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Managing Depression While Studying / Taking Exams?


Ixeua

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I have an exam tomorrow. I really tried my best to get a lot of studying done. I want to pat myself in the back for getting through the end with studying major points for my mathematics exam tomorrow. But I find it hard to concentrate on studying the finer details now. My mind is going at a 1000 rpm right now. I really cannot concentrate. I am a "veteran" at studying when depressed. I don't mean that I am an "expert" at studying while depressed. I have found a few techniques over the years to somewhat "help" me. ie. the Pomodoro technique.

The past few days instead of just writing down a list of all the stuff I needed to study. I also put in a time for each task. With technical courses (ie. math engineering) I find it really difficult to do this since you may find yourself stuck or question a previous technique that does not seem to work now. Thankfully, I did most of my studying by just giving each week of the course my best effort (another technique I learned over the years).

Here's my problem. I often underperform when I have depressive nightmares. I am going through one right now. I can't sleep because my mind is going at 1000 rpm. It's trying to convince me I will fail ...again. I will suddenly forget everything I worked on tomorrow. It's telling me that if I can't sleep, then you will be tired and exhausted, forget everything and fail.

I am really distraught and lonely now. I feel so exhausted. I eat while studying to "control" my depression (mostly oatmeal). I tried talking to a family member over Skype to stop my loneliness. But I still feel lonely. My mind is still torturing me over the worst, traumatic, and embarrassing parts of my life. My mind is trying to tell me that all the studying I am doing will go to waste. It keeps digging up previous horrible exam experiences and presentations that bombed.

I don't know what to do now. I exercised today hoping to end those horrible feelings. I am trying to sleep (what I do to delete my brain's "cookies" and "cache" à la CCleaner) but I can't. I also have another class to prepare for tomorrow but I feel so tired and overwhelmed.

Edited by Ixeua
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I am in the middle of getting through school with depression as well. You sound like you're in a really tight spot right now.

You say you already use a lot of techniques to get through things, so the one I have might not help. I don't know. I think it's basically just a form of meditation.

One thing I do when it feels like my head and heart are going to explode at the same time it to just stop. I don't mean for any extended period of time, but to just stop for an hour or two. I try to go somewhere quiet and nice. Since I have 5 kids this can be hard. Usually it's just out the backyard. I put on a video for the kids, go sit out back, and close the door.

I focus on my breathing, on feeling the weather whether it's cold or sunny or windy. I then focus on something small and essentially meaningless. Like an ant crawling on the ground, a blade of grass, a leaf swinging in the wind. I imagine what relief it would bring to be one of those things. No one cares about that tiny little thing. No one has expectations of it. It just gets to exist in its perfect form until it passes away.

I can do this inside too. Like with a bit of tape stuck to the wall, or an old post-it note.

And then I try to imagine that I AM like that thing. Even though I am a human, I am tiny, insignificant. My life is just as it should be, and whether I win or lose, succeed or fail, ultimately it doesn't matter.

Now for some people they don't like thinking this way and it upsets them. For me, it's quite soothing. Once the pressure is taken off, I can go back to studying or plowing through my homework one tiny piece at a time. Sometimes I set a goal of writing one sentence, or doing one tiny piece of research like reading one article.

Once I get my brain to stop screaming at me, I usually do OK.

Sometimes I use mental imagery as well. Like I mentally imagine a gigantic desk just filled to the brim with papers and books, things toppled over, the kind of mess where if you touch one thing a dozen others fall over as well. I imagine this, and then I imagine having a hissy fit, screaming, and just shoving EVERYTHING off my desk. Like a little kid. I just shove it all off until all I have is a clean desk. And then I imagine picking up ONE tiny thing. One easy thing and putting it back on my desk to work with.

Again, it's like a meditation thing. Half the time when I describe these things to people they just look at me like I'm crazy, so I assume not everyone does this. I think it just helps interrupt the thought processes that begin to clog up my brain, the one's that scream THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT AND YOU'RE ****** IT ALL UP and variations thereof. The effigy of my depression is definitely not some menacing black figure of death, or a rainy cloud, or a fantastic hound of hell dogging my steps, it's a corporate business suit b**ch holding a gigantic FAILURE stamp.

Hope you discover something that works....

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One thing that I've started doing is hot showers and baths. There are a lot of scented soaps, scrubs, and other things, too. It's sort of like CCleaner for the brain, but more like a "reset" button that allows me to come out feeling clean and refreshed.

How'd the exam go, by the way?

Edited by Licorice
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Hi Ixeua, I know how you feel. I *barely* struggled through my first few years of university, only passing because my doctor was nice enough to write me medical certificates for days when I just couldn't handle any kind of social interaction. You said you're studying for an engineering degree? I'm a third year pure maths/theoretical physics major, so I might be able to help if you're having any difficulty understanding things. Feel free to message me if you have a question :smile:

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I have so much respect for people that can still find the motivation to study, even though it's not in an optimal way...

Likewise.

Sometimes it doesn't feel like much, but many years from now when we have the fruit of our labor we'll be glad we pushed on.

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I am in the middle of getting through school with depression as well. You sound like you're in a really tight spot right now.

You say you already use a lot of techniques to get through things, so the one I have might not help. I don't know. I think it's basically just a form of meditation.

...

One thing I do when it feels like my head and heart are going to explode at the same time it to just stop. I don't mean for any extended period of time, but to just stop for an hour or two. I try to go somewhere quiet and nice. Since I have 5 kids this can be hard. Usually it's just out the backyard. I put on a video for the kids, go sit out back, and close the door.

I focus on my breathing, on feeling the weather whether it's cold or sunny or windy. I then focus on something small and essentially meaningless. Like an ant crawling on the ground, a blade of grass, a leaf swinging in the wind. I imagine what relief it would bring to be one of those things. No one cares about that tiny little thing. No one has expectations of it. It just gets to exist in its perfect form until it passes away.

The effigy of my depression is definitely not some menacing black figure of death, or a rainy cloud, or a fantastic hound of hell dogging my steps, it's a corporate business suit b**ch holding a gigantic FAILURE stamp.

Thanks for the insight and thanks for taking time to write all of that. I can relate to that One aspect I hate about depression is the feeling of being "dumb" and the loss of concentration. I also feel I have lost a lot of asbility to recall and think clearly which causes subpar performances.

I sometimes feel discouraged while working when depressed. Performance in work drops. When your performance drops, you do poorly, you get negative (sometimes nasty) feedback from other people. Then your try working with depression and the negativity that piles up, your performance is sub optimal, more negativity, etc....

It is an endless cycle that is so difficult to break. it is even worse when the inner critic starts screaming at you often.

One thing that I've started doing is hot showers and baths. There are a lot of scented soaps, scrubs, and other things, too. It's sort of like CCleaner for the brain, but more like a "reset" button that allows me to come out feeling clean and refreshed.

How'd the exam go, by the way?

Hmm. I think I should try scented baths too. Strong smells can take your mind of things.

The exam went well. (Thanks for asking!) Good thing it was open notes since my ability to remember and recall fruing a depressive episode is very difficult.

@electronegativity

Hi. Thank you so much for your support and kindness!

@Lilyflower

I have so much respect for people that can still find the motivation to study, even though it's not in an optimal way...

Thanks! I really appreciated your comment. A lot of people on this forum are going through hard times. It's nice to see this.

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