I'm slow, lethargic, unproductive, dirty, messy - but it's just me
November 17, 2013 4:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm generally a very, very messy girl. It's really cramping on my style and how I feel about myself. I feel pretty close to the people on Hoarders when I really let myself go (which happens when my mother doesn't get on my case every week)... I just simply have no energy or motivation to cleaning my room. My poor mother has no idea why I am the way I am. I also do NOTHING over the weekend. If I'm at home for a break, I have an insanely hard time getting anything done, doing ANYTHING productive. I do EVERYTHING last minute. It's insane, stressful, horrid. I have a hard time following through on anything important, any big projects on a long-term basis. While I have some successes (doing decently at school, have cultivated some cool hobbies, have had some great experiences, have learned a lot, etc) I think I'm reaching about 30% of my potential. I have some sneaking suspicions why I'm this way, but how do I change this?

Some things that make it difficult for me to change:

-I've been this messy and lazy and unproductive all my life, so I don't know how to be any other way. My grandparents constant judgement, comparing, bitching about me and my "inertia", laziness has helped cement this behavior and turn me into a maladaptive perfectionist. "Well, I know I won't do that well anyway, I'm so lazy, I'm going to turn on YouTube and start studying for my exam tomorrow in an hour..."

-I commute three hours a day (one and a half each way) which drains my energy. It's tough, honestly.

-I'm intense and emotional and anxious. It takes away a lot of my mental energy during the week.

-I don't work out or eat as well as I should, which might be why I have such low energy. I don't know.

-There's some emotional shit I have to deal with, like body image, self-esteem, depression, drug relapse prevention, family issues... This also takes energy away from me.

-I don't see the mess around me, but when I'm alerted it's so huge that it'd take too long for me to clean and then I just don't feel like it

But most of all I'm just plain lazy. I do get decent marks, which may exacerbate my issue ("I'll do fine anyway, I don't NEED to study" but if I planned better, was more organized, more clean....I'd be SO MUCH HAPPIER! I'd get SO MUCH MORE stuff done!

Please help. This is my LIFE story, so some tips and tricks I can use to motivate me to be better--I'd appreciate a LOT.
posted by rhythm_queen to Human Relations (48 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: ps. When I say I do nothing all weekend - I mean it. I barely brush my teeth or shower. I will watch YouTube all day, eat whatevers in the house, get back in my room, sleep, rinse repeat. Only when I get into "School mode" do I ever get anything done.
posted by rhythm_queen at 4:31 PM on November 17, 2013

You don't sound lazy, you sound depressed. Stop beating yourself up. Focus on healing your depression but in the meantime, be nicer to yourself. I find the things you are saying about yourself hurtful and I've never even met you. If an Internet stranger is inclined to be nicer to you than you are, I think that says a lot.
posted by mai at 4:35 PM on November 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

In my personal experience, this sort of "laziness" and lack of energy was closely intertwined with depression, and "curing" the laziness was really, really difficult without getting the depression under control first. In my case, it was a combination of low thyroid and Seasonal Affective Disorder. "Laziness" during my off-times was actually a coping technique I needed to get through the workday when I needed to perform.
posted by muddgirl at 4:38 PM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had much the same issue as you a few years ago (no energy, no motivation, feeling lazy, etc.). I saw a doctor. Doctor prescribed Wellbutrin and Lamictal. It didn't turn me into a neat freak, but it made 100% difference in my energy and motivation. I cook! I clean! I go to the gym! I was not "lazy" or a "failure," I was depressed! Depression is an illness, not a moral failing.

Go see a doctor and get screened for depression (and thyroid problems, which are very common in women).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:50 PM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Can you just work on one thing at a time?

This comes with the caveat that you will *NOT* beat yourself up about *anything* else. Willpower is finite. Getting started with one thing, and doing the other things as best you can - with no judgment whatsoever - can help you establish that one thing into a habit. Then, once you've got that down as a habit, you won't have to expend nearly as much willpower accomplishing the habit and the second thing you add as you would if you had tried to do both things for the first time at once.

I'd focus on your diet first, and getting some exercise. We're trapped in physical bodies and are constrained by their limitations; unfortunately, we cannot be brains in a jar. I think if you find your mortal coil is happy, your brain will be able to focus on other things first. For me, I can't recommend a Paleo/Primal way of eating enough. More resources at Mark's Daily Apple. Cut out grains, processed food, and sugars, add nuts, meats, healthy fats, and vegetables, get out and get some walking with some strength and high-intensity interval training (sprints), and you might be surprised how much more energized you feel. Do that for 6 weeks, and then reevaluate. But, in the meantime, you are only human - forgive yourself for everything else, and just take it moment by moment.

