Depression

Letting Go of a Life Before Depression

Letting go of a life before depression - image of butterflies being released

I’ve never been particularly interested in material things, and I don’t accumulate a lot of stuff. I get satisfaction from getting rid of things, so every so often I’ll do some paring down.

A while back, I wrote about Depression and Closet/Identity Thinning, and whether I should get rid of the more dressy, feminine clothing that I used to wear when I wasn’t depressed. It wasn’t a question of closet space; it was a question of whether or not I wanted to hold onto the possibility of that identity and that life before depression coming back.

Recently I did another round of evaluating and paring down, and I realized that there were things that I might as well get rid of because I don’t live that life anymore, and it seems pointless to think that I might.

Some of the stuff I got was education-related, including materials from psychiatry continuing education activities I’d done. I still had my summary notes from some of my university classes that I used to study for final exams. I held onto that because things that were representative of learning used to be important to me. Now that doesn’t matter. Not that learning doesn’t matter, just holding on to representations of it.

I will not be a person who socializes. I will not be a person who has people over for dinner. There’s no reason to keep the material items that go along with that. I can barely manage to maintain one in-person friendship, and I see no reason to think that’s going to shift in a more pro-social direction.

I sometimes go back to older blog posts and do a bit of sprucing up. Looking back, I can see that, at least in the early days of the blog, I thought there was at least some possibility of getting my old life back, or at least part of it. I’m not sure when that changed; I think it was a gradual shift rather than an abrupt decision.

I used to wonder how I’d be able to get my career back on track, but at this point I doubt I will ever work again. There was no point hanging onto my community mental health resource binder.

So here I am in this illness life that I don’t actually want to live. The life I loved living is gone, although I’m glad that at least I enjoyed it when it was around. It feels increasingly distant, almost like it involved someone else rather than me.

I loved life. Now I don’t. It feels like a big contrast. Things mattered. Now they don’t. I used to enjoy things. Now I don’t. Depression has plucked out the bits of my life that mattered and tossed them to the wind. There’s no old life to go back to, so I just keep walking, one foot in front of the other, until the road ends somewhere. Or nowhere.

book cover: Managing the Depression Puzzle by Ashley L. Peterson

Managing the Depression Puzzle takes a holistic look at the different potential pieces that might fit into your unique depression puzzle. It’s available on Amazon and other online retailers, as well as the MH@H Store.

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47 thoughts on “Letting Go of a Life Before Depression”

  1. Is there any way you can find new things that matter? I know that sounds obvious and silly, but there ought to be new things!! I’d hope!!

  2. Sorry to hear this. I never had an “old life,” at least not as an adult, only as a child. But gradually I have come to realise I will always be managing depression (and obviously I will always have autism because it’s not something that can be cured). I hope I can manage it better than I do now one day. I know that going on clomipramine has helped inasmuch as it’s given me a greater degree of functionality, although paid employment is still elusive, as are building a social network, acceptance in my religious community and romantic love. I tell myself that I should give up on these things and accept my life will never be happy the way other peoples’ are, yet I find myself hoping/dreaming. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Other people seem to think it’s good, but it seems rather hopeless to me, like setting myself up for failure.

  3. Hugs. Its tough to face. The lost of cherished identity. Life becoming more constricted. I really value your online presence and of course hope your life can somehow improve. You deserve a good quality life that you enjoy, and it sucks your treatment resistant depression is such a formidable foe.

  4. I feel this deeply. I actually struggled with letting go of my “old life” first due to physical health issues, but the mental issues definitely contribute as well.

  5. Powerful post! I want to say that, although I have had psychosis for 20+ years, I have grieved my former life quite a lot. I used to dream of returning to work or school, and having a career. Those dreams have slowly died. And, now they have all but passed. Now, I think about the horrors and dread of getting older. I am morbidly obese, and have not been successful at losing weight, even with professional help. Serious mental illness is called that because it is serious. Hugs!

  6. I am not trying to tell you what’s best for YOU. But. In a similar situation (which is coming around again for me too, so my sympathies), I’ve been told to seek help and fight. I know that doing the fighting seems pointless (it does to me anyway) and I’m so damned tired that I just want it all to end, but someone out there would miss you if you did end. Your piggies for one. Hold on to that knot at the end of the rope and talk to someone (if you’re not already doing that). It might help.

  7. I feel this so much. Depression is harder to deal with than a lot of people like to think, or even will admit. It’s good to let go, and I often feel good about letting go of what was – things, people, situations, even dreams of the future. It can be very challenging to have hope, or find new hope once you’ve let go. It is my hope for you that you find new dreams, new hopes, new reasons to keep going. Take care.

  8. “It feels increasingly distant, almost like it involved someone else rather than me.” This resonates for us. We went to work on a Friday—in great distress from ongoing, building mental suffering—left, and never returned to work. That was 3.5 years ago.

    We were trying to find a place, a routine, to just exist, and then COVID threw our routine out entirely: therapy, silent meditation—disrupted and now unrecognizable.

    That may be a lesson we will try to learn from: routines and plans are dust motes in a sunbeam: if someone walks by, they disperse; if a window or door is opened, they disperse; if someone exhales, they disperse. Since we live with people, and that will not change soon, flexibility and adaptability are necessary for us to do more than cling to the fringe of our existence. May we have strength to get there.

