Overcoming inertia (and living with ‘depression’)

Please give me a hand because I had two major accomplishments this week: I started decluttering the house and I joined a gym. 🙂

It’s been a long road to these two mundane achievements. I’ve had depressive tendencies for most of my life. Though I still have some qualms about telling people, I’ve become pretty open about it. It’s a part of me the way being introverted or being sensitive is a part of me. I see it in some of my family as well and so I know it’s in me and in my blood (or perhaps in my neurotransmitters). But it doesn’t make me weird (I don’t think) and no one who’s ever met me would ever describe me as sad or depressing. I’ve done well in life – at school, in my career, in my personal relationships. But having had a major depressive episode during college means that I’ve learned to live with this little bomb inside my body, wondering when and if it will ever go off again. In recent months it has, to some extent, though this time more often as a by-product of hormonal fluctuations.

I’ve sometimes asked Max, “Does it feel like a lot of work for you to make dinner? Is it easy for you to get out of bed in the morning?” At some point during adulthood I had a nagging suspicion that how I feel sometimes is not how normal people feel.

On bad days, doing the simplest things like preparing a meal or going to the bank feels like this: You’ve just come home from a 12-hour day at the office and you are being asked to then walk five miles to make a presentation before 200 people. Exhaustion and dread color the simplest tasks of living.

I’ve had some bad days more recently, and it was enough to scare me into making some serious changes. I love my family so much, and my friends. I have it good but when your thoughts are distorted you just can’t see all that you have, how privileged you are. You can’t see that pain is temporary and small compared to all the joy and love you have but can’t feel at that moment. I told Max and a couple of good girlfriends what I was going through because this time I didn’t want my struggles to fester in secrecy. I am grateful for those breaks of clarity.

One of the things I wanted to do was to create serenity in my surroundings. So I reached in and found enough energy to clear off the dining table to start with.  You don’t have to do the whole thing if you want to make a change. Just enough to get moving, to break out of that inertia. The first step is the heaviest and the slowest.

After the dining table, I moved on to the kitchen counter, and then the t.v. area. I intend to declutter the whole house over the coming months.

Yesterday I joined a gym. Since I broke my ankle a year ago my favorite yoga teacher had to temporarily close up shop and I haven’t resumed my exercises. But the lack of physical activity was, I really believe, literally killing me, one small minute at a time.

I didn’t like the gym, to be honest. It was all men and I felt self-conscious even though it wasn’t like anyone was looking at or bothering me.

I stepped on the treadmill first and selected “Fitness Test.” It had me walking at different speeds and inclines and then asked to put my hands on the sensors to measure my heart rate. After the six-minute test, the following message scrolled across my control panel, in red caps: “YOUR PERFORMANCE LEVEL IS VERY POOR.”

I almost had to laugh, because this was a most unexpected message in this age of positive reinforcement and self-esteem boosting. I was expecting the machine to say ‘CONGRATULATIONS’ but instead it told me I sucked! The honesty was refreshing, actually, because I really am out of shape and I need to be scared straight, basically. It was pure boredom and torture being in that gym but as I read the message scrolling by over and over I became resolved to come back to this gym as often as I can.

The gym is across from the supermarket where we normally shop. That is a major reason why I selected this gym, and it was part of my itinerary to hit the market after my workout to get groceries for dinner. Though I walked out of the gym unenthused, I noticed that I walked out of the market lighter and brighter. I went home starving and eager to start dinner. I would’ve whistled if I knew how. The endorphin rush came more like a drip, but I’ll take it. I’ll keep taking it.


I do want to say that in cases of serious depression, people cannot just “snap” out of it. If you know someone whom you suspect may be depressed, please take initiative to offer your most non-judgmental support. If you are feeling depressed, please, please reach out to someone.

25 thoughts on “Overcoming inertia (and living with ‘depression’)

  1. Reaching out is the most important thing, as well as the most difficult thing. particularly if your “support system” is made up of people that think it’s a character flaw. Depression is real, it’s documented biologically, and can be helped with therapy, action, and support. So many don’t understand just what a weight it is on a person. I believe that only if youve survived it, will you know and understand the extreme effort it takes to just live a “regular ” Day. xo

    • Thanks very much for this, Alexandra. I agree. The hardest part is admitting it, first to yourself and then to others. I hesitated to publish this post but in the end pushed that thought aside. Maybe this post can speak to somebody. Depression can be a very easy thing to hide and mask.

      And yes to this: “I believe that only if youve survived it, will you know and understand the extreme effort it takes to just live a “regular ” Day.” It’s often hard to explain to people what it feels like, and then I feel very envious of the idea of not even knowing.

  2. Good for you! Maybe if you can get yourself to do something different when you get depressed, you can throw it off a little. I don’t know a lot about depression, but years ago I had to force myself out of a year-long one. I had had a very bad year, and I was keeping a diary about it. One day I went back and looked at it and it was all poor me. I decided I didn’t like myself like that, so ever since then, when I get depressed I let myself wallow in it for awhile, like maybe a half hour, and then I try to force myself out of it. But I don’t think I’ve had the type of depression you’re describing, or maybe I was falling into it but got myself out.

