How Can I Get Motivated Again?

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Reader’s Question

I am a married woman with three children who are aged 10 to 13. As a family we have been under a lot of stress lately due to illness, financial hardship, work-related stress, and relationship difficulties. Alcohol abuse has compounded the problem. My daughter is seeing a therapist at school. I suffered a depressive episode two years ago and was seen by a psychiatrist but was discharged without medication. I don’t have the symptoms of depression such as problems with sleep, appetite, racing or tormented thoughts, or anxiety, but I really struggle with motivation. I feel that rather than the fight or flight mechanism, my reaction is to freeze.

I have experienced multiple traumas during my life, so each new trauma hits me a little harder than the last. I am becoming increasingly intolerant of car accidents, abusive relationships, affairs, traumatic divorces, sexual and emotional abuse and domestic violence. I had counselling for sexual abuse that occurred in childhood, which is good and bad — good that I have let the trauma out and no longer repress it but bad because it now physically manifests in my body through aching muscles and joints and repeated thrush infections.

I want to be in control of my life, but circumstances pin me between a rock and a hard place, and I can’t see any solutions. Both my husband and I have strived to sort out things head on but we have been let down by several people and organisations. We have been broken. I can only exist in this world and try to live as best I can; at least I don’t have suicidal thoughts like I used to. I don’t want to work anymore. Although luckily my work is flexible, my financial circumstances are not. I can’t keep house, I hate filing so important letters are left unattended, and paying bills is becoming harder and harder. I need to study a certain amount for my work, but I don’t want to, which if not sorted in 2 months means I can’t work.

I feel my life is taking a different direction; I am changing so nothing really fits anymore, but I can only take pot shots about where it is meant to be going. The things that give me pleasure and feel right I still do, and that is what keeps me going. I also have lots of therapeutic relationships, but they can’t solve my problems. They only listen, pray and empathise, which I am grateful for, but this long term stress is killing me. I have a feeling that I simply watch life on a movie screen, and I seem to have lost the remote control. Life hurts. I don’t want to hurt forever. Experience has taught me how to handle things. I can do so robotically, but I can’t feel anymore.

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Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Psychologist’s Reply

Except for continuing to feel enjoyment at doing the things that have given you pleasure in the past, it does sound like you may want to see your medical doctor for an evaluation around possible depression. Also, it sounds like you may be a candidate for addressing anxiety issues.

Feeling down after experiencing a series of disappointments is something that can become overwhelming if one does not have the tools with which to work through the stress. Learning techniques to help keep your stress levels in check would be very beneficial. Research is showing more and more that meditation is an effective tool in addressing anxiety, depression, and stress. It would be of great benefit to also work with a professional to learn how to change your thinking regarding day to day events. By changing your thoughts about the situation(s), you will be able to change your perceptions and beliefs about them too; this will create a different emotional and psychological outcome. There is a saying: “Change your thinking, change your life.” This holds particular truth when confronting seemingly endless disappointments and unpleasant circumstances.

You mention that this long term stress is killing you. That is reason enough to make an appointment with your general practitioner today for evaluating whether antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications would serve you well. Getting up and out of the house to get some exercise will be a phenomenal boost to your overall health and well being. Walking is one of the best exercises you can engage in, and it’s free! The medical interventions, coupled with stress reduction techniques (like meditating) and cognitive techniques can help you to arrive at a beautiful shore of calm waters, smooth sailing, and an overall general ability to focus on the beauty of the sea, rather the smell of the seaweed!

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