Moodscope's blog



Do you need a routine? Monday February 2, 2015

For 6 years now I have been a functioning depressive. This means that despite feeling as low as you can go I have still managed to get up every day and do at least something with my day.

People have asked how I have managed to do this, to get up day after day feeling like I want my world to end, to just go to sleep and never wake up again. The answer has been routine.

I am not a slave to routine but I have found that by following one step after another, generally without thinking about them I can get up, dressed, animals fed, me fed, tablets taken, kids to work and get to college. If something happens to change the steps (maybe I sleep late at the weekend, or we run out of milk for my morning porridge) I find that things get missed. I forget to take my tablets or the dog does not get fed for example.

By sticking to my routine I have found that I can do the three most important things that are needed every day:-

Get up, Dress Up and Show up...

As a species I believe that each one of us only has a certain amount of physical and emotional energy that we can use each day. When we are mentally and physically fit and well we have quite a bit (but not limitless) and when we are unwell the amount we have decreases. I have heard this described as having a certain number of spoons each and we use the spoons up through the day. When we run out of spoons we are too exhausted to do anything else.

Having a routine means that you don't have to spend a spoon thinking about what you are going to do, what you are going to wear or what you are going to eat, those decisions have been already made, you can use your spoons for something else.

When you are really feeling low and in pain (either mentally or physically) you need to decide how to use your spoons carefully. If you go to the shops this morning will you have enough spoons left to manage coffee with a friend this afternoon? for example. By not using your spoons to decide how to manage the little things you may find that you can make them go further.

A Moodscope member.

Permalink  |  Blog Home


Laura Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 5:11am

Hi Penny - I feel for you. I absolutely need a morning routine, but I thought it was for different reasons than you relate here. I like my routine because it makes me feel like I have some purpose, the wherewithal to make it through to the afternoon. In fact, I recently started a new routine where I allow myself more time to take care of myself. The ideas you bring forth, using the Spoon Theory, is brilliant. I have never thought of using that in regards to my own illness. But, for instance, brushing my teeth is a "no-brainer" in the morning - so I don't waste one of my precious spoons staring at the bathroom mirror, deciding whether or not I can get away with my morning breath. Making the coffee; feeding the cats; looking at my To-Do list that I made the night before, all are automatic at this point. So I'm able to save some spoons for later. Not every day, mind you - some days are worse than others - but it does help for that reason. Thank you for helping me see from a different perspective.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 6:07am

Gosh, this is me. I didn't know there was a name for it! As Laura says, very interesting perspective. Thank you, love from the room above the garage x.

Hopeful One Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 6:53am

Hi Penny- It was also just doing what you are doing ie follow a routine( I did not know anything about the Spoon theory as I do today) that I came out at the other end.There were two other things I added which could help you.Think of what you are about as your balance sheet.At the moment there appear to be no debits other than the depression but there are no credits either.May I suggest you introduce some credits.For example create something in your routine that you can look forward to everyday.It can be anything.In my case it was usually going for a walk only abandoned if the weather was really bad. A TV programme I would love to watch in the evening..Secondly I gave myself credit for whatever I achieved no matter how small.I would write it down and underline it red in my diary.The reason for doing this is that the brain center for memory (hippocampus) shrinks in depression and the implicit memory becomes predominantly negative. I would reward myself for those achievements at the end of the day- maybe a small low alcohol beer or a nice low sugar dessert .Muller light yogurt with some fruit thrown in my favorite..With those two items added the clouds of negativity slowly started to shift because the hippocampus is one of the few brain regions of the brain that can actually increase in size by forming connections(synapses) and my strategy reinforced the positive new circuits which eventually overwrote the negative ones.I later added compassion meditation when I learnt about its ability to prevent relapse- a real risk in depression- which I desperately wanted to avoid.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 7:17am

I have bought 8 of the same shirt so that I don't need to think about what to wear whilst I am looking after my dad in hospital, that saves a spoon. Eva

Mary Blackhurst Hill Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 8:03am

Functioning Depressive - I like it. This is a really good, practical and helpful post. Thank you Penny.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 8:12am

I often think like this. Sometimes I cynically feel that my prescriptions are just enough to keep me paying my (quite substantial) taxes! Add to that the fact that my career has involved regular relocation (losing my support networks I have built up). My one real pleasure involves a quiet pint in the pub but I need to tread carefully or it backfires.

All my life I have convinced myself that getting a good job/ owning a house/ getting a girlfriend would make everything ok. (The latest is moving back to my hometown:- after forty years away.) The answer is not "outside."

Keep putting one foot in front of the other, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Rupert Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 8:25am

I like it Penny and agree with you - it is also hard to break out new routines when your mind isnt fnctioning that well. At work we have dress down Fridays but I continue to wear my suit and tie as it is easier not to have to think about an alternative outfit! Rupert

Julia Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 8:50am

Hello Rupert. I think your dressed down colleagues will soon be following you and wearing their smart clothes on Friday. Apparently "dress down Friday" is very old hat and the most forward looking companies have abandoned it.