I also recommend Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I think the standard book for it is The Happiness Trap. I have to admit, I'm not an expert on it, but it seems to me to advocate values-based living and ignoring the decisions your emotions would have you make. I try to ask myself, "Am I making a values-based decision to have French fries right now?" Maybe it is - maybe I've planned on this special meal out with my guy at this ah-mazing burger joint and by God, we are going to try these fries. Or maybe I'm just by myself, slightly bored/mildly hungry/distractible and these are just Wendy's French fries we're talking about - that wouldn't be a decision in accordance with my values to lead a better life. It helps, because we're really not the same person from moment to moment if we're constantly swayed by our emotions and the childlike "I don't wanna" whining in the back of our mind all the time. Values-based decisions help you step back from the tide and fury of what you feel - oh so fleetingly - in the moment to what you've actually consciously committed to as a person intent on growth.

Of course, I have to recommend meditation for getting space from your feelings. I have desires for so many things: I want something sweet, then I want something salty, then I want to watch TV, then I really want to be surfing the Internet, and don't my nails need to be painted? And, God, I should really organize that shelf - what happened to that girl from high school, I need to look her up on Facebook - and meditation has helped me get some space from these things. Sometimes I get caught in those waves and I step back and think, "Desire is infinite," and gently remind myself that it wouldn't f'ing matter if I fulfilled all of the 50 something desires I have at this moment - 100 more would spring up in their place! And therefore, given that, it's best that I just go on with the things that I have chosen to do as a conscious human being, not a marionette dangling from the strings of desire.

For that, I recommend Pema Chödron's How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind. (I find Pema Chödron's works to be very accessible to a Western audience, not only in how she communicates the concepts but what she discusses - the emotional distractibility that seems to plague the West in particular, what with its capitalistic society that has made impulse-surfing and convenience so easily accessible, and causing us to really struggle with desire.)
posted by Unangenehm at 4:51 PM on November 17, 2013 [28 favorites]

Thirded that you should seek out a mental health professional ASAP. Please stop beating yourself up for being "lazy." These are your brain chemicals at work, not a personal character flaw.
posted by Lieber Frau at 4:51 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been this messy and lazy and unproductive all my life, so I don't know how to be any other way.

I have been there, and I know how you feel, but this kind of wording is the language of depression. "I am stuck. I am unable to change. Nothing can fix me. I guess this is just me." It's an actual thing that depression prevents you from thinking rationally and being able to see the upside or the future or your own ability to change.

I don't want to say there's nothing you can do as far as modifying your habits right now, but I honestly think you need to consider that you need something more profound. Whether it's one-on-one talk therapy, group therapy, or meds that will do the trick, I don't know for you and you'll need to find out for yourself, but there are a number of popular, safe medications that might help you focus and get things done more easily.
posted by dhartung at 4:52 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was exactly like this for my whole life. I was finally diagnosed with ADD and Bipolar depression. I still struggle to be productive when I'm feeling low, but I am much more able to navigate through life now.
One thing that helped before I got my medication all set was Flylady. If you force yourself to follow the program you will find yourself creating routines despite yourself.
Don't beat yourself up. You are not lazy. You sound like you have something going on that needs to be addressed by a professional. There are plenty of folks here that can help you figure out your next step.
posted by Biblio at 4:53 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

And for taking baby steps toward cleanliness and organization, Unfuck Your Habitat is an absolute godsend. Check out all the inspirational success stories of people who have transformed their living spaces.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:54 PM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Move out.

As long as your mother is standing over you, sighing and rolling her eyes and wondering why you're such a messy pig, not cleaning your room will be something you feel guilty about. As long as you feel guilty about it, it will perversely be something you dread and avoid. You will feel so horribly bad about not cleaning that facing the mess will demand enormous willpower...willpower you don't possess.

When you move out, your room will be your room, and you'll be the only person who suffers if your room isn't clean. You can live in as much squalor as you like, and you will have no reason to feel guilty about it. You can do whatever you want, and you'll probably continue to be disgusting for another year or so. After a while, if you're like 85% of people in the world, you'll start cleaning up after yourself not because you've become a better person, but because it's a lot nicer not to live in a horrible mess. I'm not saying you'll make your bed every day or always wash the dishes right after you use them...but it'll probably get a lot better. You'll clean in the same way you brush your teeth - not because anybody's making you, but because you feel better when you do, and it will stop being Such a Thing.

