Author Topic: Dealing with depression post FIRE  (Read 2147 times)

50ShadesOfStache

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Dealing with depression post FIRE
« on: January 25, 2019, 06:14:15 PM »
I have clinical depression, and I have noticed in myself that I tend be fine while at work and only really have problems with it during free time. I know I had a really bad spell the few months between graduating college and landing a job. As far as I can tell, when I am busy and have stuff that I need to accomplish and some form of external motivation (i.e. not a goal I set for myself, but a deadline placed on me) I can focus on that and suppress the depression. But when I am the one setting my own goals, I can still struggle with depression. I hope that makes sense.

Just curious to see if there's anyone out their in the same boat, and wondering how you deal with it. I would imagine being FIRE could exacerbate the depression as I would be losing that external motivation that allows me to temporarily suppress the depression. I still intend to FIRE as soon as I can regardless, but considering depression has gotten me to the point of being suicidal in the past, I should probably start addressing the potential issue now.

BPA

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2019, 06:32:21 PM »
Hey there, @50ShadesOfStache . I'm sorry to hear about your struggles. I have also suffered from anxiety and depression in the past, but quitting my stressful job was the right thing for me. I know everyone is different and I applaud you for recognizing that work is a good distraction for you.

Having talked with other friends of mine with depression, we acknowledge that sometimes it can hit harder when one has time to actually think. You haven't mentioned this, but have you gone to therapy? It can be very helpful, but sometimes the underlying causes are almost too much to deal with. I know that I spent thousands on therapy and discovered that the best way to get rid of my triggers was to FIRE. My job was triggering me.

So, I would suggest therapy if you think it will help. Dealing with underlying issues (if they can be dealt with) should help you not require a distraction. Everyone is different though. I know that.

Best of luck. It's such hell to deal with mental health issues. Take care.

Sun Hat

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2019, 06:40:21 AM »
Hi 50ShadesofStache,

I also suffer from clinical depression and understand what you mean about work helping to distract you from the troubling thoughts. I'll echo the above recomendation to seek therapy and add that medication can be a big help. For me, it has helped me be well enough to participate in therapy and some of the lifestyle changes that help allieviate depression.

In FIRE, I've adopted a LOT of lifestyle changes to address my mental health issues, and fortunately they're all very pleasant. First off, I exercise vigorously every day. The endorphins give me a wonderful boost, consistently lifting me out of depression for several hours afterwards (the more vigorous, the longer the effect lasts).

Second, I eat a balanced, healthful diet. When I'm low, I don't plan my meals and tend to gravitate to unhealthy, easy choices. Now, I make sure to have vegetables, protein and carbs at every meal, and enough healthy fats that I'm not feeling deprived of them. Between the improved nutrition and the sense of self-care that this delivers, I really feel much healthier than I did on my all-beige diet.

Third, I meditate. I also have a severe anxiety disorder, but I think that meditation would help even if I had "just" the depression, as it helps me to become aware of the negative thoughts and to put the ruminations aside (I'm no pro yet, but I work at it). At the suggestion of my  therapist, I've just started following the program in "Full Catastrophe Living", which is a well-regarded program.

It's work, but I enjoy it a great deal. I also make a point to live in the moment and pet my dog, but you'll have to get your own dog, since mine is taken. Good luck!

lhamo

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2019, 08:29:42 AM »
Sun Hat has great advice.  I also struggle with depression/anxiety.  I find it is important for me to keep the basics in line -- especially in the winter when the SAD kicks in.  So:  good sleep hygiene, healthy diet, daily exercise, and a reasonable amount of social interaction (I am an introvert so what is reasonable for me would be too little for many people -- I find 2-3 outings a week, mostly one-on-one with good friends, to be about ideal).  I also started taking a specific multivitamin formulation a few weeks ago when the SAD was really bad - it has helped a LOT.  Oh, and be careful with drinking, etc. 

