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Function Meter

Which makes me wonder whether my standards are unreasonably high and that's why I keep falling short of them?
If you have depression on board, very often it’s irrelevant where your standards are (Helplessness/Hopeless). Your brain can’t acknowledge successes (without a little help).
it feels like my depression was "a bit less awful"
Function is definitely something that you would track over time. Much like most treatment approaches to depression, there’s not expected to any meaningful immediate improvement, but rather, your symptoms progressively decrease, bit by bit.

If you’re finding that motivation is really hard, despite a looooong list of functional achievements for the day, you could throw an ACT- type approach into your list of goals, by making sure that the activities that you have on your goals list have value to you.
 
If you’re finding that motivation is really hard, despite a looooong list of functional achievements for the day, you could throw an ACT- type approach into your list of goals, by making sure that the activities that you have on your goals list have value to you.
Hi @Sideways 😊

Thank you - this really resonates. Yes, I've been struggling greatly with meaning and value... Either I'm non-functional and can't do anything, or I'm semi-functional but I feel like a robot and like nothing I do matters/ means anything...

What do you mean by an "ACT-type approach" and how do I find things that have value for me?

An easy example would be that I value my dog and him being well and feeling loved.

However, since my depression's been bad, on a lot of days I feel like I'm only providing "the bare basics" and feel (severe) guilt about that.

Even on the days where I can do more, I'm in a constant loop of "but it's not enough" and "it's never enough".

(Those issues may be quite muddled, but it's what comes to mind when you say "value" and how my brain is struggling with that.)
 
how do I find things that have value for me?
The easiest way to get started is to Google “List of values”!!

Here’s an example
What do you mean by an "ACT-type approach"
ACT is an evidence-based third wave behavioural therapy (wha…??). It has multiple different skills that work together to build a meaningful life.

It places a very big emphasis on value-driven behaviours. Do things that have value to you - that brings meaning to life, and instead of just ‘getting through the day’, you’re more likely to get to the end of the day feeling “yeah, today was worth living”.

There’s mounting evidence that these specific types of behaviours actually build a whole heap of valuable resources like self acceptance and resilience.

Importantly, it also fosters a very particular type of ‘happiness’. Not just in the sense of “not sad any more” (although it helps to do that too), or really transitory happiness (like “this is yum food”, or “this is a great movie”). Instead, it seems to foster a type of happiness that is more in the line of contentment, open-mindedness and tolerance (both of the self and others).

There’s a few steps to value-driven behaviours, but the important ones are:
1) identify your values
2) make a point of engaging in behaviours that move towards those values, rather than away from them
3) try and do those behaviours mindfully - that is, be present when you’re doing them, rather than thinking about lots of other things.

I value my dog and him being well and feeling loved.
This is a great example.

So the last point above, doing stuff mindfully, is going to take practice, but it can be the difference between going through the motions and actually feeling good-er while you’re taking care of doggo, and better overall at the end of the month.

I can get my dog his dinner by scooping kibble into his bowl, chopping up some loaf and putting it the ground for him.

Doing that same thing mindfully would look more like: okay, time for doggo’s dinner. For the next 15 minutes, I’m all about doggo and his dinner. Give him a scratch, notice how excited he is, notice measuring out a good quantity, engage with doggo as I put it out for him, take in the pure joy of doggo deciding this is the very best moment in his life ever as he plows through it, give him a bit of an ear scratch and find his favourite toy to celebrate how epic dinner time is…

I'm in a constant loop of "but it's not enough" and "it's never enough".
You’re inner critic is doing a real number on you!

Actually, there is no set amount of “enough”. If anything, enough is however much you happened to get done today.

Just because your brain is telling you “it’s not enough”, doesn’t mean that’s true.

You could CBT that:
What is enough?
Who set that rule?
What purpose does doing ‘enough’ serve?
What happens if you don’t?
Experiment with deliberately not doing ‘enough’ - what actually happens that’s different?

Or (my personal fave) you could use thought diffusion:
Oh, hi Brain! We’re doing the “I’m not good enough” story again? No thanks, I’ve heard it to death, know it inside out, and have something else to concentrate on right now…

And of course, you could psychotherapy it:
It will probably help if, at some point in your journey, you take a look at where that ‘good enough’ story came from, and why it’s taken its current form in your life. Long term, that will set you on the path to making conscious decisions to live differently, with different rules. Rules like “I am enough”.
 
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@Sideways Sorry to bother you with this but I'm trying to remember / find something you wrote about the categories of tasks that we need to cover for wellbeing. Things like exercise, nutrition, I forget the rest. Hopefully that's enough info for you to remember what it was I'm thinking of? No worries if not.
 
I'm trying to remember / find something you wrote about the categories of tasks that we need to cover for wellbeing
In relation to the function meter, I keep it extra simple: nutrition, sleep, exercise, social contact, hygiene.

Wellbeing is a lot broader than function, and I know that there is quite a bit of work that’s been done on the different spheres of innate needs that should be included in a holistic approach to wellbeing. Off the top of my head, that’s something more like:
  • Biological (like sleep, food, hygiene)
  • Social (like social connection, intimacy)
  • Spiritual (not necessarily religion, per se)
  • Work/education
  • Relaxation/self care
I try and keep goals related to 5 really basic things that we know, with some degree of certainty, you are very unlikely to achieve good mental health without addressing them. That’s because I use the Function Meter primarily to get me out of deep dark holes and back to something resembling survivable function.

You can adapt your goals depending on where you’re at, and what you need. I find that if I’m at rock bottom, or heading in that direction, the simpler the better - because I’m really just trying to recover function, and if they’re not basic, they’re probably not achievable for more than a few days.