It's true that there may be other extenuating circumstances right now - I'm sure other people will cover the possibility of depression and ADHD - but I just want to emphasize that you truly don't know how messy you are as a person. No one does at your age and in your situation. There is a reason college dorms are horrible seething cesspits of filth and most adult apartments are not. Most people figure it out after a while.

Also, in regards to the 30% of your potential thing...I've quoted this before, but it seems worth offering you now...it's from an interview Caitlin Moran did with The Hairpin a while back:

In your interview with NPR last Thursday (listen to it here! It’s great!), you mentioned that you used to think “Once I’m thinner and smooth and have perfect hair and perfect outfits, everything will fall into place!” and you said you thought that until you were twenty-eight or twenty-nine. I’m twenty-six, and I feel that way all. the time. And even if you know better, it’s hard to stop thinking that way! So, how did you?

The trick is, and there's a little bit of heartbreak, you have to just give up on the idea of being a princess. You have to give up on the idea of being fabulous. My kind of base position on existence is that you just have to admit you're a bit of a twat. You're a bit of a div, you're a kind of sweaty, stumpy, well-meaning idiot and you're trying your hardest, but it's just enough to be a sort of pleasant, polite person who's working quite hard and tries to be nice to the people they're nice to. We don't need to have any more ambitions than that! This whole sassiness thing – everything's got to be sarcastic, everything's got to be knowing, everything's got to be cynical. You've got to be on top of your shit twenty-four hours a day. THAT is exhausting. It's just far better to go, you know what? I'm just basically a monkey in a dress, and the best I can hope for every day is just to be nice, to smile as much as possible, to be gentle, try and be a bit understanding, work really hard, go and smell some flowers, have a cup of tea, ring your mum if you get on with her, just kind of dial it down a bit. There's a more sustainable idea of being a woman rather than feeling like you're in a fucking movie twenty-four hours a day.

Honestly, your 30% seems pretty great to me. Part of achieving happiness is setting aside impossible ideas about what you would accomplish if only you were perfect.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 4:57 PM on November 17, 2013 [56 favorites]

I was also going to chime in to say it sounds like my understanding of depression. Also, that's a long commute - that would affect most people's energy, so I think that is a serious compounding factor, but most people can't do much about their commutes. Apart from getting the depression under control, I would recommend bringing in some friends or family to help you purge things from your home and designate a proper space for everything you keep. That makes tidying up easier because the task becomes "put things away in their designated spaces" as opposed to "figure out where things should go and put them there." I find that when my living space doesn't have designated places for most things, it's easy to let clutter spread or stay unmoved. ("This goes in the office somewhere. Ok, I'll put it on the desk." Then the desk becomes a giant pile of stuff.)
posted by Terriniski at 4:59 PM on November 17, 2013

One practical thing (cribbed from Flylady): Set a timer for 15 minutes. Start a task and work till the timer goes off, then stop.

(See, part of the problem is getting momentum. Trust me when I say I understand this. If you can set a time to do something but also set a time to relax and surf the net, whatever, you will get a natural rhythm going.)

Flylady has a whole lot of tips and tricks that will help you whether or not you follow her all the way.

And yes, depression screen. Plus, get into some sunlight, that will help.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:03 PM on November 17, 2013

Response by poster: I am really, really reluctant to blame my habits on depression. The main reason I wrote this was that my mom was totally in tears today, frustrated beyond belief at my inability to "contribute anything to the household", how lazy I've been, not lifting a finger, refusing to help her, treating the house like a hotel with free food and lodge and laundry. It totally sucked hearing this because I'm seriously NOT doing this on purpose. I just ....ugh. I don't know. I feel like if I told my mom that I have depression, she'd be enraged. The woman is the most hard-working person I've ever met : full-time high level accounting job, works her ass off at home all day, cooks twice a day, takes care of her in-laws, works out, does EVERYTHING AMAZINGLY....with the added stress of an emotionally demanding marriage, an unappreciative husband and two jerks of inlaws.

I feel EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY guilty that I am unable to do anything on the weekends, that I spend ALL my time on the internet, that I have a hard time working out or studying or doing the things I need to do....It makes me hate myself. But I have such a hard time snapping out of it. I don't know why.

I went to the doctor with my mom a few months ago when I told her I was feeling really low and unmotivated and depressed. He told me to take my vitamins and start working out. It helped. I stopped taking them, though. I'll start again tomorrow.

