How can I tell the difference between depression and plain old laziness?
April 11, 2013 7:20 PM   Subscribe

What is it like to be lazy or whiny but NOT depressed? Please share your stories of irresponsible laid back behavior so we depressives can finally see the difference.

I think this is a familiar tale. I'm twenty-five and lived through three family suicides, but I still can't believe in my heart that what I'm experiencing is Depression with a D. I've read all the internet forums, checked out the abnormal psych textbooks, talked to counselors and psychiatrists, and still, STILL, no matter how much I would love to think otherwise, I can't shake the feeling that this is merely the outcome of a shitty excuse-making work ethic. I only just started pursuing treatment at the beginning of this year, and you know what it feels like? Like I'm really pulling one over these doctors and counselors. I've tricked them into prescribing me with meds and diagnosing an actual medical condition and wasting costly resources on me! LOL! Don't they know I'm just doing this because I don't want get a job or stop watching prestige television on my parent's couch? I must be the best con in the world, baby. When the house is empty and I sit in my room and I shut the windows so I finally can hold my face and weep - it feels like some seriously dedicated method acting rehearsal. All this snot is really authentic. Boy, maybe I'm laying it on too thick with these chest pains.

So to all you healthy people, the ones who are truly mentally well: what does real simple laziness look like? What does that feel like? Hell, what is it like not to be depressed? The psychiatrist told me that most people rate their overall sense of happiness an 8 or 9 on a 10 point scale. What the fuck????

Lovely slouches of MeFi, please explain sane idleness to me. Tell me about your faked sick days, your lean-back career choices, your cousin who just doesn't do shit and loves it.

I'm also interested in what undue whininess is. What's a good wholesome bitchfest, and how is that different from illness? Gift this one the gems of your kvetching lay-about ways. Funny anecdotes always a plus. Thank you.

And a pro-tip: watch The Americans because that show is fucking amazing.
posted by iamleda to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Well, maybe change your 'shitty excuse-making work ethic'? You've made changes in other areas of your life-- is this the last area to tackle?

Lazy is where we all go when we CAN. And there's nothing inherently wrong with it. It just means you can afford the luxury at this time and place. Maybe you are having the chest pains because you're realizing that you CANNOT anymore.

And honey, you are TOTALLY worth the resources. Listen to what your body is telling you. You might be on the verge of something great.
posted by (F)utility at 10:12 PM on April 11, 2013

Response by poster: Oh, and I'd like to mention that this question (my first on ask me-fi, yay!) was initially flagged and taken down because it was too jokey. So this is my second attempt at gravitas. Uh, sorry about that. But I am really sincere about this and I appreciate all responses. I think actually a lot of people ask themselves "Is this depression or am I just worthless?"
posted by iamleda at 10:16 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know your parents, their couch, or what Prestige television is, but I think in some cases, not wanting to stop watching TV on your parents' couch IS depression. Is that really such a great life for more than a few months? Are you thinking "this is awesome and I could do it forever, they keep the fridge stocked and everything!" or "I wish I had the oomph to look for a job and didn't feel like I'm trying to peel myself up off the floor?"
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:26 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I only just started pursuing treatment at the beginning of this year, and you know what it feels like? Like I'm really pulling one over these doctors and counselors. I've tricked them into prescribing me with meds and diagnosing an actual medical condition and wasting costly resources on me! LOL!

You need to go and see a qualified mental health professional and tell them what you just told us.

I think actually a lot of people ask themselves "Is this depression or am I just worthless?"

This is your depression talking. Please see a qualified mental health professional.

If you are in the U.S. and feel like you are likely to harm yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

When my depression was at its worst (read: I was brainstorming ways I might kill myself), I was also really "jokey" and reached out to inappropriate people (i.e. near-strangers) and websites (i.e. Metafilter) for help. Please contact a qualified mental health professional.
posted by topoisomerase at 10:29 PM on April 11, 2013 [11 favorites]

I think actually a lot of people ask themselves "Is this depression or am I just worthless?"

