I get no kick out of anything. Is this part of my depression? I know it’s a drag on my family, but how can I be expected to do things if there’s no satisfaction in it?
The inability to enjoy things normally enjoyed is such a tough aspect of depression. The catch-22 is that doing enjoyable things is an important aspect of getting better. Some might be interested to know the jargon name for the symptom, anhedonia (an, meaning of course “without” and hedone is Greek for pleasure, as in hedonism). The general advice is to treat it like physical conditioning or any skill – practice. Do more fun things, and try to find the fun in it.
Let’s say you push yourself to take a walk. Without meaning to, you might go into it with hands clenched, head down, cursing under your breath and treating it like a forced march. You’ve done your walk, and gotten little pleasure. Or, you can keep your eyes up, look at interesting things, feel the air, hear the sounds, appreciate the rhythm in your stride and taking care not to use the time to stew about something you cannot control. Then, you’ve had your walk made a diminished your anhedonia at the same time. The way in which you participate makes a difference.
Another key in reducing anhedonia is taking care to make the right mental connections. When depressed, we automatically assume getting out (or getting up, or talking to a friend or whatever form the pleasant activation takes) equals discomfort. It may in fact cause some discomfort in the short term which is what makes us feel so certain it’s not worth it. But you have to connect with the longer term result: after completing the walk there is more comfort, not less.
During and after the activity, remember that depression dampens your perception of the experience. This means that you do not want to take your initial assessment of the experience at face value. Look hard for everything positive you can get from it. An initial thought, “that movie was awfully flat, and getting there was exhausting” might translate to “I see I haven’t lost my knack for panning a bad movie, not that was 100% percent bad, and getting there was an achievement.”
Finally, keep in mind that it takes practice. Visiting friends, volunteering or getting to the gym will be hardest in the beginning (maybe after the initial surge of initiative has worn off). With repetition, you’ll make a better connection with the payoffs, and it will become easier.