Gah. I HATE pathologizing everything about people as "depression, anxiety, ADHD". It doesn't seem right. I like life, I am content in general. But being depressed that the world is so bleak, that our animals are treated like complete shit, that indigenous cultures/religions with amazing values have been stomped out, that invisible corporations have so much power and run slave-labour type factories and other atrocities and we're so dependant on them...well, that's reality. It makes me sick. I'm depressed about it. And I think that's normal. I don't want to live in denial.

But I should say, I still really appreciate that this may be a product of a mental issue, that this doesn't sound completely normal. Thanks.
posted by rhythm_queen at 5:04 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You've said your commute is three hours, total. How long is the rest of your day? How many days a week? How much work, how many activities are you doing when you're not at home? Part of the reason you're tired and unmotivated could be because you're just putting in very long days, but you haven't said enough to know.
posted by dilettante at 5:15 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gah. I HATE pathologizing everything about people as "depression, anxiety, ADHD". It doesn't seem right. I like life, I am content in general. But being depressed that the world is so bleak, that our animals are treated like complete shit, that indigenous cultures/religions with amazing values have been stomped out, that invisible corporations have so much power and run slave-labour type factories and other atrocities and we're so dependant on them...well, that's reality. It makes me sick. I'm depressed about it. And I think that's normal. I don't want to live in denial.

There is being depressed and then there is being depressed. There are two different kinds of "being depressed" - and you're suffering from the bad kind.

The kind of depression that makes you say "I am unhappy that there are problems in the world" is okay, because it inspires you to want to do something about it. That is the kind of being depressed that comes from being a compassionate person reacting to things.

Then there is the kind of depression that makes you say "I'm too lazy and unmmotivated and guilty and I can't snap out of it and hate myself". That is not okay depression, because it comes from chemicals in your brain not working properly.

Look at it this way. If you had some kind of infection in your lung that kept your lung from working properly, you wouldn't feel guilty about going to the doctor and having him give you a medication to take care of that infection to help your lung work properly, right? Well, this is the same thing - except instead of your lung, it's your brain, and instead of an infection, it's your biochemistry.

Taking care of your brain chemistry will not stop you from reacting to injustice in the world. What it will do, though, is free you up to actually do something about it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:17 PM on November 17, 2013 [12 favorites]

Best answer: But being depressed that the world is so bleak, that our animals are treated like complete shit, that indigenous cultures/religions with amazing values have been stomped out, that invisible corporations have so much power and run slave-labour type factories and other atrocities and we're so dependant on them...well, that's reality. It makes me sick. I'm depressed about it. And I think that's normal. I don't want to live in denial.

Yes, all these things are happening, but being personally depressed about them all the time is, in fact, a sign of depression. In my current, non-depressed state, I recognize these things and they frustrate me and make me feel sad and angry sometimes, but it was only when I was actually depressed that they were so concerning to me that they actually interfered with my ability to function properly.

This also stood out to me: I feel like if I told my mom that I have depression, she'd be enraged.

The fact that your mom may or may not be enraged, does not make it any less true. Yes, she may handle a lot in her life, but that doesn't mean that you don't get to be depressed.

And I'm not saying you are depressed (IANAD), but it certainly sounds like you may be suffering from at least a low level depression, and while I appreciate that you may not want to patholigize it (Lord knows I didn't when it happened to me), doing so may open some doors to actually making things better. Not doing so may mean that you actually get worse.

I've been down that road, and made many of the same arguments you make. It literally took me having a nervous breakdown when something significantly negative happened in my life to get the help I needed. Because the thing is, you might be able to muddle through for now, but if things really do get tough somehow, you probably won't be in a place where you can deal with it at all.
posted by scrute at 5:18 PM on November 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just so you know, you don't have to feel sad to be clinically depressed.

I suspect you are comparing yourself to your mom, feeling horrible in comparison, and that is helping to zap your energy too. Plus thinking about all the problems in the world....

As someone who used to have to fight the beast, all I can say is that your thought life is going to help you or hurt you.

My suggestion-don't try to motivate yourself with negatives. Cheer yourself with your baby step successes. Don't bring this up with anyone else because, people tend to be negative and that won't help you here. Think of it like the Dave Ramsey snowball -instead of paying off debt, you are building up positivity and energy. It is OKAY to start small, to take baby steps, to feel good about those baby steps. This is what will build you momentum.

And PS-your mom has way too much on her plate, and I would be wary of making her your example. Although it would be very compassionate of you to be able to help take some loads off her. But one step at a time!