People who are actually lazy don't really spend a lot of time on this question. It's pretty much a classic symptom of actual depression. I think the jokes are part of the indication that you're having some trouble staring this in the face, which is understandable when your model for what actual depression is like in your family is suicide. But those aren't the only options - that you are suicidally depressed or you're just lazy. Be honest with your therapist about how you feel like you're a fake and a con artist, and that you feel like you're acting instead of really feeling things. They have seen this before and know how to help. It is possible to feel happy after depression. It's possible to feel like an 8 or a 9 most days.
posted by judith at 10:29 PM on April 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

If you feel that you are in crisis and feel more comfortable talking to someone via online chat, you can speak to someone involved with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here.

There are also resources for people dealing with depression on the Metafilter Wiki.

Again, please contact a qualified mental health professional.

I'm rooting for you; you can beat this thing!
posted by topoisomerase at 10:40 PM on April 11, 2013

I don't know that I would call myself "truly mentally well", but to me lazy feels temporary. It feels languid and indulgent, like I'm answering the nagging "I should" voice in my head with wanton disregard for responsibility. Like I'm getting away with something. Like I'm stealing a sunbeam, indulging the gravity toward simple pleasures. Playing hookey, and doing nothing other than satisfying my whims. Like the best vacations.

Contrast this with my regular status, of driven intent toward work or fun. Toward being an active spouse, friend, employee, sister, whatever.

The difference for me between depression and garden variety laziness, is that when I'm just lazy, I can make myself get up and leave the house. I can schedule it, and choose to do it. When I've been depressed, that's not an option; I'm down for the count.

posted by nadise at 10:47 PM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

From what I've read in your post, you have contacted a medical professional and are under care, right?

This is my unqualified opinion, but laziness seems like an option you don't have when depressed. When you're lazy, you think, "I could get up and do that, but..nah." When you're depressed, you think, "I could get up and do that, but it seems too fucking exhausting."
posted by amodelcitizen at 10:49 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @ isomerase: it helps to know someone else had the same coping response, so thanks.

@ everybody: I do appreciate it, but yes I am seeing qualified professionals and am in regular contact with them. If I were suicidal now, I would not turn to MeFi, especially since that's something they discourage, understandably, in the FAQ.

Rather, I am sincere in wanting your experiences with healthy laziness/whininess. All the diagnostic tools in the world (believe me, I've gone looking) haven't yet persuaded myself and probably others, so I think learning to recognize what non-depressed procrastination/inactivity looks like would be of real value.

And I like funny anecdotes. Can't help it.
posted by iamleda at 10:51 PM on April 11, 2013

Best answer: Thinking about a simple task when you're depressed is like facing a mountain. First this exhausting thing, then that exhausting thing, and at the end there is just more exhuastion. There is no reward. Thinking about a task when you are lazy is not like that. It may seem annoying, but it isn't full of fatigue and hopelessness. It's just more of a "I don't feel like it," thing.
posted by amodelcitizen at 10:54 PM on April 11, 2013 [20 favorites]

I think there are different kinds of healthy laziness. One is when you're taking a break from non-laziness and you can really enjoy it, recharge, even luxuriate in it. Then you move on to the next thing.

Another is more like contentment. When you have a balance in your life that you can maintain without a lot of striving. Some people are driven to be doing or achieving all the time, and some people are just ... not. But they're in many cases happier than the strivers.

You may note that neither of these sounds like what you are experiencing. You can get some healthy laziness into your life, but first you have to commit to really taking care of yourself. Commit to the ongoing work of mental health, whether that's therapy, meds, life changes, whatever you need. It sounds like you have a decent start on that, but you are undermining your own progress with some kind of depression impostor syndrome. Are you taking all these diagnostic tools and then arguing with or distrusting the results? I suggest you make yourself a rule: No more surveys, online tools, textbooks; no more Dr. Google. Focus on building trust with your treatment team. Let them help. The morbid humor can keep you entertained while you're flailing about, but it doesn't actually help you toward happiness.
posted by expialidocious at 11:21 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think actually a lot of people ask themselves "Is this depression or am I just worthless?"