    • Thanks, Kay! And it looks like you managed your tough period really well. I think writing is very healing, and how we think and talk to ourselves definitely contributes a lot to how deeply we fall emotionally. It’s great that you were able to identify that. For me it’s a combination of a lot of things, more recently things I can’t control like my body (because the mood drops will come on suddenly like a migraine or something, and then lift just as quickly as well) and the weather (as soon as the sun comes out I’m like a deflated balloon coming back to life). But like Justine wrote in her comment, I can try and do as much as I can to take control (decluttering, exercising). Diet too. I read last night that the Vitamin B categories are all connected to serotonin levels, fatigue, anxiety, etc.

      • I think that as long as you can get yourself to actually do something, those ideas are great, or anything else you can think of to break your routine. And telling your loved ones about it I’m sure helps.

  3. In my opinion, I think you did two of the most important things you can do in overcoming inertia. You hear it all the time about how exercise is good for you, so I won’t even belabor the point. You get it, and in the past year, running has done for me what almost nothing has. You also know that.

    But the part about decluttering is huge. When I read The Happiness Project, it was after I started my own house organization and decluttering projects and all that Gretchen Rubin said made sense to me.

    I feel lighter and less encumbered when my house is free of clutter. I get only two full days in a week to work, but in that, there’s school pickup/dropoff, and I have to get my run and some sort of mid-day break in so I really just get 5 hours of solid work time. Even then I’m tempted to use a third of it organizing the place, making my bed, cleaning my kitchen, and only after that do I feel “at rest” and comfortable about starting my work. The decluttering of physical space helps my mind achieve the serenity and clarity it needs to work optimally, I think, so I spend that time to pick up.

    It’s both a good and bad thing because now I feel that it’s a crutch – I can’t work if the house is messy. Like I need more distractions from my work, which seems to just keep piling up.

    Anyway, all this to say, I totally get where you’re coming from, and good for you for recognizing and taking these important steps towards a healthier you. I’m with you every step of the way!

    • Thanks so much for this, Justine. I feel really hopeful reading your comment and examples. To be honest, laziness is a big part of my lack of desire to clean – I can’t use “depression” as an excuse 😉 But it’s interesting how something that starts off as laziness can make such an impact on you emotionally. I hear you on the work distractions but I’ll take cleaning any day. It seems like a good “neurosis” (for lack of a better word) to have. And kudos to you for how much you have achieved in running and cleaning! I’m definitely inspired now. (Have you ever seen episodes of Clean House? I watched back-to-back episodes all morning yesterday and it definitely got me kind of pumped…)

  4. Good Luck to Getting in the Gym and just put a towel over the display because YOU ARE DOING IT and THAT MATTERS!!! I hang with the boys now and it took me some time to get there, but mainly everyone is there to work out and get their health on. I recently wrote a post about seeing a therapist and Mr. Craves was taken aback a bit about my openness, but I am not ashamed and he should be lucky I am not dumping all that on him too – nice to have a neutral party to talk to. I am so tired of the PC and not talking about the TABOO – weight, eating habits, depression, emotions, feelings, etc – let’s talk and open up the conversation more! We ALL are OUR OWN – Beautiful, Sexy, Strong, Smart!!! I LOVE me for me and that is what counts at the end of the day:) Happy Thursday!

    • Thanks, Renee! And thanks so much for also sharing this about yourself. Did I miss your post on seeing a therapist, or is that coming out later? I’ll definitely look for it. I think so many of us go through various degrees of these difficulties, and sharing the stories would help a lot to make us all feel less alone. It would be healing and freeing! I’m glad too that you think the same way 🙂

      • Thanks, Renee! I just checked it out 🙂

        I know – there will always be people who feel uncomfortable being too open or seeing people be too open. Hopefully you will find yourself in more and more like-minded company.

  5. Thanks for your honest sharing. Clutter in my house = clutter in my mind. I don’t know which is the cause or effect. After I was forced to clean up my house after 5 years of mess due to visiting guests, I felt and continue to feel so much better mentally. I still have my bedroom and a box of semi-junk mails to go through at some point. One step at a time. I tell myself that I have to feel good about each step I take and don’t feel guilty about how much I didn’t get done. One person told me that no matter how much a mother does, she will always feel guilty that she hasn’t done enough for the kids.

    • Thanks so much for writing here, Amy. I’m glad to know that you have also pushed yourself to declutter. (And I totally relate to the connection between a cluttered mind and a cluttered house. I think with me it starts with a cluttered mind, and then it becomes an endless cycle…) I really like this and it is also something I have been trying to tell myself: “I tell myself that I have to feel good about each step I take and don’t feel guilty about how much I didn’t get done.” Self-criticism will paralyze us, and we have to give ourselves credit for any step we take, however small it is. I guess it is not unlike encouraging our children! Thanks again for stopping by!

