Feeling lethargic is an awful symptom of depression, and often accompanies most antidepressants as a side effect, so sometimes it feels like I can never escape it. It kills my productivity, motivation, and mood. I describe it as feeling ‘heavy’, it feels like my limbs are made of lead, and I have to fight to keep my eyelids open – don’t even think about sitting down in a comfy chair.
I’m often stressed because of my lack of energy, and irritable because I’m in desperate need of a nap. I’m short tempered and emotional, which flares up my depression and causes people around me to casually label me a ‘psycho’ and ask me if I forgot to take my meds today. The whole reason I’m acting this way is because I have taken my meds! It’s especially worse in the winter, when my already exhausted body starts winding down for bed as soon as the sun sets at 4pm. I feel guilty that I can only do so little after work, most winters I feel like I go into hibernation and my life is a boring cycle of work and sleep. I have no energy to do anything else, so chores and errands pile up, which makes me feel more depressed, which makes me want to hide again.
I’m reassured that it’s completely okay to come home and sleep, because I “Obviously needed it”, but I feel totally useless. How am I supposed to function as an adult when I only have enough energy to drag myself through a work day? How does everyone else around me manage, when I can’t? My antidepressants, which are supposed to help me, only make me more tired. But all the problems they do help with mean that I’d rather deal with a little extra lethargy than be a depressed-anxious train wreck. I spend most weekends so exhausted that all I do is catch up on sleep and laze around in my pyjamas.
Getting out helps sometimes, but only in small doses, and that’s if I can gather enough energy in the first place to shower and step out of the house. I feel like I’m constantly recovering from the flu, just moping around like a zombie with only enough strength to turn a door handle. Most of my time is spent feeling like nothing more than a lump.
Over time, I’ve learned that the people in my life were right. I need to rest, and I can’t always have heaps of energy and be productive all of the time, I need to learn when I’m overworking myself, and when to stop. Life wasn’t meant to be taken at a hundred miles an hour. My full-time job is very demanding and stressful and sometimes keeping up with it whilst living with depression is a nightmare, so I’ve been known to take mental health days from work or book a long weekend off.
Instead of staying indoors all weekend, I’ve challenged myself to slowly get out more. I started with just going out for coffee on Saturday (I tell myself the coffee is a reward for going outside!), then walking the dog in the park for an hour, to taking the bus to the city and spending a whole day in a crowded shopping centre. I may be exhausted by the end of it, but then I know I can spend Sunday in my pyjamas to recover. Compromising with my fatigue has helped, and finding a happy middle ground so that I can still maintain a social life and accomplish personal goals, and I’m still able to function afterwards. For now, this works for me, and if it stops working, I’ll see my doctor again and try different medication. But I have to be honest with myself: if my body is telling me to slow down, I probably should.