Anybody who asks this question is probably suffering from depression, imo.
posted by empath at 11:39 PM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I used to think the same thing as you do about my anxiety, which in particularly bad times would lead directly to depression. To me, my anxiety and depression were excuses that I was making to myself for why I couldn't do something.

I had regular therapy but it wasn't until I went on medication (in part thanks to reading about it on AskMefi) that I understood how fully anxiety and depression had taken over my life. My medication completely changed me and the way I look at my situation. I'm not lazy at all, in fact. Rather, I had expended a ton of energy managing my mental disease. Without the negative self-talk and blaming, I realized that I was actually doing fine and not worthless.

I will say that when I am being lazy these days, I don't feel guilty about it. Everyone deserves to be lazy, especially with our busy lives. When I had anxiety, however, taking time for myself would create a negative feedback loop where I would blame myself for being lazy, not do anything because I had just proved to myself that I was worthless, and then blame myself again for not having done anything.
posted by so much modern time at 11:50 PM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, so sorry you're feeling this way, and I've been severely depressed. I've also been in lots of treatment and through many med adjustments. I am currently not depressed. I'm a sincere 8 on that 10 point scale, and I remember when I thought that would never be possible.

Many here have said it before, so I'm joining the chorus: depression causes a loss of perspective that makes happiness seem impossible. It's not. It's a challenge for you right now, so I'm reminding you. When I feel good (read: not depressed) I enjoy being lazy. As in, you know, I was going to do these adult responsible things today but I'm having fun sitting by the pool, I'm gonna sit here and just order take out tonight. Being lazy is not sitting on the couch wondering why you can't just pick yourself up and dust yourself off and leave the couch. That is being trapped, imprisoned by depression.

Here's my jokey anecdote that may not be funny... I hope you'll be amused. I once had to check myself into the Er because my depression was bad enough that it felt dangerous. My therapist strongly advised it. I was so relieved in the waiting room that I couldn't stop crying: I was finally going to be somewhere safe, all my energy would no longer be spent on trying to not self harm. In spite of everything, when I saw my hospital roommate crying, just like me, I thought to myself 'that is what real depression looks like.' Then I came up with a list of reasons she was worse off than me and I was a fraud. Looking back now, I see that I gave up my entire weekend (!) to go to a hospital because I needed help. It was the best thing I could do, but right in the middle of wanting to go away forever I could find an example of real depression and doubt myself nearly out if that waiting room!!
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 12:10 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've been on both sides of the divide.

For the longest time I suffered from severe depression. I could barely do anything, where the simplest and most basic task required gargantuan and painful effort to complete. If I needed a toilet paper, it would take me an entire day to work up the energy to walk one freaking block to the store. My life pretty much disintegrated due to my inability to function like a normal human being.

Eventually, I sought and received treatment, but even so, I was barely squeaking by. I was still depressed— Sure, I could do little more than before, still it took enormous willpower to manage my life; which at this point was being held together with bailing wire and chewing gum. Now, this is an interesting period in my life, because exactly like you described above, I came to the false conclusion that I must be simply lazy with shitty work ethic. I read everything under the sun, went to doctors, therapists, tried countless drugs (legal and illegal), and so on. I even manipulated my providers into giving me the drugs I wanted. Nothing was working, certainly it must be because I was simply unambitious and lazy. Like you, there plenty times where I felt like it was all just an act (in my case, to get attention and in a twisted way, there was some truth to it).

Finally, I dialed everything way down and more or less resigned myself to a mediocre existence. Yet, I never stopped experimenting with various treatments and approaches. It was an arduous process, where I fell on my ass countless of times, sometimes with a debilitating and humiliating result.

