Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
HavePatience

Stuck in a Blank Mind State--Could Really Use Some Support

Recommended Posts

Hi all,

I've been visiting these forums for a few weeks, but haven't posted about my own experience. At this point, I'm feeling unbelievably stuck. I tried and failed to keep this brief, so see end for TL;DR. I would really, really love to hear from you all. For those of you who read this in its entirety, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Starting sometime in March, an episode of depression and anxiety hit me. Hard. In the preceding months, I had noticed some early signs of my depression returning (e.g., I was crying easily), but it was pretty manageable. Although there have been some stressful life events  (e.g., family illness) leading up to this episode, I wasn't really ruminating about them. Instead, what seemed to really kick things off is that I was having trouble concentrating on my work (which is very cognitive/critical thinking oriented). Once I noticed that I was having trouble concentrating, I started on a downward spiral thinking "I can't concentrate, how will I work? What if this doesn't go away? This WON'T go away. I won't be able to work, this is it. I'm done." These kinds of thoughts generally lead to panic attacks and feeling unbelievably depressed. I have never experienced feeling so terrible in my life (I'm 27, female. I've had one previous episode of anxiety and depression in my early-mid 20s that was relatively mild and had gone into remission thanks to medication and CBT). This dysfunction spread quickly from my work life into my social life. Every interaction felt impossible. Whereas normally I would relish in complaining about some petty slight with my colleague, I could barely tolerate a conversation (all I could think about was how bad I felt in the moment). Normally I am pretty bubbly and gregarious. I love intellectual conversations. I make jokes. I'm sometimes clever. Everything became an impossible task. I kept asking myself "How am I going to get through today? How am I going to get myself to eat? How am I going to make it through a meeting? How am I going to...how am I going to...". 

At this early stage, I became very proactive--I read self-help books ("Feeling Good" by David Burns. I would highly recommend it), I set up an appointment with a psychologist, then with my PCP. I took walks when the anxiety or depression got to be too much (I would often just walk and cry--I'm sure I looked just comically depressed). The feelings of anxiety and depression were so strong, I couldn't imagine how anything would change them; I was convinced that the intensity of the feelings and the amount of dysfunction they caused were a sign that this was the beginning of the end. What else could possibly explain the rapid and severe onset if not some devastating and irreversible neurological condition (think schizophrenia)? This conclusion was reinforced when, despite my best efforts, implementing CBT techniques (like writing out and challenging automatic thoughts) wasn't having any lasting effect on my symptoms (NOTE: I don't believe this is because CBT doesn't work, I believe it's because my depression was/is too severe to be tackled alone).

I was in such pain that I decided to start back on sertraline (Zoloft). I've been on it about 5-6 weeks. The good news: it has mitigated the affective symptoms, though not totally (I am still sensitive about interacting with others. I'm stressed out by the thought of going into my office and dealing with people. I'm sensitive to noise--too much stimulus makes me nervous for some reason. I recently went to visit my family, which normally I LOVE to do, but was so blank-minded and self conscious about it I barely enjoyed myself). The bad news: the cognitive dysfunction is still VERY much there, though it's changed form a bit. Whereas before I couldn't concentrate because I was focused on feeling like a human dumpster fire, now it feels like I have a blank mind, like my internal voice has all but disappeared. I am able to do relatively simple tasks (for which I am grateful), but anything that requires complex thinking--holding multiple lines of thought at once--is impossible. Whereas in the past I could think 3 steps ahead, now I can only see what's in front of me. I thought that when the emotional suffering diminished, I'd be able to return to functioning. Instead, I feel...intellectually diminished. This applies to all aspects of my life. E.g., my ability to reflect on and plan my daily activities is close to none. I just sort of...react to what's happening around me. It's like my brain is asleep.

Weirdly, I don't feel bored. I just feel...unmotivated, spacey, ungrounded (time seems to pass quickly, e.g.), and blunted (though I did laugh once or twice yesterday!). I don't find satisfaction in anything (though I still take care of the basics, like cleaning, exercising, etc. It's just...I do them on autopilot. And don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful that I'm able to do these things. I know a lot of us out there struggle to get out of bed).

I don't know how to get unstuck, and I'm feeling really lost. It only dawned on me a few days ago that maybe this blank-mindedness is an effect of the medication. Unfortunately because my memory is kinda trash right now, I can't remember if this blank-mindedness only started after the medication, or if it was there beforehand, too...