PPS-quit worrying about the world's problems right now. Table them for at least a year. They will be there when you have your personal world a little more lined up, I promise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:24 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The woman is the most hard-working person I've ever met : full-time high level accounting job, works her ass off at home all day, cooks twice a day, takes care of her in-laws, works out, does EVERYTHING AMAZINGLY....with the added stress of an emotionally demanding marriage, an unappreciative husband and two jerks of inlaws.

I feel EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY guilty that I am unable to do anything on the weekends, that I spend ALL my time on the internet, that I have a hard time working out or studying or doing the things I need to do....It makes me hate myself. But I have such a hard time snapping out of it. I don't know why.

Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and state pretty confidently that while you may be depressed, your fundamental problem is that you and your mom are locked in a really unhealthy dynamic. She's the put-upon paragon of virtue and you're the messy spoiled baby girl. You're carrying the weight of everything that's wrong in her life: she's in a bad marriage and her life is miserable and she works so hard to support everyone and she's doing it all for you and you could make it all better if only you would clean your room.

Christ, I'm giving myself a panic attack just typing that shit. I've lived through it. You're not feeling guilty about not cleaning; it's about so much more than that; about your mother's unhappiness and the opportunities that were available to her versus the ones that are available to you. It doesn't automatically get better and you're not going to suddenly snap out of it.

Move out.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 5:27 PM on November 17, 2013 [23 favorites]

Response by poster: @pretentious illiterate : from fear that your comment may derail the thread, I have to say that no, this really isn't true. She does tell me often that she appreciates my emotional support of her and she doesn't know what she'd do without me. She doesn't brag about what she does. I'm observing what's going on. Everyone in my life tells me what an amazing person my mother is. My mother herself has a hard time seeing herself as a wonderful, hard-working person deserving of appreciation thanks to my father's mistreatment of her. But she's still a freakin' angel. She'll wake up after a horrendous fight where my father acts like a total dick, wipe off tears, take a shower, cook for her horrid old in-laws, drive one hour to work, check-in with me to make sure I'm ok, work out, come home, cook, clean up, sleep. She's Superwoman. How am I this way when SHE'S my mom?

I think she's amazing because she is. She cooks and cleans after me and gets frustrated when I do nothing around the house. I feel like shit about it and am motivated to change. But it never lasts, seriously, and every few months she blows up at me.

I wish she didn't blow up at me, though.
posted by rhythm_queen at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2013

I understand why you are reluctant to label this as depression, and many people who never experience clinical depression have a very hard time wrapping their minds around it and can be incredibly judgmental, but that doesn't make them right and that doesn't make the depression not real. I also get what you're saying about "pathologizing" everything about people, and I agree that not every negative state correlates to a mental health issue (and negative emotions are an important part of being human), but what you are describing sounds like depression. I'm not saying it definitely is, only a professional can tell you that, but if you want to escape this negative cycle, I think it's something to seriously consider.

A few things to keep in mind: 1. It is possible to have moments of happiness and contentment and suffer from depression. 2. The physical symptoms you are describing, as well as the behavioral/emotional things you want to change could be caused by a chemical imbalance or an underlying health issue (like an underactive thyroid). 3. The treatment for depression doesn't always require medication, and much of the heavy lifting has to come through therapy and behavior modification. 4. If you explore any of this, you don't have to tell anyone what you are doing and, when surrounded by people who do not understand, it might be best to keep it to yourself for a while until you are in a better place.

Even if you don't want to explore depression as a possibility, self-care is going to help immensely. If you can eat a well balanced diet, snag regular, high quality sleep, have a daily hygiene ritual, and are physically active/exercise, you will feel better. Mentioning these things feels weird, however, because finding the motivation to put that in place and keep it going is really challenging when you are suffering from depression. If there is an underlying issue of depression that is addressed, you would be amazed how easy all of that comes. Often getting well is what really drives home how amiss something was in the first place. I'm sorry to keep emphasizing an answer you don't want, I wish I had other things to offer, but in good conscience I can't list a whole bunch of "turn things around" tips when it sounds like these might be impossible to enact right now and will only serve to make you feel worse if you can't do these "simple" things suggested by people on the internet. Good luck and if you want, please feel free to email me.
posted by katemcd at 5:34 PM on November 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's not an issue of "blaming habits on depression" - it's an issue of not being physically capable of maintaining any habits in the first place! A popular essay is called The Spoon Theory, and IME it applies just as well to depression as to other energy disorders.