Then one day, I finally found the right doctor, went on the right medication which allowed me to make small changes. Now, I have no problem managing my life, getting shit done, and following my ambitions. I still don't have a stellar work ethic, however today I have the wherewithal to cultivate new and healthy habits. Before, it was literally impossible due to my illness.

This took me 15 years.

Be patient. Clearly, your family has a predisposition towards depression (3 suicides!). The question of whether you are lazy with shitty work ethic or not is largely irrelevant at this point because you're sick. You can't accuse a quadriplegic of being lazy because he "refuses" to run a lap.

You're young. Your self-awareness places you ahead most of people. Be patient with yourself, and keep on trying — treat your illness as a scientific experiment. Figure out what works, and build upon it — step-by-step.

Hope this helps.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 12:34 AM on April 12, 2013 [11 favorites]

And echoing others about depression distorting your perspective. This is probably the most insidious part of depression, it creates a false and (ofttimes) dangerous reality.
posted by pakoothefakoo at 12:52 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am sitting trying to imagine a lazy useless person. Lazy useless person probably has little positive experience of achieving anything in life, and hasn't learnt productive getting off bum skills. Lazy useless person has a real tangible problem here which he or she can probably solve by talking to a therapist to learn some skills for being less lazy and useless.
Oh how lucky, you're doing that anyway! So I think it doesn't matter whether what you have is depression or lazy-ass-itis. If you want to fix it, there are concrete steps towards that and you are taking them.
posted by emilyw at 2:42 AM on April 12, 2013

I had one bout of serious clinical depression lasting a few years. Outside of that, I've felt pretty good mentally.

Ordinary laziness is when, after a few hours of goofing off, or at worst the next day, I manage to drag myself up off my lazy ass and do whatever I'd been putting off.

Depression was when I put those things off for days, sometimes weeks at a time.

Ordinary laziness at work means that maybe instead of doing the kickass, above-and-beyond work I know I could be doing if I put my mind to it, I do merely acceptable work, still meeting basic expectations for its quality and timeliness.

Depression was when I did a shitty, half-assed, and far-behind-schedule job. If I did it at all.

I imagine that if I were a very very lazy, but non-depressed person with a really poor work ethic, I might do the bare minimum needed to get by financially (possibly no job at all if I could get someone else to support me, or had a decent amount of savings) but I can't imagine trying to fake depression to do that. If I were happy doing next to nothing, I'd let people know. Hell, I'd be rubbing it in their faces. (And it didn't occur to me until just now when I wrote this out, but I know someone like this—been unemployed several months, doesn't seem to be looking too hard for another job, being supported by his wife—and he seems as happy as ever, if not more so than when he was employed.)

I certainly can't imagine crying alone in my room if I were a very lazy but non-depressed person. "Seriously dedicated method acting rehearsal?" Really? I know it's hard to see when you're in the throes of depression, but that is quite a huge stretch for your depression to go to to in order to rationalize itself as something other than depression.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:40 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been treated for depression, but I've been more angry than sad most of the time, and I've never been a self-harmer. Those details made me question the legitimacy of my depression for a long time, because we're taught incorrectly that there's a specific profile. If you're comparing three suicides to struggling through day-to-day life and succeeding at a very basic level, I'm not surprised that you're questioning your depression's street cred.

But trust me -- and I've done "overly jokey," too -- it's still depression talking, and distorting.

When my treatment works, it doesn't even occur to me to hide somewhere and cry. Days that are 8s or 9s aren't only reasonable, they happen. Chest pains go away. And anecdotes about what it's like to be depressed finally read as authentic, because I have the distance to see their truth.

But don't worry -- the TV watching is still pretty good.
posted by gnomeloaf at 4:11 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think that this whole question is a textbook example of depressive behavior: an attempt to self-sabotage.

I think that you're looking for examples of "healthy" laziness so you can tell yourself "See? My experience is just like theirs and they're not clinically depressed so I'm not, either!"

