Q There are days when I feel that I am falling apart. I can’t function with the same concentration and vigor that I am used to. I cry when I see pain around me, and accomplishments that used to motivate me to work hard are no longer compelling. At times, it seems I am no longer the person I used to be. Some days I start worrying; other days, it excites me. Is this very unusual?

A Part of growing and maturing involves feeling a range of emotions and questioning our beliefs and lifestyle. As we change internally, our external choices, interests, and practices reflect our inner development. Thus, the same goals no longer motivate us, and we are more sensitive to certain realities and phenomena. What you call “falling apart” may be a type of de-structuring of your personality and values. If allowed, this can lead to a new worldview and a transformation of your life.

However, whenever we are undergoing a major shift in our lives, we need to be more aware and responsive to those changes. Our sense of self is not as stable and familiar. We make decisions and think in ways that surprise us. For some people, old wounds and patterns are brought to the surface and can feel overwhelming. We feel more anxious, confused, and down. We wonder about the meaning of life. This is a good time to get extra support and knowledge about your unique ways of growing and changing. I recommend you read The Unfolding Self, by Ralph Metzner, Ph.D. It presents various approaches to the changes and challenges of human growth.

Q In the last two months I have lost my job, have gotten ill several times, and am feeling distant from my relatives. It’s hard to get up in the morning and nothing gives me much motivation or pleasure. I don’t reach out to people even when they call, and find myself feeling pretty hopeless. I also am drinking more than I ever did. It embarrasses me that I am such a mess, and I don’t know how to get out of my depression.

A I am glad you are clear that you are depressed, as you are naming the symptoms: hopelessness, lack of motivation, loss of pleasure, illness, and isolation. First, take a look at when you started feeling depressed. Does it seem directly related to the job loss and illness? Is it a long-standing pattern that perhaps started with your parents? If it is a family pattern, then you will need greater intervention and perhaps some medication. Depression is not an uncommon reaction or disorder, especially when you experience loss. It’s not your fault, and you can do something about it. However, you will need help.

When you are not working, you need to instill more structure in your life. People without a schedule don’t function as well and start feeling more lethargy. This alone can lead to depression, anxiety, and loneliness. If you are seeking another job, make a list of actions you need to take to begin the process. Then make a schedule that will enable you to complete the tasks. If you find it hard to even do this, you will need to get someone to help you. You can even hire people to help with such tasks.

Alcohol is a depressant and will further entrench your negative feelings. You are vulnerable and in pain, and alcohol is very tempting at this time, as it numbs those feelings and gives you a temporary high. But it is addictive and actually won’t help you come to terms with your situation and face the challenges before you. Get the alcohol out of your house. Exercising and good nutrition will really help at this time. Join a gym, exercise group, or just go outside and walk in your neighborhood. In short, you need to jump start your life. Get as much outside support as you can tolerate.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com

 

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