What Happened to Pleasure?

This is a classic depressive symptom; it’s unfortunate that no one told you.

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Depression erases pleasure in all things — except, in your case, not curry. It not only removes the pleasure in doing things, it blocks the ability to anticipate pleasure.

Through the years, I have always told my patients not to wait until the spirit moves them to do something when they’re depressed. The spirit took a holiday.

You must do things because you know it will lead to better mental health, but the depression makes you doubt that anything will change. It’s hard to deny yourself those Twinkies when you think the future looks as bleak as the present.

I ask my patients to measure success, not by productivity, but by time. If I want someone to exercise, I start small. I might prescribe, “Walk for 15 minutes three times per week.” But I go on to explain, “I don’t care how far you walk. If all you do is get your hat, that’s a success, it’s more than you were doing.”

The point is to dedicate the time to the activity, not how much you accomplish. Often patients set their first goals too high. “I’ll go to the gym four times a week for an hour.” They don’t. They can’t. They have set up for failure.

If writing is the goal, “Sit at your desk for 30 minutes, three times a week. I don’t care if you write a word, or if you doodle, or color. It’s more than you were doing. Don’t wait until you want to do it. You won’t. Set a time and dedicated it to the activity.

“Do it in the morning. If you put it off, you won’t get back to it. This is physical therapy for the mind, not something just for fun.”

I make them accountable. “Bring me your schedule.” If they come with a supportive person, I enlist their help. “You may have to push them out the door,” or “lead them to their desk and put a pen in their hand.”

When profoundly depressed, even these small goals may be too much. A patient once said, “I can’t even decide which button on my shirt to button first.” Simple tasks are not simple at all.

To get out of depression, you must take a step, even a baby step.

Written by

Gay father; Psychiatrist; Award-winning author FINALLY OUT. Chapter excerpt here: http://bit.ly/2EyhXTY Top writer on Medium. Not medical advice.

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