You are pretty young, so presumably have time to work on these issues.  I would start NOW figuring out what gives your life/your day a feeling of purpose outside work.  Maybe there is a cause you can start volunteering for, or a hobby you want to develop.  Also, working with a therapist or counselor will probably help.  Don't delay!  Putting it off only allows the ruts in your brain to get deeper, and that makes it harder to break the patterns later. 

austin944

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2019, 05:23:11 PM »
I tried early retirement for a year and did volunteer work and learned some new technical skills, and then I went back to work full-time.  I feel happier now working full-time than when I was early retired.

I like having a regular place to go where I can work and socialize with other people, and to work on problems that matter more than what I was doing in retirement.  Some of the closest friends I've made were at work.

I would write down a list of things that you like about working and early retirement, and compare the two.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2019, 06:02:31 PM by austin944 »

Freedomin5

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2019, 06:19:24 PM »
Come up with a plan to keep yourself busy after FIRE. in other words, youíre retiring from work, but what are you retiring to?

In clinical circles, itís what we call behavioral activation. The above posters are right on the money when they say you need to build in healthy activities. Under behavioral activation, we talk about P activities (pleasurable activities) and M activities (mastery activities). You want to build a combination of those types of activities into your daily and weekly schedule.

In addition, what is it about work that helps to keep the depression at bay? Is it just the busyness serving as a distraction? Or do you get something from the social interaction as well? Is it that youíre working in nature? Is it the structure - the fact that you have targets and goals and know what steps you need to take to ďsucceedĒ? Figure out those elements, and see if you can re-create those elements after FIRE through volunteering or part-time work, or whatever.

And of course, a good therapist can help you figure things out. 

Dr Kidstache

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2019, 09:01:09 AM »
Under behavioral activation, we talk about P activities (pleasurable activities) and M activities (mastery activities). You want to build a combination of those types of activities into your daily and weekly schedule.

I really like this description @Freedomin5 . I hadn't ever thought of mastery activities as a thing. I had to retire early because of disability and finding new hobbies and activities that I can do has been an ongoing journey. As a former workaholic doctor, I sometimes feel like everything I do is unimportant hobbies (pleasurable activities). But I realize that a few things are actually mastery activities. I dunno, just a way to reframe that struck me as really helpful for my own situation.

PeteD01

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2019, 09:10:57 AM »
I have clinical depression, and I have noticed in myself that I tend be fine while at work and only really have problems with it during free time. I know I had a really bad spell the few months between graduating college and landing a job. As far as I can tell, when I am busy and have stuff that I need to accomplish and some form of external motivation (i.e. not a goal I set for myself, but a deadline placed on me) I can focus on that and suppress the depression. But when I am the one setting my own goals, I can still struggle with depression. I hope that makes sense.

Just curious to see if there's anyone out their in the same boat, and wondering how you deal with it. I would imagine being FIRE could exacerbate the depression as I would be losing that external motivation that allows me to temporarily suppress the depression. I still intend to FIRE as soon as I can regardless, but considering depression has gotten me to the point of being suicidal in the past, I should probably start addressing the potential issue now.


You might benefit from this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Trap-Struggling-Start-Living-ebook/dp/B004XI12O8

If you are currently in therapy, you should discuss it with your therapist.
The book is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) but is not meant as therapy for a specific disorder but to help with building psychological resilience via acquisition of psychological skills.
ACT is evidence based and its roots can be traced to stoic philosophy and Eastern meditation traditions.


A short opinion piece from Hayes and Hofmann about ďthird wave CBTĒ, of which ACT is part of, can be found here:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5608815/

Steven C. Hayes is the pre-eminent pioneer in the development of act.


I have recommended the book in the past and the feedback I got was always very positive.
I think your concerns are valid and, yes, you make perfect sense. Your intent to prepare for the issues, which will inevitably arise, will make your success in FIRE so much more likely.

All the best!

« Last Edit: January 27, 2019, 09:14:18 AM by PeteD01 »

50ShadesOfStache

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2019, 09:15:36 AM »
Ugh... I thought I had replied, but evidently I must have hit preview and closed down the tab.

