Sunday, February 23, 2014

Self-Efficacy and Medication

Things are feeling a little better. I guess I didn't realize how insanely stressed out I was last week, but getting to the end of it took a huge load off. Aside from the GRE, I had two interviews, two papers due, and a quiz. So once I got through it all, I just sort of fell apart emotionally. Although I'm feeling much more stable now, it still scares me how easily the depression and anxiety started to creep back in.

I think I need to do some serious thinking about how to make my mental health a priority. In one of my classes, we are learning about the idea of "self-efficacy" in promoting behavior changes. Put simply, self-efficacy means you believe in your ability to do something. If you don't have self-efficacy, it doesn't really matter whether you can actually do something or not, because you probably won't even give it a shot. If you don't think there's a remote possibility that you can quit smoking or can run a mile or can recover from your eating disorder, then you aren't likely to try. And in my case, I've decided that I have extremely low self-efficacy with regards to my mental health. I don't ever feel like I have any control over how I feel, but rather that my moods are solely a result of the circumstances. That's why I was so depressed last year; I felt that my depression was a direct result of my physical pain, so there was no point in trying to change my outlook. And then, alternately, starting in the fall I believed that my happiness was a direct result of not being in pain, so I never bothered to take precautions against future depression. All I could do was cross my fingers and hope the pain stayed away so that the depression would too.

But obviously that's not true. There is a lot that I can do to take care of my super duper fragile brain, which serves me pretty well in terms of schoolwork and test-taking and keeping my heart beating and blood flowing and all that, but NOT so well in terms of being normal and thinking positive and seeing the bright side of things and not catastrophizing about things that will likely never happen. The key is to remember that there is a lot that I can do, and that it's important to do them even when I feel fine instead of waiting until the bottom drops out. I can make sure to feed myself appropriately, get enough sleep, talk with Dr. P and my mom and my friends about stuff, and not let myself get as stressed out and overwhelmed as I have been.

And maybe most important at this point, I can TAKE MY GODDAMN MEDICATION. I've actually been better about it the past few days because feeling so low again scared me into compliance. I'm not ever opposed to taking it, but periodically I decide that I don't want to and maybe I'll see how long I can go skipping it. Like, what do I expect to happen?? Couldn't tell you. Anyway, I'm back on the drug bandwagon for now.

So, I guess here's to self-efficacy and my drugs and taking better care of my brain.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great realization! I hope you're able to put the self-efficacy principles into practice! I totally get how it can feel like "oh, I only need to do these self-care things when I'm having a tough time," but then it turns out, those might be the very things that help keep things stable during good times as well. I hope it helps!

    Re: medication. I know it was hard for you to even go on medication in general, and I wonder if that's playing into it. Taking prescribed medication is very important. Your doctor/psychiatrist prescribed it for a reason. I don't mean to harp on this or lecture, so I'm sorry if it's coming across that way. Brain chemistry behind depression and anxiety is just that--brain chemistry. That's not something we can completely control. Sure, there are a ton of coping strategies, and I know you've really worked hard at those. But sometimes there's only so much that coping/action can do. If your brain is wired to be more prone to depression/anxiety, taking meds every day is health maintenance, just like eating, socializing, resting, seeing Dr. P, etc. It may be the case that you won't have to take them forever, but hopefully that'll be something you and your psychiatrist can work out together :)

    I hope that didn't come across too preachy. I just hope you're able to work on self-efficacy and your meds and are feeling better soon!