Why is it all so hard?
September 8, 2010 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Should all responsibilities feel like a heavy weight, on a day to day basis? In class and at work I am constantly checking the clock, waiting for when it will be finally over. When I get back to my room, I want to lay in bed for the rest of the day. What's with that?

I always am counting down for things to end. When I am in class, I am constantly looking at the clock. When I am at work I am constantly looking at the clock. When I am at class or work, a majority of the time, I find it a struggle, alot of effort, to keep going. It just feels hard to pay attention, take good notes, and prevent myself from being bored to death. (Bored is a bad word to use, usually the material is interesting, but I hate being stuck, I wouldn't mind exploring the material on my own time, if I had lots of extra time.)

I know school and work aren't supposed to be super exciting or fun or even pleasant all the time. But I feel like the fact that I am fighting in my mind and it feels like a struggle to do these things, every day, has got to be a less than optimal way to go through it all.

Once I return home for the evening, I just love to lay down. Even if I am not sleepy I just want to lay in my bed and be as comfortable as absolutely possible. Many times when I am doing homework at night, I end up giving up sooner than I want to and going to sleep. I am not always dead tired when this happens, but instead I am extremely uncomfortable while I am working and I am dying to be comfortable.

So I turn to sleep, to escape the discomfort. And sleep is wonderful.

The fact that I go through my day struggling when I perform any responsibility and being constantly unhappy about having these responsibilities worries me. If I keep things up this way, life will be very unpleasant. Your experiences, solutions?

I feel like at a point, I should have become habituated to the burden of work and school, and it wouldn't feel like it takes everything, and lots of discomfort, to take care of these things every day.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Myself, I usually want to curl up in bed and avoid responsibilities when I'm having a bout of depression. (Depression, by the way, doesn't always -- or even often -- manifest as "sadness.")

I'm sure there are many other explanations as well, but your behavior sounds like what my favorite cognitive behavior therapist would call maladaptive. You might consider trying to find a good counselor with whom you can sit down and probe these feelings/behavior.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 8:32 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anecdotal: My boyfriend was exhibiting these symptoms for about a year until I convinced him to try antidepressants. The feelings lessened almost immediately and now it's much easier for him to both juggle existing responsibilities and even seek out new ones. Perhaps the right antidepressant can help you in a similar way.
posted by lilac girl at 9:13 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

There might be a physical factor contributing to this - Vitamin D or iron deficiency, for example. Vitamin D and iron supplements are both pretty cheap and can't hurt as long as you don't exceed the suggested daily dose, so that would be an easy thing to try. I had low energy levels for ages (though I never felt sleepy) till I started taking iron.

If it's not a physical or mental issue, this might be a signal that you need to reevaluate what you're doing with your life. Are you studying the right subject (assuming you're in university/college)? Should you be in university/college at all, or is there something else you'd rather be doing?

Ultimately you're the only one who can decide what's causing this and what's the best thing to do. If you are at university/college, there should be a counseling department. Your best bet might be to meet with someone in person who is trained to analyze what's causing this situation and help you work out a solution - be it anti-depressants, regular counseling, a career/major change, or even just more exercise, better food, and supplements.
posted by Anali at 9:20 PM on September 8, 2010

I think what part of this is too is burnout. Have you been doing it for a while? Maybe take a semester off from school, or cut back your hours from work (if you can). I felt like this for a while, so I took the summer off from school. Also, try and sneak in small amounts of time for you, even if it's 5 mins. Schedule a fun night for yourself. Is it possible to throw off some of this responsibility for a little bit? Just so you can have a break?
posted by Polgara at 9:31 PM on September 8, 2010

The fact that I go through my day struggling when I perform any responsibility and being constantly unhappy about having these responsibilities worries me.

Sounds like good ol' Depression.