First off, thank you everyone for your replies.

Medication: Within the past year I have started taking an OTC medication that has helped a lot more then anything else I have tried doing in the last eight years. It's not perfect, and I really aught to go to the doctor to get an actual antidepressant. The only reason I haven't is because I hate going to doctors (I have no good reason for why I feel this way, but I have my whole life). I realize this is a very stupid reason not to do it, and will be looking for a doctor near me this week. From talking to my mom last night, it sounds like a slightly unexpected side benefit to a lot of prescription antidepressants is that they have some unpleasant feeling withdrawal symptoms. That should act as a very good reminder to take my meds whenever I forget, which tends to happen after going a week or so feeling ok.

Meditation: I have not tried meditation, but am definitely not opposed to trying it. I really know nothing about it, so I will need to do some research. If any of you have any good resources, I would appreciate the recommendations.

Exercise: My exercise habits aren't currently the best. During the the weekends I am building a house, which is good exercise, but I have no structured routine for the rest of the week, or for when I'm done building the house for that mater. I will be fixing this habit starting today.

Therapy: I am not in therapy. I have been reluctant to consider it in part because of the cost, because I'm cynical and suspect it wouldn't help, and because the above mentioned dislike of going to any kind of doctor. I do realize that these aren't great reasons, and I may give this a try. I do want to try better medication and fixing some habits first.

As far as why work is a distraction for me, I am not totally sure. I don't think its solely social interaction, because some of my best days at work I get left alone to do my job in peace. I think it's more knowing that someone else is depending on me, so I can't afford to fail. In the past when I was suicidal, I held on because I wasn't willing to hurt my friends and family, so that would be consistent. I guess that could mean getting involved in a group activity or cause where I feel needed could act as an effective substitute for a job. That is an interesting idea that I haven't considered before. I will need to think about this. The only downside to this is I am painfully introverted and shy, so meeting groups of new people is like torture, but less fun. Still, if that would work, it would be worth it for sure.

@PeteD01 and @Sun Hat, thank you both for the book recomendations, I will see if I can get them through any of my libraries.

Thank you everyone again for your replies, it's given me something to think about.

BPA

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2019, 05:57:21 PM »
@50ShadesOfStache

Bear in mind that this was my experience and it could be different for you, but I found that when I was on medication, slowly weaning off the medication as advised by a doctor greatly reduced any withdrawal symptoms. I think it's that way for most people, but a doctor or other mental health professional could give you a better idea. I understand not particularly wanting to see a doctor, but if the suicidal feelings come back, please make sure you get help. You deserve it.

I know that therapy can get expensive, but if you decided to go that way, I will say that your chances of success are far better if you click with the therapist. I had to try a few out before I found one I really liked. I considered it an investment in my future just like FI. It was important to me to be as mentally healthy as I could be since I really, really wanted to enjoy my life.

It is really brave to face mental health issues, so I'm glad you reached out here. You deserve to be mentally well.

Best of luck.

50ShadesOfStache

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2019, 10:43:34 AM »
I've heard the same thing about weaning off the medication. I look at the withdrawal as a good thing because if the medication works, I probably shouldn't get off it unless I have bad side effects. Any withdrawal symptoms will act as a reminder to take my meds and as an incentive to not forgot to take them in the first place. I got the go ahead to leave work early today to go to the doctor, so I'll be sure to ask about that regardless.

I started lapsing back into suicidal thoughts a few months back, and I did reached out to a bunch of friends and family that time. I have that support network now if/when I start going that way again. Honestly, opening up to those people has been tremendously helpful, if for no other reason then to know the people I care about still care about me even with my problems.

Mentally/emotionally, I feel like I'm in the best place I've been in a solid 8-9 years. I'm just trying to figure out how to fix myself if I can, and how to best take care of my self if there isn't a way to completely fix the problem.

