I Feel I Will Never Enjoy Anything Again

Reader’s Question

I am a 27-year-old woman. I have been depressed in the past though never quite recognized it. At the beginning of last year I went to Panama on an exchange program in University for 4 months. When I left, my life was perfect — or as perfect as it had ever been. I had just gotten engaged to a man I had been in love with for years, I had a lot of friends and had finally reconnected with my family. My husband and I are both survivors of parental suicide and have had hard lives but find great comfort in each other. While I was away I got very very upset being separated from him and called him all the time. I began to feel very stupid about this as people on the trip thought this was pathetic. I desperately looked forward to seeing him. I was crying a lot, had grown largely apathetic to things around me, and was desperate to make him feel better as he was devastated I had gone. When he finally came to visit me I felt like a space alien. Nothing seemed real. I had put myself under so much stress to plan the perfect trip when he came and was convinced his vacation sucked and could not enjoy myself. When he left I thought I had felt so strange around him because I no longer loved him and grew exceptionally depressed. I have been back for 7 months now and things have not gotten better. I have had spans where everything is fine but most of the time I feel trapped in a nightmare. I do not talk to any of my friends anymore because I do not want to talk about how sick I am or complain about my husband and being around people makes me nauseous. Everything my husband does seems wrong to me and I am always incredibly angry with him and mean. I have no sympathy for him and find myself thinking he is a pathetic loser.

At the same time I feel like it is impossible I will ever enjoy anything ever again. I do not feel like I have any personality or soul, and I get stressed out at the thought of having free time as there is nothing I want to do. I am exceptionally harsh with myself. I cannot stand anyone who is nice to me but find I have a lot of sympathy for people I usually think are jerks. I am always caught in my past. My memories are so overwhelming sometimes I have troubles speaking. I go through my days just trying to focus on living until the next day. I can barely tolerate it. Have I fallen out of love with my husband or is it my depression? He does things that enrage me and he can be lazy — he currently has severe health and anxiety troubles so I try not to be too hard on him — but I always feel what I need to do takes the backseat. He says I do the same to him. I have been noticing that I am demonizing him and blaming him for everything wrong in my life. Is this normal when you are depressed? Is it a bad time to take a decision concerning leaving him?

Psychologist’s Reply

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You are describing a clinical depression. We often forget that even positive things, such as your exchange program, can be highly stressful. You and your husband were soulmates and the sole comfort for each other. The separation was devestating for both of you. As a result, you became overwhelmed by the stress of the separation.

Your preoccupation with the past and with “emotional memories” is a classic sign of depression. When depressed, we are tormented by our past traumatic memories. As you articulate, the memories can be so overwhelming that we are immobilized and incapacitated by them. In defense, the personality “numbs out” — we become emotionally nonfeeling, detached, and can’t feel love for others. Depression includes increased mind speed and those trauma memories — all of which are very LOUD in our head. The intensity of these symptoms overwhelms softer feelings and thoughts — like trying to listen to background music when standing next to an operating jet engine.

I’d recommend reading up on depression on this website. You are also being tortured by Emotional Memories. I have written an article addressing Emotional Memory on this website. It will provide some techniques to manage those. Keep in mind that you and your husband may be depressed. Your relationship has been shaken by the recent events and may take some time to recover.

You should also consider treatment for your depression. The best treatment option is a combination of antidepressant medication and therapy/counseling. I might also recommend an article I’ve written on depression. It’s on my website at www.drjoecarver.com.

Your relationship and your life can return to it’s original state of happiness…but it takes work. In truth, time doesn’t heal anything…work, rethinking, educating ourselves, etc. changes things.

PS: This is probably not a good time to make life-changing decisions. Recover from your depression, get your self-esteem back, then review your current life situation for possible changes.

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