Depression Ate my Motivation, So I’m Trying to get it Back

It’s pretty much widely accepted that too much extrinsic motivation kills your intrinsic motivators, and yet we use it often for children to teach them good habits because let’s face it — it’s good for you to a degree.

I think the general problem comes in say when, for instance, I personally keep my house clean because I dislike a messy house. Using an extrinsic system to maintain that long term can have damaging effects since I wouldn’t necessarily care about whatever system I came up with and so “ ‘fuck it’ I’m not cleaning” becomes the prevalent attitude.

I suppose I should back up a bit and state that I don’t think most adults would need an extrinsic rewards type system. Operative word being need, I think most people would benefit from one — even if it’s as simple a checking a box on a To Do list. But, I suffer from depression and while usually it’s a controlled issue. Apparently, the beast has seen fit to escape from its carefully constructed cage. So, currently even getting out of bed can be a struggle some days.

I’m not one to wallow though, or at least not for very long, so I’ve been working on a “reward” system to basically help me adult. I put “reward” in quotes because most of the rewards are already in place from before or are activities that further my goals instead of working against them.

For example, I put aside $25 a paycheck as fun money. I get to spend the money on whatever I wish without any feelings of guilt or remorse. Since, I am paid bi-weekly that amounts to roughly $50 a month. One of the issues I am having is going into work. I suffer from chronic pain and right around the time my depressive episode began my pain tolerance decreased, so it’s harder for me to ignore which makes it harder to go into work. Well, I’ve worked out that each day I go into work is worth about $2 in fun money. So that’s a reward right there, whereas if I don’t go I can’t earn that — I won’t get paid, for that day of course.

Each day there’s also small compensation reward for making it through. Depression, anxiety and any other mental disorder for that matter are hard to deal with. Even if you aren’t experiencing suicidal thoughts, well I for one don’t actually have the desire to do well anything sometimes — including those things that sustain life like eat food or drink fluids. So, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that I’ve made it through. Activities, like reading, coloring, watching a movie or TV, or playing video games are rewards that can be done as a coping mechanism to reduce anxiety and unwind from the no doubt stressful day.

Another goal I’ve had for a very long time is weight loss, which is probably going to be officially tabled until I can better handle this particular episode. But as a reward for doing well for lets say a week, I “get” to go swimming at my local YMCA instead of it being a chore. I love to swim and it’s exercise. So, I’ll be doing something beneficial for myself and receiving a “reward” at the same time.

In my honest opinion, I think using an extrinsic system when your motivation has all but died is probably a good idea. I mean at least in my case I don’t have any reason to do anything intrinsically, because I don’t care right now. But, I think we can all be driven to do something with the idea of rewards because we get something out of it. I just think those rewards have to align with furthering the main goal otherwise you are going to sabotage yourself.

I wanted to put this out there because I hope it helps someone else struggling. Find what motivates you, even if it’s outside yourself for a while.