Do I prefer not to?
May 1, 2010 8:42 AM   Subscribe

I have trouble doing the normal every-day stuff people just do without complaining. What is stopping me from getting it together?

I'm a 25 year old male and I have a problem with routines. I'm great at novel stuff, but I can't do the whole normal person routine without a massive effort on my part. I have to keep reminding and pushing myself to brush my teeth, go to the gym, comb my hair, put on sunscreen, carry everything I need, keep records of things, iron my clothes, not to drink too much or smoke too much and eat right (to eat at all) and stay positive and engaged ...and I can usually keep it up for a day or two and then I just relapse and hate myself for it and end up spending another three days consuming crap and not bathing or leaving my house cause I feel like such a failure at being a normal human being and it seems like so. much. work.. I've mentioned to this to people before and they say "oh that's just growing up" or "Oh you're just spoiled" and I guess? It doesn't feel right cause these things seem so overwhelming and impossible when added together - and everyone seems to do them just fine -that I just fold completely. What is going on here, how can I stop/prevent it, is this normal?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
It's common but not normal.

(2) You have lost interest or pleasure in things you previously liked to do.
(3) Your appetite is much less or much greater than usual and you have lost or gained weight.
(4) You have a lot of trouble sleeping or sleep too much.
(5) You are so agitated, restless, or slowed down that others have begun to notice.
(6) You are tired and have no energy.
(7) You feel worthless or excessively guilty about things you have done or not done.
(8) You have trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, or making decisions.

These symptoms are severe enough to upset your daily routine, or to seriously impair your work, or to interfere with your relationships.

These are signs that you have clinical depression or major depressive disorder, which is most often a biological disease that can be treated effectively with medication. Please see a psychiatrist.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:48 AM on May 1, 2010 [9 favorites]

It sounds like depression to me, but I'm not an expert on the subject. A therapist would help. Have you always been this way or is this a recent development?

If you've always been this way, perhaps it's just a series of habits you need to break (or start). Keep doing these things every day. Complain all you want, but do it. Eventually, it'll be old hat to you. Because, honestly, everybody complains about some of the everyday stuff. It *is* work, but it's necessary work, and it makes us feel good when we've done it right.
posted by katillathehun at 8:50 AM on May 1, 2010

Let me also add that I was the same way as you until I hit up a shrink and started taking Lexapro on a regular basis. It changed my life entirely for the better. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, like I could see the world for the first time.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:51 AM on May 1, 2010

As infitinewindow said, this sounds like depression. When I had some issues with anxiety and stress, including some of the issues you discuss above (entire lack of energy for common things like cooking, keeping on top of things), talking to someone (a professional someone) made all the difference.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2010

I'm sensory defensive. When I don't do what I'm supposed to be doing on my sensory diet to keep it under control, a lot of those things become nearly impossible for me. Showering is physically uncomfortable. Healthy food is unpalatable. Exercise is disorienting, even just getting out of bed leaves me feeling unsettled and off-balance. Walking outside, street noise just in my small town is overwhelming, and the sun is too bright and gives me headaches. Socializing in the face of all of this is just plain impossible.

I can't fix any of that just by forcing myself to do whatever I'm having a hard time doing. I have to deal with the underlying problem, and then everything else becomes much easier. I still don't like the sensation of the water hitting my skin, but I can do it. I had a hard time for many years because my background was such that everybody just said: You just have to stop being a lazy bum and do all this stuff! But it wasn't laziness, I was just overwhelmed by all the sensory input of life.

So figure out what the root cause is, and deal with that part. It's not necessarily depression, although it's definitely possible, but whatever it is, whether or not you've had a shower today isn't the real problem.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:55 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to keep reminding and pushing myself to brush my teeth, go to the gym, comb my hair, put on sunscreen, carry everything I need, keep records of things, iron my clothes, not to drink too much or smoke too much and eat right (to eat at all) and stay positive and engaged

First, don't be so hard on yourself. I'd warrant that most people have trouble doing even all of the things you listed. Many people brush their teeth everyday, but finding motivation to go to the gym or iron clothes is pretty elusive. I'll be damned if I ever iron my clothes no matter how badly they need it, and I have a lot of trouble making it to the gym unless I am meeting someone there.

I think talking to a therapist would be a good idea. Even if you aren't depressed, they might be able to help you find solutions to your problem.
posted by grouse at 9:01 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

This was me a year ago. I would look back to when I was in college, worked and kept up with everything (laundry! clean house! social life!), and just be amazed. I thought I would never be like that again. It wasn't until I got on an antidepressant did I realize that I was still able to do it all. Me, now, compared to me, 7 months ago, is just night and day. Nthing what everyone else is saying, go see a doctor. It might not be depression, it could be something else. My husband, for example, was semi-recently diagnosed with ADHD. When he's on medication, he's able to get everything done he needs to do. When he's off it, whole days will go by with nothing accomplished.
posted by lizjohn at 9:24 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, what lizjohn said. My first thought was ADD or ADHD. This thread might help clarify that somewhat.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:50 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

So much of this stuff is like tending a garden. If you do it every day for a few minutes it isn't so bad, but letting things go for a few weeks allows the weeds and insects to get out of hand and suddenly it is all so overwhelming.

I find it helpful to treat these things like a science experiment. Spend 10 days NOT doing any of the things that seem like so much work (maybe make a tooth-brushing exception?). In that time, and the days following, pay attention to how you feel- your attitude, energy level, etc. Then spend 10 days religiously doing all the responsible things and again monitor your response to that. You may find such a difference between the two lifestyles that making a change becomes harder to ignore.