You're not acting in bad faith here, but depression is like looking at the world through someone else's glasses; it prevents you from seeing things as they really are.

Share these thoughts with your therapist(s).

I'll be praying for you.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:22 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Laziness can be fun and relaxing. You might be smugly lounging on the couch watching Judge Judy in the full knowledge that the bathtub needs to be scrubbed, and you have made a decision to do something fun instead. When you are depressed doing nothing does not feel GOOD, it just feels less awful than the idea of doing something.

Laziness is also, I think, intermittent. I think a healthy person who is not depressed might be lazy about things we dislike or are bored by or find unimportant, but not lazy about absolutely everything in life.

If you feel like nothing is worth the effort, including yourself, that's not laziness.
posted by bunderful at 5:36 AM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Lazy is when you don't have the energy to do what needs to be done but plenty of time and energy to pursue things that you enjoy.

It sounds like maybe you have gotten into a habit. You went through some awful life experiences and were affected by them. You retreated to your parents couch. You are now having trouble leaving their couch and jumping back into life.

That may or may not require medication. That may or may not be clinical depression, although you do sound a bit more dark and negative than a cheerful person. :)

Don't live with your parents for awhile. Stay with a friend, another relative, rent your own house of squalor, whatever it takes to get you moving again. Avoid pot, which makes people lazy.

You can't tell if a car is running properly if it never leaves the garage.
posted by myselfasme at 5:41 AM on April 12, 2013

I agree with others that lazy is time sensitive. For example, one weekend I went camping with some friends, and instead of getting out and hiking on Saturday, I just slept. I SLEPT ALL DAY. Really. I took 3 hour-plus naps that day, and ate. Then I slept another 9 hours that night. It was AMAZING.

When I am depressed, instead of feeling amazing, I feel overwhelmed. It's not fun, and it goes on for weeks of me becoming one with my couch.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:51 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the work ethic is overrated. Here's an interesting historical analysis of it. I think we're all indoctrinated into believing in a dualistic conception of work/not work, and it's much more complicated than that.

If I had the means to stay home and do as I please I would, and I have had that luxury a few times in my life. However, if I found myself watching endless television I would consider it an addiction and find other things to do. There ought to be a 12 step program for people who are addicted to television. I confess, I am addicted to books! But I'm a librarian so I can get away with it.

On the other hand, television and books are a good way to get through difficult times, much better than drugs or alcohol. But getting through is the key concept here. If these family suicides happened recently then you're still in the middle of dealing with them and you should be gentle to yourself. Two close family members of mine committed suicide also, so I have some experience with this. If they happened many years ago then maybe you need to get better help than you're getting. Or maybe you need to get batter at asking for help. I confess that I never told therapists the whole truth about what was going on in my life until the most recent one I saw.

Here's a suggestion for a minor change: watch some exercise shows and do what they tell you. Try to do it for an hour a day. Yoga, aerobics, dance; I don't have tv so I don't know what all is on out there. And get out in the daylight, get some sun.
posted by mareli at 6:01 AM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm not particularly ambitious, and like mareli if I could afford to not work I would not work. But I don't think that makes me worthless. You sound depressed.
posted by mskyle at 6:57 AM on April 12, 2013

As a bona fide Crazy Person, I would say that healthy laziness is recreational. Depressive laziness is coping. I know you were looking for someone normal, but hey! Interjecting.

Obviously I am probably not the best qualified to know what it is like to be NOT a depressed person, but in the times when I have been healthy-lazy, normal-lazy, it has looked more like laying by the pool with a book or taking a vacation that involves not having to do dishes or a really gratifying nap or a day off work to go to the park. Depressed lazy is some variety of hide in a room and hate myself.

As far as work ethic goes, I've never met someone with a lousy work ethic who didn't have something else going on in their lives, whether it was depression or anxiety or an addiction or insecurity or they just hated their jobs or whatever. People handle things differently.