GardenerB

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2019, 05:46:05 PM »
"I would imagine being FIRE could exacerbate the depression as I would be losing that external motivation that allows me to temporarily suppress the depression."

This is definitely an issue that I have found/noticed, and I would say the most important aspect of planning for FIRE.  I am not fully FIRE'd yet, but left a fast-paced tech job last year (work was typically 11 hour days with 200 emails), and have found setting tasks/goals for myself one of the main ways to stay satisfied without fulltime work.  I went fairly cold-turkey and had no other plan for work aside from helping my wife with her home business.  If the workload for that is 2-3 hours per day then I feel I have accomplished goals and my mood is great for the week.  Without any brain work/goals then I tend to get lost in the analysis of 'what's my purpose?' funk.

I would say it is a bad thing to be 100% dependent on someone else's work (company) to provide this aspect of your life.  Hitting the FI part of FIRE is very straightforward (save a lot, invest, and spend way less than you earn).  Finding a personal way outside work to fulfill your sense of accomplishment is more important and more difficult.  And for most having this sense is a necessity.  So I strongly suggest analyzing your hobbies/interests as outlined in 'LIVINGAFI''s post about life without work.  Very good analysis there.  Good thing is that it can be almost anything - computer work, building something, solving problems, helping someone, gardening, etc., and may only need to be a few hours per week.

https://livingafi.com/2015/03/09/building-a-vision-of-life-without-work/

I am finding the main points to a satisfying life made by MMM and elsewhere are very true:

#1 exercise.  Without this I am sure I would slip into depression.  Vigorous exercise usually more than once a day keeps me going (as it did for 25 years in tech) as my default activity.  It's also cited for being the main way to keep your brain sharp in old age.  We are built to use our bodies to overcome stress and tests - which is why it feels good.  Even small vigorous walks help with this.

#2 reading/meditating.  Any form - resting/relaxing, read books, etc.

#3 problem solving/learning something new/challenges either mental/physical.  This replaces the goal-reward aspect and feeling that we get from working at a company.  Anything will do here so long as you are overcoming a goal or obstacle.  That is how our primitive hunter-gatherer brain works and why it feels good to accomplish something.  Find topics/hobbies/areas that you know nothing about and learn/perfect some of them.

#4 rewards/vices etc.  Like parties or other indulgences.  Last on the list since these are not really required but feel nice as rewards.

GB

pecunia

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2019, 05:57:46 PM »
I don't know if anyone mentioned it but the Mad Fientist released a new podcast with a guy who did the FIRE thing and suffered from depression.  It was pretty good.  Here's the link:

https://www.madfientist.com/tony-interview/

To know the world is to know thyself.

There is an old saying that you don't really understand somebody until you've walked in their shoes.  I believe this applies to depression as well.  There are people out there that cannot understand.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2019, 11:51:40 PM »
I feel for you and want you to get help. In your first post you mentioned feeling suicidal. Thatís serious. What does money matter if youíre not around? Donít focus on the cost of therapy, it will help you. It made a big difference in my life for sure. And your issues with doctors, move past that. Youíve come to internet strangers, you can see doctors. You donít want to live your life with depression if you donít have to. Make it your mission to throw everything you can to get yourself as healthy as possible so you can enjoy life and FIRE, otherwise, whatís the point?

50ShadesOfStache

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2019, 11:06:30 AM »
That is a fair point MrThatsDifferent, and believe me, I'm fully aware that feeling suicidal is serious. that was the worst/scariest experience of my life, and I have no desire to go through it again if I can help it. Though talking to strangers on the internet is a lot easier then talking to people in real life. Even so, I did go to the doctor yesterday, so I am starting on an actual antidepressant. They gave me a sheet with a few groups that do counseling in the area, and I will at the very least least call them. I'm also in the middle of changing my exercise and sleep habits, which is supposed to help as well. I will go to therapy if I can't fix the problem any other way, It's just my least favorite option (most disliked option may be a better way of putting it, I'm not thrilled about needing meds to feel normal either).

