuck on the implementation phase! (Credit: Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I’m exhausted and desperate. All the time. You might think it wouldn’t be possible to feel such intense emotional states all the time, but that’s where I am. Because if exhaustion and despair are the lack of energy and hope, I’m at a big zero.

Cary, I’m a young(ish) adult who is unemployed (partly by choice) and chronically depressed. Before you tell me to go get some damned medication, I have. And I take it. And it does help because it hurts less when I take it. But it doesn’t fix the existential problem, which is a fancy way of saying I just don’t want to exist.

It’s not always like this. A month or so I thought of some life options that could fill me with energy and hope. Just THINKING about them helped. But now I’m having trouble following through. I’m scared that I’m going to sabotage myself again like I’ve been doing all my life — turning away from things I really want because I’m afraid I won’t get them or, worse, just unwilling to do anything serious to make them happen.

I don’t believe this can all be chemical. There’s something bigger at work here. I want to have a life. I want to have a fabulous life full of friends and creativity and work that I love. At times in my life, I’ve even had that, and I want it back so badly.

Why can’t I do something more toward achieving that besides writing you a letter? Why can’t I wake up in the morning and fill out a hundred job applications and network and do paperwork and all that horrible, soul-destroying stuff that actually makes things happen?

I’m blinking back tears as I write this letter. I doubt this is publishable, but any response from you would be greatly appreciated. You described your writing once as lyrical, and it is. It’s also strangely reassuring. I could use just a little reassurance right now.

Thanks. No seriously, thanks


Dear Saboteur,

I’m writing back to you primarily because of one thing I found interesting and hopeful in your letter.

You see, I am interested, as an amateur, in the science of depression. As someone who just recently fell into a rather bleak and desperate spell of depression, and sought medical help for it, I have more than a personal interest in it.

I get excited whenever I see a glimmer of hope.

So when you say, “I thought of some life options that could fill me with energy and hope. Just THINKING about them helped,” I get excited. I also get excited when you describe the kind of life you want, and when you say that you have had this kind of life in the past.

So I’m going to suggest — and this may be way unscientific but I’m not claiming to be a scientist — that you repeat the action that made you feel better. In this case, it’s thinking about those life options. That made you feel better. Do more of that.

Plunge into that. Make that your lifeline for now. Do whatever it takes to magnify and enhance those thoughts. Draw them. Make cartoons of them. Write dialogue. Create characters who act out these life options. Make a collage. Find photos and artwork and articles that relate to these life options and tape them onto a big piece of paper. Visualize these life options. Just spend time thinking about them. Write about it. Talk about it. Make it real to yourself. Live there. Spend some time living in this new life. At least in your mind. It will cheer you up. You’ll enjoy it. There’s no law against it. It will help.

It might not cure your depression right away, but it will help. It will be a refuge.

Next: Definitely look into cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is built on the very connection you discovered between thought and mood when you found that thinking certain things made you feel better.

You also discovered the converse of that — you saw how your negative thoughts can affect you.

It looks like what you did was move prematurely from the wonderful, life-affirming effect of thinking these thoughts to the deadening, discouraging effect of implementation failure. You devalued these thoughts by moving immediately to the implementation phase, where you could predictably fail.

So spend more time developing your vision of where you want to be. You don’t have to implement right away. Strengthen your vision. If it seems silly, think of it as preparation. Think of it as research and refinement. Acquire information. Become an expert. But don’t set yourself up for failure by going to the implementation phase too fast. Acquire tools and equipment. Fortify yourself. Do the actions that make you feel strong.

You also ask, “Why can’t I wake up in the morning and fill out a hundred job applications and network and do paperwork and all that horrible, soul-destroying stuff that actually makes things happen?” There is another body of psychological knowledge regarding motivation. I read a book about it once.  That book was for writers. It was called, “Motivate Your Writing!: Using Motivational Psychology to Energize Your Writing Life,” by Stephen P. Kelner Jr.

Though it was for writers, the nugget of truth I took from it was that where we find the motivation to do things is in our emotional makeup, not necessarily in our aspirations. I took the little test that was in the book and actually got some surprises, so I’d recommend that book even to somebody who isn’t trying to write, but just trying to get motivated to do something.

Also, and perhaps more important, because what you really need to do is apply what you’ve noticed about the connection between your thoughts and your mood, get that book, “Feeling Good,” by Dr. David Burns. And get yourself some cognitive therapy. If the person who prescribed you the medication will help you find a cognitive therapist, or if that person practices cognitive therapy, that would be great.

You obviously have found the key. The key is to change your thinking so instead of driving you into depression your thinking is driving you into happiness, joy, optimism and energy.

I know it sounds maybe too stupid and simple to be true. But that’s the obvious truth of it. It is pretty simple. Scientists have discovered that the repetition of certain negative thoughts leads to depression, and by altering that practice, a person can emerge from depression.

One might wonder how thinking can change mood. My layman’s assumption would be that since mood can be changed electrochemically, and because thought is an electrochemical action, that it’s not so surprising that thinking could alter mood.

On the other hand — and here’s where I part with people who say that thinking can make money appear in your pocket! — the connection between visualizing something and making it actually materialize seems more remote. What is the medium of connection between my thought and a pile of money? Maybe there is some unseen connection, but I find it a lot easier to understand how thinking could affect our mood than how thinking could affect our bank account.

And, as I say, what was so interesting and cool was that you discovered it, experimentally, empirically, on your own. You just didn’t have a program to back it up. Cognitive therapy is that program.

So get with it. You don’t have to go down that road. You don’t have to be depressed. You can be cured.

A complete cure might not be immediate. You might have lapses. But give it a shot. You don’t have to be depressed.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>