The fact that you are questioning this is itself a symptom of depression. When you are depressed it is sometimes very hard to believe that you deserve care and treatment. I used to have this mental pissing contest with myself when I was in psych hospitals and looking at all of the truly terrible situations my compatriots had found themselves in. Don't do this. Nobody wins at being the most miserable, and there is no Meritorious Depressed Person prize.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 7:01 AM on April 12, 2013

The psychiatrist told me that most people rate their overall sense of happiness an 8 or 9 on a 10 point scale. What the fuck????
You might want to get a second opinion about that. My doc put me on anti-depressants once. She asked me how happy I felt. I gave it a 10. She was skeptical - "This is seriously the most happy you've been in your entire life?" Like she couldn't believe it, because that was unusual. I would also have a hard time believing most people think they're always as happy as they ever could be.

Lovely slouches of MeFi, please explain sane idleness to me. Tell me about your faked sick days, your lean-back career choices, your cousin who just doesn't do shit and loves it.
Well, after a long period of working hard, it feels good to do nothing. After a healthy dose of that, I'm usually ready to get back to work, unless I'm depressed again. My cousin who doesn't do shit ever and acts like he loves it is probably depressed too.

I'm also interested in what undue whininess is. What's a good wholesome bitchfest, and how is that different from illness?
The difference between it being a brief indulgence that makes you feel better and "Oh my god I can't stop, and I feel horrible."
posted by bleep at 8:08 AM on April 12, 2013

I recommend seeing a professional, and confirming and exploring your diagnosis. It's possible there's something else going on as well.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2013

I think there are different kinds of healthy laziness. One is when you're taking a break from non-laziness and you can really enjoy it, recharge, even luxuriate in it. Then you move on to the next thing.

Yeah, this. I am largely a person who hasn't experienced depression, and I love sitting on the couch between projects as much as the next guy. But it's always between projects. I still need to get up, get fresh air, and do things in order to be happy most of the time. Otherwise I feel like I'm wasting my life.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:59 AM on April 12, 2013

Best answer: I don't believe there is such a thing as laziness. Laziness is a moral judgment in a puritanical society for people who don't want to work. In a society where not working is okay, the word for "not working" would not be laziness, but something like contentment or happiness or calm -- something positive.

So, if you don't care about working, do the minimum, and be happy about it. Have a messy house, work a minimal job, and go to the park a lot. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a certain way of life and it doesn't require a nasty name like "lazy". Just enjoy it.

If you DON'T care about the goals that are before you, maybe you are just bored, lonely, uninspired, and not lazy. Maybe you need new goals.

If you DO care about working (or some other goal), and feel like you can't get motivated to work, then you might be depressed (or some other diagnosis) that interferes with your ability to do what you want in life.

There is no such thing as lazy. There's content, and there's bored/apathetic, and there's depression.

Lazy is an unnecessary judgment.
posted by 3491again at 9:11 AM on April 12, 2013 [13 favorites]

For me, the difference is in the self-talk. The voice in your head telling you you're lazy and worthless is a hallmark of depressive thinking. Ordinary "laziness" = not getting shit done and also not beating yourself up about it.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:43 AM on April 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

So I am really lazy. Like, it pours out of me most of the time. The first thing my boyfriend's mother said to him about me was "I like her, but that girl's lazy, I can tell." and he couldn't exactly argue that point. But: I have a full time job, I run a business on the side, I take classes, I have a boyfriend, I travel and have great friends who I see pretty frequently; I take care of myself, my household and it's all pretty put together. But in between those things? TRY and get me off the couch! It cannot be done because I am either going (and am obviously ridiculously efficient) or I am full stop stopped. And when I am stopped, oh boy, am I stopped.