Julia Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 8:56am

I like this Penny. I fixed on your bit about our energy on good days not being limitless. I can never understand why I still feel tired after a high day even though I know I have accomplished a lot, far more than normal. I know that someone who sleeps normally and is on an even keel every day, would feel tired too but I continue to worry that there must be something physically wrong if even on good days I can feel tired. It takes a blog like yours to put our lives in perspective and to make us see that actually we are very hard on ourselves.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 9:16am

Functioning depressive - is just a label people chose to give themselves - and not a very healthy label at that.
It is not a term recognised within the field of mental health.
In a society where we are trying to move away from labels it saddens me that people choose to label themselves.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 9:21am

Lovely blog - thank you! When very depressed the other 'motivator' is to put on a list what has been done, rather than make the list of 'ought to be done'. Getting out of bed, cleaning teeth and dressing could be 3 on the list and this can represent real achievement.

Julia Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 9:28am

I actually think the term "functioning depressive" expresses in rather a positive way how many of us feel. It's something to feel good about!

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 10:10am

Hello and thank you for your blog Penny. 'Functioning depressive' sums things up for me too. I also have lupus, an auto-immune disorder, which among other things causes fatigue. A fellow 'lupie', Christine Miserandino, came up with the Spoon Theory as a way of explaining this to a friend and it caught on. For those who would like to know more, this is a link to a BBC report and there are further links there to Christine's own sites.

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 10:11am

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 11:20am

Hello Anonymous 9.16; I agree, we do need to be cautious about labels - whether applied or self-inflicted;

I found Penny's post hugely helpful - especially the term "functioning depressive"; like Julia (Hi Julia!) for me this is a cause for celebration and a useful tool to ensure I keep moving. To each their own ...

A very dear friend used a similar analogy to help me; in this case she talks about being a jug of water needing to fill up others' beakers (kids, elderly parents, colleagues etc) but also needing to remember to keep enough water for me, and to have good strategies in place for how to refill my jug.

Thank-you Penny for an excellent post and well done!
Cheering you on ...


Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 11:30am

Fascinating, Hopeful One - thank-you.
A current strategy for me is walking, regardless of how I am feeling ...

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 11:39am

I agree with you, Julia. Most of us here would be happy to be called a 'functioning depressive' as it means we actually do something...we are positive in being capable of doing something, never mind how big or small.
Karen :)

Anonymous Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 1:10pm

Spoon theory - now there is something I can relate to as someone who has Bipolar Disorder. So thanks for that Penny.

Pamela-Marie Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 1:24pm

Great post, a lot of what you wrote really resonated with me. Thanks!

Suzy Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 2:18pm

Found this really interesting. Thank you!

Eliz Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 2:42pm

Like it, thank you.

Eliz Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 2:56pm

Labels can cause a lot of anger, sadness and confusion, but surely if the term ' functioning depressive' helps people then it doesn't matter whether it's used in the field of mental health??
I know that the term ' functioning alcoholic ' is also used in the field of alcohol misuse.
Please I am not trying to be antagonistic, just helping myself. I feel good about myself when I write things down, it makes me feel alive, and like I can't be that I'll, I do have an opinion.

Eliz Mon, Feb 2nd 2015 @ 3:10pm

Thank you Penny, your blog is very gentle and soothing. I am in a bad way these days and your blog has helped me.

Anonymous Tue, Feb 3rd 2015 @ 11:40pm

Ugh. Sorry. Hate the "functioning depressive" label. And not much for the "as low as you can go" either. I supposed that is because I occasionally know a depression (a state not to be confused with me) that renders me nonfunctioning. When i am able to get up and have a routine i celebrate that i am not disabled by depression.
Words function just as we do.

Anonymous Fri, Feb 6th 2015 @ 4:48am

This is a very good and practical approach, and also: Very well worded!
Thank you very much!
Keep on spooning!

You must login to leave a comment.

What is Moodscope?

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. If you’d like to receive these daily posts by email, just sign up to Moodscope now, completely free of charge.

Moodscope is an innovative way for people to treat their own low mood problems using an engaging online tool. Anyone in the world can accurately assess and track daily mood scores over a period of time. We have proved that the very act of measuring, tracking and sharing mood can actually lift it. Join now.

Blog Archive


Posts and comments on the Moodscope blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Moodscope makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any of the links.

Moodscope will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

We exist to help people to positively manage their moods. You can contribute by taking the test, sharing your experience on the blog or contributing funds so we can keep it free for all who need it.

Moodscope® is © Moodscope Ltd 2018. Developed from scales which are © 1988 American Psychological Association. Cannot be reproduced without express written permission of APA.