This post was published on Psych Central last week, but I thought many of my Beyond Blue readers would benefit from it, since it probably seems like I never go through a period of time when I can’t be productive.
How do you stay productive when you are clinically depressed? At my rock bottom I had to take a break altogether from writing, as every time I sat down in front of my computer, all I could do was cry. Moreover, because my concentration was totally so shot, composing a sentence — much less an article — wasn’t going to happen.
I took a year off.
Because Eric was gainfully employed at that time, I was able to swing it.
Eventually I tip-toed back to the working world. Very slowly. Very carefully. Very deliberately. Because a sudden plunge might have rendered me disabled for another year or so.
And I didn’t start with writing, ironically.
My therapist advised me to do something in which I interacted with people, as the process of writing is not all that conducive to recovery from depression. The time alone and the cerebral exercise can often aggravate depression and anxiety, inviting more invitations to obsess and ruminate. When your job requires that you be among people, some of whom you have to listen to, you have a better shot of concentration.
So I became a tutor at a local college. For two hours a week. I read the words of my students since I couldn’t compose my own.
One of the more complex quandaries of depression is knowing when your job is making you depressed, or if you are just clinically depressed, and you job has nothing to do with it.
While most mental health professionals assert that gainful employment improves mood and promotes resiliency, a new study by the Australian National University (ANU) maintains that the wrong job can do more harm than good. Psych Central’s Selena Chavis covered the study last October.
According to lead researcher Dr. Liana Leach, “the research showed that people who moved from being unemployed into poor-quality jobs were significantly more likely to be depressed at follow-up than those people who remained unemployed… This research suggests getting people into any job may not necessarily lead to mental health improvements. Instead, people need good quality work to gain and maintain better well-being.”
I can think of two jobs that definitely made me more depressed: my first year out of college when my personality was a horrible match to my co-workers’, and the six months of this past year when I became a government contractor with a conservative consulting firm and was doing PowerPoint presentations on change management and other things that I knew absolutely nothing about.
Both times, the last day of these jobs felt like I had transcended into the air… you know, like the transfiguration of Jesus; the lightness I experienced seemed metaphysical. In fact, this last time, I was so glad to be done with that job that I got manic. I couldn’t contain my excitement that I would no longer have to type into my computer my employment ID number forty times a day and wear a dark gray, navy, or black suit, with my badge faced out.
Not to say that my days are perfect now. I do hit rough patches … and during those times, I put down the writing for awhile and focus on tasks that get me out of my head because, while writing is enormously rewarding, the isolation and cerebral exercise is hard, I think, for a person prone to depression and anxiety. The challenge is staying resilient enough that you can stay productive, which, in turn, promotes more resiliency.
Unless you’re working a job that only fostering more insecurity.
For six tips on how to stay productive when you are depressed, click here.