TL;DR. I got really depressed & anxious very suddenly in March. The severity and rapidness of the episode really freaked me out, which made me assume that this is the beginning of the something worse/unstoppable. I've been on Zoloft for 5-6 weeks, which helped with some of the emotional symptoms, but not cognitive ones. I am intellectually diminished (can't think complexly about things at work or in my personal life), and now wondering if it's the medication. I've always been high functioning, and the fact that this is ******* with my ability to think is sort of destroying me.

Have others had experience with this blank-mindedness whether on a medication or not? Perhaps this means I should bump up my dose (which is low right now at 50mg. My PCP did approve of upping the dose)? Or try a different medication? If anyone has any thoughts or has experience these symptoms, I would really love to hear it. I'm especially concerned with how hard and fast the depression/anxiety hit me, and the subsequent cognitive difficulties I'm having. Would love to hear if others can relate...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi HavePatience!

    I am sorry you are suffering these effects.  A long time ago I was on a medication called Tofranil, a very early tricyclic antidepressant and noticed the things you are describing about concentration and so on.  I did not have this experience with Zoloft although I was on the maximum dose.  So unfortunately I cannot be of much help to you.

  I have noticed that all antidepressants I have been on "seem" to cause my mind to keep moving forward.  There has been a benefit to this for me in that in depression and anxiety, my mind gets "stuck" in a thought, what someone well described as a "negative feedback loop."  Free of this, the constant forward push of my thoughts sometimes requires some effort when it comes to concentration.  But in my case least, it has never made concentration impossible or unbearably difficult.  It has not interfered with planning, multi-tasking, complex reasoning. 

From your post, it seems like your situation is different in that you cannot overcome the forward march of thoughts for your purposes.  Is that right?  I wish I knew what to say that would be helpful.  Hopefully someone else here will be able to be helpful to you.  By the way, I found your post to be quite complex, systematic, well-reasoned, insightful. Deepest apologies for not responding to the other issues you raised, important ones too, but I have tendinitis in both hands which prevents me from typing for long.  I am so sorry that it feels like your brain is asleep.  Best to you. 

Edited by Epictetus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your reply, Epictetus. 

I definitely understand what you're saying about a feedback loop. That's certainly how things were for me in the beginning. Circular thought patterns and rumination are definitely hallmarks of depression. I think I still experience this "stuck"ness now--I often think to myself "the only thought I am having is that I am unable to have thoughts". The main difference between when this started and now is that my thoughts now are very slow, and really seem to lack content. At the beginning of this episode, they were much faster, sometimes racing.

And yes, your observation sounds correct. I cannot overcome my thoughts (as slow as they are). In a sense, I also cannot overcome the absence of thought. I think this really encapsulates my experience (thank you for helping me get there!).

Fingers crossed others might have some insight and relate, too.

Thanks again, hope you are well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been in a very bad place for a few months now, and experience cognitive problems as well. Back in December I got hit with a ton of bricks and immediately had intense depression and anxiety. I couldn't get my mind to focus enough to work on complex work problems. It was the anxiety I think. My mind was jumping all over the place. Usually ruminating on how crappy I feel and when is it going to stop. So I had to work on easier projects at work (I told work what was up). I've been trying different pharmaceutical approaches and CBT as well. I too find that CBT isn't as effective when you're deep in the toilet. But I do it nonetheless. It's doing good things under the hood whether it feels that way or not. I think your username sums it up. Patience is needed. We'll get to a better place.

Edited by felix_a_cat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for your reply, felix. I think we're in the same boat. Lucky for me, my boss is really wonderful and understanding about this. It sounds like your work has been accommodating, too.

I think you might be right about the CBT--it's doing good things under the hood. I'm just not seeing the benefits yet. We just have to persevere. Thank you again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi HavePatience,

Although I will be beginning Zoloft tonight, I do know what you are feeling with the blank state of mind. I have experience this every day without relief( other than meditation and sleep) for over a month. My doctors are exploring depression, seizures, brain issues, and pulmonary issues( in case of lack of oxygen) with me. I encourage you to consider beginning meditation and mindful breathing exercises as well as journaling if you are not already doing so. These may seem difficult at first, but  practice just to the best of your ability. The more we have in our lives that relieve our stress naturally while increasing our well being, the better. Also, consider talking with a neurologist about your cognitive concerns. Because they came on sudden and have you concerned, it may be the right time to get a specialist ( like a neurologist) involved to test your brain. Ease your fears as well as you are able by focusing on whatever helps bring up better feelings in you ( for me it is the color blue and the word butterflies - one has to smile when imagining a stick of butter flying!) Know you are supported here sweet friend. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...