It also sounds like this (see also).
posted by Sys Rq at 9:52 PM on September 8, 2010

Hi Sweetie! It really sounds like you are DEPRESSED. Lack of joy and enthusiasm in tasks, extreme lethargy, these are symptons of depression. You might not feel sad about anything specific, but I like to think that 'normal' people feel not just the absence of sadness but actual *happiness*. (And I say that because I go through lengthy periods of time when I feel exactly as you do)

The cure for me was to find something I really just enjoy doing (for me, volunteering at a campus radio station), something that is never a source of stress and is kind of just fun for me. And making yourself get out -- even if its just for a walk -- will do wonders. You don't need to see or talk to anyone, but just getting out of the house makes me get out of my head so much and makes me feel better.

Of course the normal things apply -- eating better, sleeping regular hours, and getting lots of good excercise will help balance you out. And the suggestion to get your vitamin/iron levels checked is a good one. Councelling might help too, but if its a chronic, formless funk you're in, it could just be a body chemistry thing that therapy won't necessarily help (and given the atmosphere of overprescribing medications right now could hurt)
posted by custard heart at 10:04 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, but rereading that, EXCERCISE should be in caps. Working out tiil you're fatigued, or even just squeezing in half an hour of cardio a couple times a week can make a shocking difference to your mood. Laying in bed feels great (believe me I know), but inactivity will just make you more bored and lethargic. Get out of the vicious cycle!
posted by custard heart at 10:08 PM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Could be depression, could be OCD, you might have Aspergers...you may want to get an eval of some sort. You might just be bored silly. Work and school shouldn't be a burden or depressing. Maybe you are just working on/studying something that you don't like. Find something you enjoy doing!
posted by MsKim at 10:34 PM on September 8, 2010

Yep, you sound depressed.

The greater availability of therapy and medication is quite literally lifesaving for many people, but the other side of greater acceptance of chronic depression is that it seems (to me) that this has diminished the general idea of the fact of situational depression. I have no idea whether your current issues are part of a pattern for you, but I know a lot people who have been helped immensely in getting through a rough patch.

Go talk to someone about feeling sad and tired. You should talk to your primary care doc and some sort of counselor. If you just get given a scrip for Xanax and no follow-up, I'd say that this is not great medical advice, and that you should seek more help and follow-up.
posted by desuetude at 10:52 PM on September 8, 2010

If I don't do a half hour to hour minimum of heavy cardio a day I get like this.

However, I could have written this question two years ago. I changed fields. Problem went away. Sometimes the solution to depression really is that simple. It could be something else too though (in which case the rest of the advice in this thread is quite good).
posted by An algorithmic dog at 11:57 PM on September 8, 2010

Might this have a seasonal component? Have you gotten more tired than usual in the past few weeks? Has this happened in past Septembers? Do you go to college in a region with harsher winters than where you grew up or spend your summers? Do you have trouble getting motivated to do anything after the sun comes down? Etc.

My depression is seasonally triggered, and your description sounds a lot like what I've gone through starting as early as September: I don't get sad, I just start feeling constantly drained. I used to come home from work, go straight to bed, and sleep until my alarm clock went off the next day. I could have curled right up on the sidewalk some mornings.

Treatment for seasonal depression is pretty much the same as for the regular kind - antidepressants can make a huge difference, and so can therapy. Exercise and eating well are extra-important. However, you probably have zero energy to work out right now, so try and get at least to the point where you can. Again, antidepressants help with this; so can vitamins/supplements. Getting outside when it's sunny helps. If you can afford one of those shmancy SAD-specific lightboxes, try one; I use a reptile lamp from the pet store, which is much cheaper and seems to help me.

Seasonal or not, it sounds like your brain is foggy and kind of chugging through mud right now - meaning it's not you or your work ethic that's getting you down, it's your brain chemistry. Taking care of that will make a world of difference.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:45 AM on September 9, 2010

You don't have to feel sad to be clinically depressed. As a former sufferer I can confirm to you that this is how it would manifest a lot of the time.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:58 AM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

It does sound like depression, but the specific issue might be that you are feeling obligated to do school/work things and you are responding this way because it feels like that's the only way to maintain some semblance of controlling your own life. If that's the case, it might be helpful to realize that you do have a choice, that you are going to work or school of your own volition and that if you don't want to, you don't have to. Obviously there would be consequences for not going to work or school, and it's probably in your best interest to go, but you really do have a choice -- plenty of people choose not to do either.