    May you have energy, too. 💕❤️💕❤️

  9. I’ve always thought that it must be such an awfully difficult thing for people who had an old life and then have to face the fact that it’s not coming back, either due to mental or chronic illness or disability. I mostly think about it with regards to people who have lost their sight later in life. With depression I feel it must be particularly bad though, because it makes you feel awful and miserable by itself, and when you add the frustration of that it’s not realistic to think that it’ll end any time soon, and you have an idea of what it’s like to live without it, it gets all the more depressing.
    I can only imagine what it’s like, since for me it’s quite different. I am only aware and more or less accepting of my mental health issues since a few years, and also for me the mental health diagnoses that I’ve got were more like an explanation and validation of things that I didn’t understand about myself or my life, at least to an extend, rather than something entirely new, but looking back at the past or talking to people like my Mum I know it’s been a problem for much longer than those few years and it must have started in my early childhood, so I don’t really have an old life to refer to. The only frame of reference I can possibly have is the way other people I know who don’t have similar struggles live and what they are like. Which sometimes makes me sad, because it also doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to change substantially into some “new”, more normal life. But I think I prefer it the way it is, rather than if I was to originally have a normal life and be functioning only to then developed a mental illness later on. And, as I often say, I feel really grateful for that usually despite my dysthymia I am able to care about things. There are of course times when it can get really bad and I cannot, or I often have to force myself to it a bit and remind my brain that it something I like/care about or find pleasant or interesting, which sometimes works better and sometimes just so that I can fake convincingly that I’m enjoying it for the sake of other people, but generally anhedonia is not a consistent feature of my dysthymia and I really hope it never will change, because then things could become way more difficult to manage, as the things I’m passionate about are pretty much my main drive to keep going, along with Misha since the last couple of years. Which is why I feel really sorry that you don’t have this luxury with your depression and are no longer able to enjoy things like you used to. I wish it could still change somehow. But it’s so great you have the guinea pigs. Hugs. 🙂

    1. Thanks, and hugs back! That’s interesting to think about people losing their sight later in life. That seems like a huge adjustment in interacting with the world, and major adjustments at older ages are hard to do.

  10. I took me so long to let go! I wanted my old life back. But the one with bipolar had some magical moments that wouldn’t happen if there was no setback. Let go when ready, I feel you might be feeling down about it but some unplanned and not wished for lives were so glorious that they shaped the way we think of the world with all the mess in them. Who knows?

  11. Wow Ashley that such a powerful post and it’s got me choked.

    I do understand the never going back to work bit and it took me a long time too – to realise I’d never be going back, and I don’t when, if ever, I’ll get over that. It still makes me sad and mad (angry), even after nearly 10 years.

    I still hang onto my learning materials, like you, not sure why. Maybe one day, eh?

    I still want my old life back!

  12. My old life dissolved bc of my ex’s mental illnesses, and for a long time I hoped to create another long-term romantic partnership with a sane man. But my issues repel “normal” men. I tried to find an only slightly “different” person, but that failed too. That process made me depressed and worsened my other issues. I’m finally “okay” 3+ years after quitting the game, but I’ve had to accept that happiness is not in the cards. Moments of joy, sure. I have those. But true contentment… nah

  13. I am so glad you write. There are people who don’t know how to communicate what is happening inside of them and others who will not understand what is happening inside people they love. You are able to accurately articulate from great insight. I believe that is very valuable.

  14. Thank you for sharing 💕
    I too sometimes feel like this with my anxiety I look back at all the seemingly simple things I used to do that are now a distant memory and a goal that I long to reach. The anxiety has been there since the age of 9 but has magnified by 100 as I’ve got older, the depression is as a result of this. But as my anxiety has started to improve with Curative hypnotherapy my depression has improved also. I often felt like there was no point in hoping for more or for better, but it seemed to just fuel the bad days. I still hope, not for my old life anymore I hope for happiness in a new life, but just maybe with a few more restrictions. I can accept that my life will always be different but acceptance is something I struggle with when it comes to mental health, I never want to believe it’s forever, it hasn’t forever been a part of my life it’s been a huge part but not all of it, so I continue to hold on to the hope I can overcome it. Being the annoying optimistic that I am is what gets me through.
    Sending love and hugs to you, I am a huge fan of your blogs they are informative, creative, and from the heart, they talk of honest experiences and you should be proud, I think you are amazing 💚❤️

  15. I really relate to this from an opposite perspective. I hold on to everything. For the last 3-4 years I’ve tried to let go, get rid of and move on but I continue to go round and round in circles. I feel like getting rid of some things is like giving up on my hopes and dreams. Finding the balance of what was then, what is now and what is the future is tough to recognise and negotiate for myself. I admire your strength to let go!

  16. I can relate a little to this post. Although it is a hard thing to do, getting rid of stuff that represents an ‘old’ self that is not realistic anymore gives me freedom. It brings maybe sadness but on the other side I don’t have to ‘worry’ no more about what has been and what is possible. Being stuck between those two costs me a lot of energy but at the same time I feel I need to walk that road. Thanks you for sharing your thoughts on this.

  17. I can hear you here. And I sincerely hope that my comment does help, at least, a bit.
    Reading this gives me a sense of real darkness.
    Not long ago during the pandemic, I consulted a mental health practitioner for my struggle with human relationships. However, in the end, I still continue to express myself through blogging instead of having real talks with people in my face to face life. I have a few friends whom I can talk to but I am separated from all of them due to physical distance and busy life. Though I trust them, I don’t have the motivation to keep in touch very frequently. I am just facing my computer all the times with very little time for real conversations with people. I don’t really enjoy face to face human relationships very much nowadays. I know some people are kind and sincere but I cannot feel anything. I have been trying to be friendly, warm-hearted and caring but my heart still feels like a robot.
    I have tried joining a public speaking club, but after the club activity, I felt very exhausted even though I only uttered a few sentences. I feel that I cannot take the speaking tension and many mental voices disturbed me and I took in maybe only 25% or less of the content. I feel at peace when I am just doing my postgraduate research, despite the fact that I am not confident of graduating on time actually.

    1. It’s definitely nice to be able to connect online. It’s not exhausting the way in-person contact is. I feel very lucky to have found this communiity where I feel comfortable.

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