On Leaving Home with Depression or Anxiety
As always, if you are facing a medical or psychiatric emergency, please dial 911. If you need immediate support, you can call the specific support services listed below. The Trans Life Line Crisis & Suicide Hotline is 1-877-565-8860. If you’re thinking about suicide, please care for yourself and reach out for help. Here are some resources that can help support you below. If you’re uncomfortable using the phone, the National Suicide Prevention Helpline and the Trevor Lifeline also have a chat feature on their websites.
It’s your third anniversary of moving to the place you now call home—maybe it’s your fifth, maybe it’s even your tenth. The spark of adventure you used to feel whenever you step outside is beginning to fade, it may already be completely gone, and all motivation to do something, anything besides work and sleep, is lost. Trying to reminisce on that wave of excitement you carried when you first moved is near impossible; is this just a case of wanderlust and fear of monotony, or is it something more serious, like depression or anxiety?
This dreadful routine of being glued to your couch, bed, kitchen chair, you name it, during any moment of free time is only heightened during these harsh winter months, when it’s far more worth it to stay in with that lifesaving heater and bundle of blankets. I know my 2019 has been defined by this routine, where I’d rather binge the latest Netflix Original (my roommates and I have recently been obsessed with the show “You,” by the way) than feel productive with my day, even when I don’t necessarily have work to get done.
I realize that my own personal winter blues are because I recently returned to D.C. from being abroad in Sweden for six months, yet I know I’ve had this issue for years now. While choosing to stay in rather than go out with friends is only a harmless case of introversion, I understood it to be more of an issue when I would write papers in my bed instead of relocating to a more productive environment. Even walking a few blocks to a café to do school or work-related tasks felt pointless, even risky, when I had the safety of my own home.
I realize now, after a phone conversation with my twin sister, that this thinking is most likely a product of my undiagnosed social anxiety along with feeling a bit lost in my own city post-studying abroad. She told me to “be a tourist in your own city,” or, in other words, to encourage yourself to treat your own town like a new one. The simple task of leaving our homes comes off as more difficult especially when we hold low amounts of mental energy, yet using this approach may be the only way to get outside which, in the long run, can work wonders for our mental health. Even the smallest of tasks can be treated as “tourist” activities, so, let’s get to it.
A Book Can Be Your Best Friend
If you’re not already a regular reading, I’d recommend picking up this habit, as having a book as your date during any outing can be far more enjoyable than a real person, especially during bouts of poor mental health. After looking through suggestions from us, grab that book and walk, bike, take the metro, or drive to a new coffee shop, or whichever type of location you can spend hours reading at. The keyword is “new” here, as finding an unfamiliar spot will both get you out of your routine and also allow you to explore a part of your city you haven’t seen yet. If you’re afraid that the place won’t be the vibe you’re looking for, research it before! Look at pictures, scroll through reviews. I know I’ve had these worries before, and entering the unknown can sometimes be a burden for those with anxiety even if it’s simply a café. After (hopefully) settling in that new space, order a cozy drink. Sit down. And read. While you could do the same in the comfort of your own bed, forcing yourself to leave and do this activity in a new surrounding breaks that often dull routine to bring excitement to your life, whether through a new favorite coffee shop or the world of a new read.
If You Must Do Work, Take It Out!
Our first choice of dates usually wouldn’t consist of bringing our work, but if work must be done, take it outside the house. In an age where working remotely seems to be more common than non-dairy milk, it can be easy—too easy—to do this all from your living room couch. I know I suffer from this bad habit, so simply bringing this work to that new coffee shop I mentioned above can entirely shift your mood and maybe even make you more productive. Here’s a 2019 goal: every time you have to work remotely, commute to a new coffee shop, try a new beverage, maybe even make friends with the others working remotely! The latter is obviously not required, but always a fun perk of leaving the house.
Take Your Own Self Out on a Date
Instead of treating your solo outings as acts of loneliness, treat them as solo dates, aka the best kind! My favorite types of solo dates are museum trips—going to museums with other people is worse than not going at all, in my opinion. This is obviously a more difficult task in our own cities, as it’s likely that we’ve already visited our favorite museums several times, or for those who lie in remote areas without museums or similar amenities. But! If there are such options around you, check to see if there’s a new exhibit at your favorite art museum—mine is the Hirschorn—as the exhibit will make things once again, new. Bring your earbuds and listen to a new playlist while you visit or some museums, like the Smithsonian ones, provide audio tours as you browse. Or perhaps look at the schedule ahead of time to catch a guided tour. This type of date is my go-to for self care that requires leaving my bed and that’s (usually) free. For museums that aren't, make sure to check for discounts for certain days or times as well as ones for students if you are one.
Come Warmer Months, Find A New Walking Route
It’s impossible to take a casual outdoor stroll during this cold front, but once temperatures begin to rise, I challenge you to go outside, take your new playlist, and simply stroll. Whether this be around your neighborhood or an area that’s entirely new to you, getting outside and walking by yourself, no matter how boring that sounds, is a quite uncomplicated way to fight your stay-at-home blues, reflect on your time alone as a way to cope with mental anxieties, and even get some exercise in. And who knows, you may find your new favorite thrift shop or lunch spot during this new excursion. This method, although arguably the most difficult, requires the least amount of social interaction, making it perfect for those who can’t seem to escape their home due to social anxiety.