Also, +1 for therapy of some sort. Couldn't hurt.
posted by palacewalls at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Have you always been this way or is this a recent development?

Just to throw more things out, there's major depression and there's also dysthymia, which is basically chronic low-grade depression. Labels aren't the be-all and end-all, but sometimes it can be helpful to know that this isn't you or you being "spoiled."

You might also look at the role modeling you've had for these things you have trouble with. It may take you more time and work and conscious effort than it took others to create these habits, if these things weren't modeled for you as a kid.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:57 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think 25 is sort of an early-life crisis for many men, and when many of them are most restless. Looks like most cope by cutting back on the non-essentials like the gym, showering every day, eating well, and go for more time spent on random things like parties and cheap travel to odd places. Eventually they settle down and start smelling better and being more responsible. So there is hope without you taking any specific actions. That it bothers you means you're way ahead of most of the pack already! Routines get easier as life goes on, I think women are just better at them, maybe because routines are a very valuable part of child-raising. Maybe you'll find a nice partner and they'll help you and give you a good motivation too.
posted by meepmeow at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2010

ADHD. I once wrote a comprehensive list of everything one has to do to get ready in the morning. It involved shit like:

Get out of bed
Go to the bathroom
Brush teeth
Put on socks

Etc. but it was all in an order because I would be completely unable to do a morning routine without a super specific list like that. Even that list didn't help. I would forget deodorant and to brush my teeth, so I tried to keep deodorant and mouthwash in my bag which I often forgot.

Enter Adderall, which was a complete godsend. I have been incredibly better ever since.

A checklist to leave the house would still be useful, possibly, because I still do occasionally forget stuff.

Also you're not spoiled, you're expending 10x more effort than everyone else just to get through the day, so fuck 'em.

Please please mefi mail me so I can talk to you about this. You sound exactly like me 6 months ago. My life and my self-esteem are so enormously better. I leave the house on a regular basis without panicking that I'm forgetting something.

There was a good askme question (and metatalk) recently about the experience of living with ADHD. If I can find it I'll link to it or if someone else could I would appreciate that.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:14 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

(also I can't diagnose you, obviously, and you need to see a shrink)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:15 AM on May 1, 2010

This is enough like depression or ADHD that you at least need to see someone about ruling those out. Nthing seeing a shrink of some type.
posted by KathrynT at 11:28 AM on May 1, 2010

I think 25 is sort of an early-life crisis for many men,

That's one way of looking at it. Another way is that it's the most common age at which psychiatric breaks occur. That is, it can be much more of a real crisis than the way "X-life crisis" is typically meant.
posted by rhizome at 12:12 PM on May 1, 2010

You sound very much like my son who has ADHD. You may be dealing with depression, ADHD, or some other something but you really should speak with a doctor about this. It's not "normal" for you to be unable to tend to yourself. Don't feel badly about it; this isn't laziness or being spoiled.

But please, do see a doctor. Your quality of life can improve significantly with the proper treatment.
posted by cooker girl at 1:57 PM on May 1, 2010

Um, I would beware of being diagnosed with diseases and conditions by people on the internets who don't know you.

Stuff might be hard because you think about it too much? Because you waste energy and cause yourself stress by giving yourself the option of not doing day-to-day maintenance type of tasks? Start with one thing at a time and just make it part of your routine on a daily basis. Every day you get up and brush your teeth. At night, you brush your teeth. Don't think about whether or not you are going to do it! That is just a thing you do, just do it. After that is just a normal thing, add something else. As for carrying all the stuff you need, put your bag with stuff together the night before, not in the morning when you're rushing around and have to be somewhere. Add that to your routine. Because if you put together everything you need the night before when you have time to think about it and aren't rushing out the door, you make tomorrow that much easier.

It might not hurt to clean up your living space and get rid of clutter if that is a problem too. Give yourself less stuff to keep track of. IMHO modern life is full of too much stuff to take care of that it becomes overwhelming for LOTS of people. I mean, choice everywhere! Choose your amazing, unique career as soon as you figure out what it is, choose your health care providers, choose your investments, choose your city or town, car, apartment, food, clothes, vacations, friends, social networks, blahblablah. It's all way too complicated and most of us don't know what the hell we are doing.

You don't have to be perfect, nobody is. In fact most people don't go to the gym ever, consume crappy food every day, don't iron their clothes, and are fine actually, it is normal behavior. Most people aren't positive and engaged too often either, and forget things, and on and on.
posted by citron at 8:59 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have the same issues, and have been diagnosed with ADD. Adderall has helped but even still I need help.

This helped me a lot - I used the 43 folders system. One folder marked for each month, one folder marked 1-31 for each of 31 days of the month.

Line them up in a filing cabinet, starting with today, let's say the 5th. The days preceding today go after the 31st in order, so now you're looking a folder for each day, in order, and the first 4 days of next month.

Into each folder I put an index card with tasks written on it. These range from monthly tasks to daily things, and include headings like 'before leaving for work' with a list of tasks like 'make the bed'. Others include 'clip your nails', 'do a load of washing', 'Daily - take the dogs for a walk'.

In the morning, all I have to remember to do is pull out today's folder, take all the cards out of it, move the now empty folder into next month and then try and do everything on the cards. When they are done, you move them to the appropriate day. A daily card goes to tomorrow's folder, a weekly goes a week from now, and so on.

It's also great for remembering general things like 'pay this bill' with the bill attached, waiting in a folder for that day. If you move uncompleted tasks into the future, you don't have that trap of tasks disappearing into the past like in a diary.
posted by tomble at 11:16 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

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