I've never had depression. I can say this because people I know who do have depression tell me that it's different: that they can't just decide that after spending a day laying on the sofa staring at the television (the very same thing I do most weekends - I just spent the last 4 days using every spare second re-watching all the episodes of Justified, so I also know the joys of quality tv programming) they're going to get up and do something else. The depression exists within that decision. As a lazy person, I am making an active decision and if that decision is to get up and clean the kitchen, then I can make that happen. But the depressed person just can't make that decision and act upon it - even if they thought the right thing to do was to clean the kitchen they COULDN'T DO IT. That's the difference.
posted by marylynn at 12:49 PM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've experienced both, and the difference for me is that when I'm healthy-lazy, it makes me happy. For example, last weekend, I had some errands to run, but the sun was on my face and I was in my armchair that rocks back and forth. So I was like, fuck it you guys! And I took a sweet little daynap and I felt wonderful and I did my errands later. I didn't feel dread in the pit of my stomach, I wasn't failing to care for myself, I was just enjoying my life and tasting champagne bubbles in my soul.

Unhealthy-lazy felt like OH GOD, how much longer can I float away from shore before I've floated so far that I can never swim back? Am I already dead?
posted by prefpara at 6:06 PM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Self talk when not depressed: "Oh look at me. I'm having a great lazy day here. I really deserve this. I'm a fairly wonderful person if I say so myself, and I'm here having a good day on the couch. Maybe I'll do something else good for myself later. Or maybe I'll get back to work, which will be good for myself in a different way. I wonder what I feel like doing at work? Hmm. Either choice is just great, and I am pretty damn awesome. Isn't it nice to be loafing around right now? I wonder what I want to eat later. I might get up and make bean soup, which is tasty. Or maybe I'll make lasagna, which is also tasty. I wonder which one I like better... "
posted by htid at 7:21 PM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree a lot with 3491again - I don't think "lazy" is a very useful classification. I have been on both sides of the depression thing as well, and I am fundamentally not a really active, go-get-em, up and about kind of person. A good weekend for me is loafing about in bed with a book, or staring out at the sunshine and pleasantly noodling around in my head, and occasionally rousing myself to get a snack or cup of coffee till about noon or a bit after, then futzing about online for a while, maybe a nice meander in the park if it looks like a nice day and I can be bothered dealing with all off-leash dogs who stick their noses where they don't belong - if not, that's okay too. Catching up with a friend for dinner or movie or something may or may not happen, okay either way. I usually have to mildly bully myself into doing some time on the exercise bike or housework, because I don't really enjoy these things, but I enjoy the effects of them after I have done them. But I am not a bad person if I decide, bugger it, I can't be bothered today, I'll do the vacuuming tomorrow.

Depressed weekend was more like lying in bed not even reading and not pleasantly noodling, but thinking about how meaningless and pointless everything was, how nothing mattered and why wasn't it possible just to decide, enough, and cease to exist anymore because it's all pointless anyway. Nothing will ever change, we are all fundamentally alone and isolated and we just fool ourselves into believing that things are different, so even if I manage to distract myself into doing something else, it's just an illusion because the reality is bleak meaninglessness. Often bouts of miserable crying at the hopelessness of it all. You get the idea. This was actually a slight improvement on depressions of former years, which would go into what I called "the mousewheel of doom" - after a certain amount of feeling horrible, I'd start trying to bully myself by telling myself that plenty of people have much worse to deal with, people have major catastrophes and their whole families die, no jobs, no limbs and still do things with their lives and look at me, I have so much I should be grateful for and how dare I lie around feeling sorry for myself, I must be such a horrible person. Which of course, made me feel even worse.

So both kinds of "laziness" share an exterior appearance of inactivity, but the mental activity is very different. I don't know that I feel like life is full of meaning and grandiose worthiness when I'm not depressed, but that doesn't bother me the way it does when I'm depressed. But to label it "lazy" as though there's something wrong with it - nah, not interested; it's just the way I like to live my life and there's nothing wrong with that.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:59 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

"When the house is empty and I sit in my room and I shut the windows so I finally can hold my face and weep"

Uhhh, yeah. Falling apart with racking sobs and pounding waves of sorrow for seemingly no reason and trying to hide it? That's not normal and honestly I think you know that. I think you're just kind of soundboarding off of us here and that's fine.