Pecunia, someone messaged me a link to the podcast. It did bring up some good points that were good to consider, particularly being mindful about planning human interaction post-FIRE. I tend to be very introverted, so meeting new people is something I usually have to force myself to do. I usually follow the Mad Fientist podcast, so I was surprised I hadn't seen that episode yet.

GardenerB, that is all good advice. I can definitely keep myself busy with projects, and I do feel accomplishment in making progress and completing them. I've got more projects I'd like to do then I ever will have time to complete. My issue is more that I lose motivation to do my own projects outside of work when I am down. For example, making jewelry is something I typically really love doing. However, when I'm down, I can get out my materials, know exactly what I'm planning to make, but i have no desired to actually do it. I can force myself through the process of course, but doing that doesn't provide the distraction that work does. Now this doesn't hold true for some activities. On the weekends, I am working on building a tiny house, and this does seem to provide the same distraction that work does. Even when I'm down, I'm able to get out there and take care of what needs to be done. I'm not really sure why I can motivate myself to do some things, but not the others. My only real theory is that it has something to do with jewelry being entirely my own hobby and only I am involved, whereas the house is being build for me and my wife, and I have friends and family helping me out (more of a group effort).

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2019, 12:05:32 PM »
That is a fair point MrThatsDifferent, and believe me, I'm fully aware that feeling suicidal is serious. that was the worst/scariest experience of my life, and I have no desire to go through it again if I can help it. Though talking to strangers on the internet is a lot easier then talking to people in real life. Even so, I did go to the doctor yesterday, so I am starting on an actual antidepressant. They gave me a sheet with a few groups that do counseling in the area, and I will at the very least least call them. I'm also in the middle of changing my exercise and sleep habits, which is supposed to help as well. I will go to therapy if I can't fix the problem any other way, It's just my least favorite option (most disliked option may be a better way of putting it, I'm not thrilled about needing meds to feel normal either).

Pecunia, someone messaged me a link to the podcast. It did bring up some good points that were good to consider, particularly being mindful about planning human interaction post-FIRE. I tend to be very introverted, so meeting new people is something I usually have to force myself to do. I usually follow the Mad Fientist podcast, so I was surprised I hadn't seen that episode yet.

GardenerB, that is all good advice. I can definitely keep myself busy with projects, and I do feel accomplishment in making progress and completing them. I've got more projects I'd like to do then I ever will have time to complete. My issue is more that I lose motivation to do my own projects outside of work when I am down. For example, making jewelry is something I typically really love doing. However, when I'm down, I can get out my materials, know exactly what I'm planning to make, but i have no desired to actually do it. I can force myself through the process of course, but doing that doesn't provide the distraction that work does. Now this doesn't hold true for some activities. On the weekends, I am working on building a tiny house, and this does seem to provide the same distraction that work does. Even when I'm down, I'm able to get out there and take care of what needs to be done. I'm not really sure why I can motivate myself to do some things, but not the others. My only real theory is that it has something to do with jewelry being entirely my own hobby and only I am involved, whereas the house is being build for me and my wife, and I have friends and family helping me out (more of a group effort).

Thatís awesome! Very proud of you. I do get it, I was where you are and thought the same. Seeing a therapist was the last thing I wanted, but in reality, the awful thoughts I had were worse. And really, the issue with seeing someone in person is the fear of being judged until you find out or find a therapist that isnít there to judge you. Once you discover the freedom to share, it will be a blessing. Sure, itíll open up some tough things, but thatís how you get healthy. Itís so worth it. Good luck and keep with it.

pecunia

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2019, 06:07:24 PM »
Avoid drinking alcohol as it contributes to melancholy.

50ShadesOfStache

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2019, 09:58:20 PM »
That at least it's easy for me since I rarely drink (maybe a dozen times ever), and never drink unless I'm in a good mood.

pecunia

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Re: Dealing with depression post FIRE
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2019, 08:32:54 AM »