AS is usual these days when IÂ haveÂ been thinking about something that is causing distress in my life along comes a blog post from someone else that sums up precisely how it is I feel, or what it that I am experiencing. This graph crudely explains it:
And this commentary from John Tierney more fully explains it:
Willpowerâthe popular idea is that itâs something that you use to resist temptation and to make yourself work. But theyâve also found that this same energy is used in making decisions, simply deciding what to have for lunch, what to do at a meeting; all these things deplete the same resource. After a while, when youâve depleted this resource, itâs a state called ego depletion. Youâve got less self-control, youâre more prone to give in to temptation, itâs harder for you to work, and you tend to make worse decisions.
In this state of decision fatigue youâre looking for mental shortcuts, and sometimes you do something really impulsive because you just donât think things through. You basically say, âSure, Iâll tweet that photo of myself in my underwear; what could go wrong?â The other thing you can do is just defer decisions; you basically just duck them all day.
When in the depths of my depression i suffered this so badly that the mere act of going for a walk led to a myriad of decisions that overwhelmed my ability to actually make decisions. In deciding to go for a walk I pretty much expired all deciusion making options right there. Getting to the top of the driveway necessitated more decisions…right or left…long way round the block, short way…up the hill or down the hill…go to the beach or to the shops….it all was just too taxing to even think about it…resulting in sitting on my arse getting worse. Opening the freezer to work out what to cook for dinner was the same…steak or sausages…rump or sirloin…peas or corn…oh fuck it I’ll just have toast. I suffered from decision fatigue.
When you hear people say that depression is feeling just a bit sad you know they are full of shit and have never experienced it. You know when other bloggers and commenters say you should get off your arse and go get a job that they have no idea about how debilitating severe clinical depression is. But at the same time you simply just don;t care enough about yourself to combat it or do anything about it.
You need to learn the pathology of the illness and how it affects you. You need to learn thatÂ theÂ drugs don;t help and you need toÂ learnÂ how to train your body to react the way you want it to react. For me I found that doing hardÂ physicalÂ exercise, or complex tasks like researching and writing a blog post all in one go without drafts or thinking about it put the symptoms of depression into the back of my mind. I learned that walkingÂ vigorouslyÂ for 2 hours a day sorted out my breathing, my fitness and cleared my mind and reset my system. I found myself again after 6 years of hiding from myself.
I can now make many decisions on the fly, and better ones. But it took a long, long time to train myself well. Even now when I feel myself sliding, IÂ haveÂ to go for a walk, if I neglect my walks I neglect myself. I use the walks for thinking, for planning and for clearing my mind.