I can't diagnose you but can say the same thing happened to me, the sobs in the bedroom and the being lost and paralyzed at mom and dad's, and I was definitely depressed. But don't worry about labels or statuses like depressed or lazy. If you feel bad, if you feel sad, if you feel lost, if you feel stuck, if you don't know what to do with yourself, and you're seeing people about that to get some help, it doesn't really matter whether it's "official" or has a label.

Just acknowledge how you feel. And don't worry about whether you should feel that way. As my mom always said, "You feel how you feel." It doesn't matter whether you feel you deserve to or should or whatever. Acknowledge how you feel and work with that.

I do understand what you're asking about the laziness though and it's sort of prescient of you to see that as a possibility without the benefit of hindsight. Normally you'd only see that after you'd worked through it. There really can be inertia preventing you from taking a scary step. How are you supposed to step forward into adult life if you have no idea what you want? What if it's a step in the wrong direction? This isn't how I pictured life. I don't want this. What do I do? Those are real feelings too and lots of us experience them after graduating.

The only answer, of course, and the one you get to eventually, is that you've got to live your life. And that's going to mean taking a first step at some point, even if composed of some baby steps, even if in a random and seemingly pointless direction. For example getting a job first and getting stable in that and saving up a bit and and only then moving out on your own, etc.

You may well be having that sort of existential crisis and life transition fear inertia and not actually be capital D depressed. But that's a pretty good thing to get some help with anyway by talking to a trained professional for perspective. And if they think a bit of neurochemical regulation can give you some solid footing from which to start your climb up out of this hole, and you get helpful results, then who cares if you're not in the same category as somebody who is 100% for sure horribly depressed. Just go with what works.

And who's to say both can't be happening at the same time? Maybe you're dithering and being lazy about getting on with your life at the same time as you're experiencing neurochemical depression. Maybe one sparked the other as they often do at this time of life or maybe they just happened to coincide.

But either way, seeing someone and getting their medical opinion, possibly also their medication, and their therapeutic perspective and all that is a good thing to do, because it can help you work through whatever this is, this combination of thoughts and feelings which doesn't really need a name. You are legitimate and your thoughts, fears, worries, and questions are legitimate. Don't worry about whether your D is capital.

You are on the right track. Keep it up, be patient, and allow yourself to work through this.
posted by kookoobirdz at 9:12 PM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I waited a week or so to take in all of your answers and think about them. Thank you all so much. I think there's an understandable tendency to re-diagnose or second-guess the OP of a mental health question, and I definitely left myself wide open to that. The answers that discussed your own personal, visceral experiences with depression, non-depression, laziness, non-laziness: these were invaluable. I did not expect to learn this much from posting a question on the internet. I'm so glad I did.

One last thought: go Team Morbid Humor, wooo000ooo00ooo!!!! ::muppet-hands::
posted by iamleda at 5:16 PM on April 20, 2013

Depression manifests itself in countless ways. For me, on one occasion, it went from feeling like, I can do productive things but I'm not going to, to, wait, something is going on, I am literally not capable of doing productive things, what is happening?! I like being productive and getting stuff done so when I couldn't, it was like a very quiet alarm going off in my head. I could ignore it but eventually a chorus of outsiders forced me to confront it.

I don't feel happy very often - I think my baseline is more indifferent/ambivalent. And it's hard for me to take the day as a whole and calculate whether it was good or bad. But it's easier for me as someone being treated for depression to look around and say, that person did something nice or this is a nice day, than it was before I started treatment.

Intellectually, IMO, very few people are worthless. Depression, on the other hand, is the common cold of mental illness. So without knowing anything else about you, I'm more inclined to think that you are depressed rather than worthless.
posted by kat518 at 8:37 AM on April 21, 2013

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