And simple not just in terms of what types of goals to set (like good nutrition, or better sleep), but the specific tasks as well. I oversleep when I get depressed, so to target better quality sleep, my goals would be something like:
  • Get up by 7am (going back to bed by 8am would still achieve that goal); and/or
  • Stay up till at least 6pm
Sleep, nutrition, exercise, social connection, and hygiene. They’re the things that tend awry with major depression, and they’re also the things (within my control) that will either keep my depressed (if I don’t attend to them) or slowly bring my mood back up (if I do).
 
I've been making good progress with this Function Meter thing... I've adapted it a few times over the past 2 weeks, shifting things around, throwing out what doesn't work, adding in things I'd forgotten or missed...

I've really adjusted it to my individual situation and I think it's turned into part Function Meter, part something else.

I've got 10 tasks that are so basic that if I'm not doing them each day then it's a huge red warning flag. Stuff like taking my meds and eating some food. When I'm at my worst, I don't manage these, so these ones are basically an indicator of whether I'm in a reeeeally bad place, or not.

Then, next up from that, I've got 10 tasks that are a bit more ambitious. They're things like "getting up before noon" and "getting dressed" and "leaving the house". These are probably more indicative of "how" I'm doing as opposed to the first 10 which are utter baseline stuff.

Then, I've also set up about another 30 tasks that I need to do on a semi-regular basis that I've set up as "optional" on my list, I pick and choose from these in terms of what I feel up to, what seems most do-able, or also what is urgent (like buying groceries, if I don't have enough food left in the house).

I'm enjoying the "ticking off items" aspect of it.... gives me a sense of achievement. I also like how highly-personalised it is to my situation... I've gone over it, over and over, and removed anything that is about other people's standards or expectations, or any "shoulds". These are all items that are genuinely about me interacting with life on a daily basis and totally take into account my limitations and idosincracies re PTSD and depression.

I'm also finding it helpful re dissociation and motivation... I often get lost in overwhelm and then get confused/ disoriented about "what to do next" or "what's important and what's not". Having this list set up from "most core, basic, baseline tasks" to "relatively important daily tasks" and "optional tasks" helps me stay oriented, even when I'm really dissociated. I've colour coded it, to make it even easier for my brain. And seeing which tasks are ticked off and which aren't, gives me a good overview of where I'm at.

Seeing all the "optional" tasks listed (and having broken them down into very simple, do-able items, even with PTSD/ depression/ dissociation/ etc) gives me good options of what to pick and "just do" even in moments when I'm struggling/ feel like I want to give up/ am lacking motivation.

It's been really positive working with this... I'm definitely getting more done/ being more functional (which wasn't quite the aim of the Function Meter, I guess... it was just to "measure" functionality... but hey, I'm pleased it's turned out this way, anyway) and it seems to be helping with a general sense of focus and motivation and it also seems to be shutting up my Inner Critic a bit, which used to be doing this free-floating criticism of "you're not doing enough, you should be doing so much more"...

I've also added in self-care stuff to the list... Also added in things like "noticed I'm having a flashback" and "managed to get out of a flashback" and "noticed when I was doing too much" and "noticed when I was doing too little" and "adjusted my plans to make them more do-able". I'm finding that section of my list that's about basic self-care pretty important and validating that it's an important daily thing to do.
 
I'm enjoying the "ticking off items" aspect of it.... gives me a sense of achievement.
I know, right!?

I still keep myself organised using lists and dot points that allow me to tick shit off. It doesn’t matter how small the task is. Ticks are the antithesis of the Hopelessness brain that I get stuck in. So f’ing powerful. Like a dopamine hit, right to the part of the brain that needs it most.

And no one else is doing it. You’re doing it all yourself. They’re all your wins.
I've gone over it, over and over, and removed anything that is about other people's standards or expectations, or any "shoulds".
Love this!

One of the core elements of a lot of CBT, the reason it works so well for so many people, is it’s meant to be delivered in a way that requires people to go home and practice. Because it’s the practice, rather than the mastery, that rewires the brain.

Actually we can come up with all sorts of ways to practice adjusting our distorted thoughts. And each time we do that, we’re helping our brain rewire itself to a more functional way of interpreting ourselves and the world.
Also added in things like "noticed I'm having a flashback" and "managed to get out of a flashback" and "noticed when I was doing too much" and "noticed when I was doing too little" and "adjusted my plans to make them more do-able".
I love this so much!! This is right up with ACT, which I got a huge amount out of. Noticing ourselves, and making a point of noticing that we noticed. It’s that last bit that gives us massive skills: our brain stores that memory (yep, flashbacks, I’ve coped with these before), and remembering how keep functioning.
 
I'm still using this, still making good progress with it.

Surprisingly, my new anti-depressant seems to be helping and I was so functional this week that I was out and about driving to appointments in different cities and getting so much done that I'd get home in the evening and collapse, too tired to fill out my function meter... So I guess I need to make that a task, in and of itself... filling out the function meter.

I'm still finding it very helpful. Still struggling with the "finding meaning" in tasks tho... And I think as I maybe become more functional, I'm going to have to watch out for this... Cos else I'm just going to go from a non-functional depression to a functional depression... And granted, a functional depression is "better" than a non-functional one, but it's still depression and it's still soul-sucking and if I stay stuck in a functional depression too long, then I'll just burn out again and become non-functional again...

So definitely need to work on this "meaning" thing... Not sure how tho... I keep trying stuff but drawing blanks...
 
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