    • Thank you so much, D. It was another post that I hesitated to “come out” with, but as always, it’s those posts that are most important to get out there. Thanks always for your support xoxo

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  7. A beautiful post, Cecilia. Thank you for sharing such a personal and important issue with us. It resonated with me deeply. I have been in a slump for several months now and work very hard each day to overcome inertia and my negative feelings. I didn’t blog for several weeks, didn’t read very much for personal enjoyment and was burdened by cooking (all things I very much enjoy) because I just couldn’t shake this sadness.

    The only way I can keep moving forward is to give myself “ok’s”–it’s ok to not blog every day, it’s ok to not read such serious literary works, it’s ok to order in when I don’t have the energy to cook. Like you, working out and creating order in my living spaces have greatly helped my mental health. Kudos to you for your honesty, awareness and letting us out here in the universe feel not so alone. Oh, and kudos for joining the gym! 🙂

    • Thanks for your very thoughtful comment, Ngan, and I’m sorry to hear that you have been going through a hard few months. I don’t know if you have tried talking to friends or a loved one, if that is something that would make sense in your situation. But I hear you on giving yourself “OK’s – I think that is really important. We’re often our worst critics especially when we’re down. I know the guilt of not doing what I’m supposed to be doing absolutely cripples me and makes me feel worse than I’m already feeling. Sometimes when I’m really down and feeling unproductive I’ll just give myself a partial day off. Or eat out if I can’t deal with cooking. But the important thing is to be okay with it like you said. A friend of mine once told me that marriages go in cycles. That really helped me to deal with the dips, and I think we can apply that thinking to ourselves too. We can’t always be at 110% and that’s okay. I hope this is working for you too and that you will feel better soon! 🙂

  8. I am late to the discussion, Cecilia, but I appreciate your honesty and courage in talking about an issue I suspect so many of us face. My maternal side has threads of anxiety and depression and I’ve experienced a few of the bouts of you’ve talked about. I gravitate more toward the anxious side. I’ve tried exercise as a way for clarity. A good run always helps me. I am a committed declutterer and when my father was sick, it was the only way I could cope with what was happening to him and our family.

    Thanks so much for expressing your vulnerability. I know it will help others.

    • I really appreciate your words here, Rudri (and you are never too late :-)), and for your validation. I’m encouraged that exercise and decluttering have worked for you. I am leaning on these two things as my medications and therapy right now. As you know it is never easy to write about these issues, but it’s been wonderful knowing that the post has resonated with others who have gone through similar feelings and difficulties.

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  10. Cecilia, I am so inspired by your drive to change. It is hard to dig ourselves out a rut. Especially one that is laden with emotional (and physical) clutter. I often find myself in similar situations, and I see so much of my mother’s reactions to things in my first responses. She still gets in these awful small depression episodes, and I fight against that. Some days or moments it will suddenly just seem so bleak despite my really knowing it isn’t that way. It can suck you in so quickly. Running, biking, and swimming help me immensely– as a distraction, as a goal, as a reset, as quiet time with just my mind. I’m so, so glad I have found your writing space. Thank you for sharing this!

    • I love and appreciate your comment here, Heidi! I feel like you are a kindred spirit. I can relate to your words well. And they also strike me because I realized I should be careful not to pass *my* small depression episodes on to my son…I imagine it must take a lot of energy to fight against what you had grown up with, and to create your own clearer view of the world. I’m glad you’ve found your own ways of coping through physical activity and quiet time!

  11. Hi Cecilia, I’ve been battling depression for a long time now. I’ve done everything from joining a gym to reading, but I can’t seem to shrug it away. I’ve -just like you- excelled at all areas in my life- school, college, work etc. I am 20 years old, manic depressive, highly ambitious and hard working, and I fear I need immediate help. Part of my problem is ‘inertia’; I feel as if I am not doing anything with my life -my parents and peers like to think the opposite, though-, and the drabness and inactivity just slips into my everyday routine. For the past 1 year my daily routine has been limited to my study space and extra classes that I require to clear my forthcoming exams in May 2015. In mornings I feel paralysed; I can’t make myself get up from the bed; the thought of having to face the day long monotony that I deal with everyday further impedes the course. I’ve taken to bed since the past 4 days. I’ve been sleeping for 20 hours at a stretch, and I still feel like not waking up. It scares me.

    • Thank you for reading and for reaching out. I’m very sorry to hear about what you are going through. Your story feels very familiar to me, as I recall those days during college when I STRUGGLED to get out of bed and to make it through each day. On my really bad days I would skip my classes, because I just couldn’t get past my front door. Have you talked to anyone about what you are going through? My biggest regret is that I did not seek help during college. Since then I have not hesitated to seek therapy, and it has saved me. Is there a counselor at your school whom you would feel comfortable confiding in?

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