Anhedonia and depression.

I read a post recently by Ashleyleia (Mental Health @ Home) on depression. What caught my attention was the list detailing the bits and pieces of depression that aren’t feeling sad but are incredibly debilitating nonetheless.

Since there is no need to re-invent the wheel, allow me to insert her words here:

“Chances are, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think about depression is depressed mood, right?  But while depressed mood is often a major part of depressive illnesses, sometimes it plays a minor role, and other times it’s not present at all.

The symptoms of depression are (must have one of the first two):

Depressed mood

Significant loss of interest/pleasure in almost all activities (anhedonia)

Significant change in appetite and/or unintentional weight loss/gain.

Disruption in sleep, which can be either insomnia or sleeping excessively

Objectively observable changes in the speed of movements, either slowing (psychomotor retardation) or agitation.

Decreased energy

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt that are out of proportion to the situation

Problems with concentration and decision-making

Suicidal ideation”

I have been struggling with my depression for the last few months. It’s sort of winning. It has been making me unproductive, isolating me, trashing my self-care, turning restful sleep into a distant memory, and generally mucking things up. I am not, however, particularly sad. I’m not weepy or morose or despairing. In point of fact, I’m not much of anything. I am a well of no feeling.

Anhedonia. How I hate it, or would if I could drum up the enthusiasm to feel something as robust as hate. I am emptiness and it doesn’t lend itself to enthusiasm. I saw a dead hedgehog on the road once, when I lived in New Zealand. There was no local animal service so the poor beastie just lay there, day after day, since no one saw fit to remove it. It lay there, and rotted, and got very flat. I feel like that. Emptied out until only the skin remains. Any emotions I might experience are of the mildest sort, a nearly unmeasurable blip on the straight line that is my mood. They are an echo of an emotional response, really. I remember feeling. I used to love “The Good Doctor”. I used to love to read. I used to love my friends and family. I used to get joy from walking in the woods. I used to sing along to music in the car. I used to smile at my grandson.

Not so much these days.

In addition to stealing the emotions, depression makes me scattered, unfocused, and unable to stay on task. I struggle that way anyhow, a function of anxiety, but when I’m like this, persistently applying myself is very difficult. Everything is abandoned before it’s done in pursuit of something else that I hope will kick start the soul fire that has semi-flickered out.

The usual solution is to up my meds. Because, she said modestly, I’m doing all the things I’m “supposed” to do. What other behavioural modifications are left? I push through the days, trying to be productive. I get up. I get dressed. I’m get fresh air and exercise. I’m pushing myself to participate in activities I used to enjoy. Of course, I’m also isolating and not doing much to correct that behaviour. So maybe “all” is overstating the case.

I looked up anhedonia after reading Ashleyleia’s piece because of course I did. It’s what I do. I have a great affection for Google. I like being able to grab information at my whim. Predictive text, however, presented me with this option: anhedonia recovery. Who knew there were specific recovery plans for this feature of depression (aside from the people writing the posts, of course)?

As it turns out, anhedonia is broken down into two main subtypes: social anhedonia, disinterest in social situations and a lack of pleasure in social contact, and physical anhedonia, an inability to experience tactile pleasures such as touching, eating, and sex. I’m ever the over-achiever, so I’m struggling with both.

The symptoms read like a list of my current reality:

No motivation to do anything

Lack of interest and withdrawal

Negative feelings towards yourself or others

Lack of relationships

Reduced emotional abilities

Loss of libido

Physical problems

Ah depression. The gift that keeps on giving. Everyone likes to tell you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I know this to be absolutely true; I have walked this road before. The problem is this: telling people light’s coming is not that helpful if you’re trapped in the dark.

I had high hopes for the article I encountered. I read much of it and skimmed through the last bit, waiting for the anhedonia promise, the emotional-numbing healing plan. Perhaps it involved kittens? Alas, that was not to be. The advice was the same as it always is.

Keep moving forward. Do the things you’re told, make all the right moves and eventually, finally, things will look up. You’ll turn a corner. Or, you won’t though that’s statistically unlikely. But it’s challenging to hold onto that belief that better times are coming when days turn into weeks turn into months.

Still, what other option is there? I’m not currently at the point where I feel like I want to give up forever. So, a short break from all the supposed-to and a bit of a wallow and then it’s back to the business of riding the wave of depression. The fresh air won’t breathe itself.

This too shall pass.

Do you ever get tired of life’s repetitious nature?

13 thoughts on “Anhedonia and depression.

  1. The hedgehog skin analogy is a very good one. It can rather soul-sucking to keep on pushing the activation when it feels like none of it matters in the slightest. But I guess moving is better than staying still. And that kidney stone is going to hurt like a mofo whether it passes soon or at some point in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I had back problems I was told to try my best to stand up straight even if it was uncomfortable. When I get depressed, which is frequently, sometimes I force myself to go out even if I don’t want to and I usually feel better or at least am able to function.

    Be careful with your meds, more definitely doesn’t mean better and the side effects are often the only thing that increases. Take care Em.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for sharing of your self so openly. I’m sorry to hear that your struggling so much, although “struggling” feels like the wrong word. I love your blog and feel so connected to you with similar struggles. Hugs through the airwaves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved the hedgehog bit. Great illustration of the subject matter.

    I don’t know… sometimes being able to explain something with a label helps steer us toward closure and the search for treatment. But, sometimes, I feel like there are too many labels that one could fit under, and I don’t want to get buried underneath.

    Liked by 1 person

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