Just realizing that you're choosing to do it rather than being forced to do it can make all the difference. Every time you start feeling that struggle coming on, just think about whether you're acting as if somebody was forcing you to go or if you're responding to what's really true -- that you are choosing to go.
posted by callmejay at 5:07 AM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's a talk on the subject.
posted by callmejay at 5:08 AM on September 9, 2010

You could be depressed (?) or you might simply have set it up so that "escaping" is your default mode (reward). So work, school - whatever you are doing can never be really experienced, because escape is always just out of reach (until you finally go home/sleep). There are lots of books about learning to live in the present.
Being Nobody, Going Nowhere"
by Ayya Khema is an introductory Buddhist book that touches upon living in the present. But there are lots of things out there that are way less religious. Good luck!
posted by marimeko at 7:33 AM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just writing to say that I feel almost exactly the same way. Maybe I should be paying attention to some of these answers too.
posted by cirrostratus at 8:38 AM on September 9, 2010

Maybe you should be doing something else with your life? Worth considering.

And what about play?? Sounds like you either have no time for it or haven't allowed yourself to value it in your life, or both. That old "All work, no play=dull boy" saw isn't lying.

Personally (and absolutely making no judgements about those for whom these solutions are working), I think it dangerous nonsense to suggest that your less than optimal experience is more likely to be something broken in your brain chemistry or your psyche than that the work you're doing and the classes you're taking simply don't suit you. I'd certainly try changing those before I added therapy or anti-depressants to a life experienced as a clock-watcher. I've been there, and for me it was a reaction against slavery, no matter how well it served those around me.

Becoming "habituated" to your classes and your job is not necessarily in your best interest, even if you've chosen them or if your loved ones think you're doing all the right things. If your body is screaming at you that "This is torture!" maybe you should move your body somewhere else.

It IS possible to experience your daily life as a gift and a blessing. It's even possible to have a life where your work is your play. It may not be easy to find or build a life that feels like that. But I absolutely encourage you to consider that a worthy goal.
posted by dpcoffin at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2010

dpcoffin, the fact that I do not have a college degree despite attending three of them, the fact that high school was torture to me, etc. etc was because my own clinical depression was not treated. The OP needs to rule out depression before making major changes to his/her life because if it IS depression it has the capacity to derail the ENTIRE life.

If my illness had been properly treated back then a lot of things would have been quite different for me. They did not have the drugs or the knowhow then but they do NOW. What the poster describes is EXACTLY how it was, and changing majors or schools or dropping out or swapping jobs did NOT FIX THE PROBLEM.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:39 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dear St. Alia,

I'm sorry, but I don't see that your description of your experience EXACTLY matches the OP's. Had the OP described his/her experience exactly as you just described yours, or if your post above was instead a question, I would not have answered as I did or even at all, because I would not have been able to identify much in it that I've also experienced.

But the OP did describe a situation that I can identify with. I responded with my opinion, drawing on my own hard-won life experience to imagine that "maybe" I might partially understand what he/she might be experiencing. I'm not sorry that my opinion doesn't match yours, nor am I annoyed that you expressed yours. I understand that to be the nature and purpose of fora: A diverse assembly with a shared willingness to speak up, and to listen.

I have no certainties about what the OP "needs" and I'm sorry if I doubt that you or anyone else who merely reads his description here can be sure they know exactly what he needs to do or to rule out first. But I'm delighted to interpret your response to imply that you're having a much better experience these days; congratulations. Me, too; I just found a different solution.

Actually, it sounds as if we both took much more time than we'd have wished finding our separate solutions. And I'm sure we share our concern that the OP or anyone else reading this not waste any more time than necessary in their own escape from suffering into life.
posted by dpcoffin at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2010

All I am saying is that depression is not something to rule out without investigation; a lot of people do NOT know that one can have this without the symptom of sadness.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:08 PM on September 9, 2010

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