When I was depressed, I was never sad or "blue". Just lethargic and passive and tired (napping twice a day when I could).
posted by muddgirl at 5:34 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

To be clear, I'm lumping my low thyroid function with depression, because the symptoms seemed pretty identical to me, and taking supplemental thyroid hormone helped just as much as a SAD light. "Mental" disorders are just as physical/biological as medical disorders.
posted by muddgirl at 5:35 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Imagine that you live on a farm and you hurt your shoulder. You keep trying to do all of your chores (because they really need to be done) but every time you try, your shoulder hurts so much that nothing gets done. You think "I just need to tough it out - no pain, no gain", try again, the pain makes you quit, nothing gets done and you feel like a failure. You don't want to go to a doctor because you have seen other people work through their pain and you figure you should just suck it up which you do until things get so bad that you end up in the hospital having major surgery.

Or, you can go to the doctor who would say - Everytime you do things the same old way, you are re-inuring your shoulder. You need to (1) take some anti-inflammatory meds, (2) see a physical therapist to learn some exercises to strengthen your shoulder and some new ways to do the old chores to reduce rein jury and (3) until you get better, you need to lower expectations - instead of trying to do everything and getting nothing done, you need to be smart about what you take on.

The problem is that the way that you are thinking about your problem is making things worse - guilt and self-loathing are just not effective motivators for you. The point of calling it depression (assuming the others are guessing right) is that it opens up a whole new set of tools to make things better.

So, you need to see a doctor. (1) Medication might help you function better. (2) Your way of thinking is making things worse. A therapist can show you new ways of dealing with problem. In particular, making this about willpower/laziness/guilt is counterproductive. There are other ways to think about things that will actually help you get more done while being kinder to yourself and (3) depression is not a "get out of jail free" excuse to do nothing but being smart about what you take on will help you be more successful in actually getting things done. YOu might like this book: Getting Things Done When You're Depressed
posted by metahawk at 5:39 PM on November 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

And just because your mom is a "freaking angel" does not mean that the dynamic isn't unhealthy. Being in a tense environment (which, baby doll, YOU ALL ARE IN) IS an energy zapper. Trust me, been there, done that, got ze tee shirt with all the accessories.

If you are in school I assume you have access to counseling and health services. Get thee over there.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:42 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

(and if they say meds, it doesn't have to be forever, and boy howdy would they make a difference, if that is the issue.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:43 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gah. I HATE pathologizing everything about people as "depression, anxiety, ADHD". It doesn't seem right. I like life, I am content in general.

Depression is often presented as one thing, with one correct cure. People are well meaning, buts it’s just not true. It doesn’t mean that you have the same problem at the same intensity and must deal with it the same way someone else did.

One of the insidious things is that depression symptoms can often be helped by eating better, exercising, working on your spiritual life, just plain doing stuff, you know, everything that’s the opposite of what you’re compelled to do. It takes work and dedication, things that don’t come easy and are unintuitive to say the least.

Just like any medical condition there may be many different approaches that will help, and different ones for different people, but none of them will work if you just ignore the problem.

Try to stop taking it personally and approach it like any other medical condition. And I think of it as a condition, just a fact, to be dealt with. I tend to put on weight unless I’m diligent. I tend toward depression unless I’m diligent. I’m nearsighted unless I have correction. Take the guilt and emotion out, it’s chemistry not morality, just a situation to deal with.
posted by bongo_x at 5:51 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to add that I can hear how much you care about your mom as well as appreciating and respecting everything she does. It makes sense that you are unhappy that your issues are causing her problems and that is a big motivator to change. But, as I said above, trying to use that guilt as motivator to get yourself to do better isn't really working for you. One of the gifts of counseling is that it can show you how to kind and supportive of yourself without giving up on the idea that you want to be better than you are right now. (I was really inspired by Kristen Neff's TED talk on self-compassion.)
posted by metahawk at 5:57 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are not your mom and probably never will be. That doesn't mean you're a worthless person or a bad person or even a worse person than she is. A three hour commute and a full-time job do not sound like laziness to me. I'm sure there's more you could do around the house, but isn't there for everyone (okay, maybe not your mom?)?

Nthing seeing someone about the anxiety (if nothing else) because anxiety can be demotivating to the point of paralysis. You're worried about pathologizing something that is causing you enough distress - and you feel is abnormal enough - to post about it on this board. You seem to view it as a pathology. So if that's what works for you, treat it as one, and see a professional.
posted by walla at 6:30 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Move out. Your mother's standards are higher than yours, and that causes her to get frustrated with you, which she'll put up with for a while and feel shitty, until the pressure point is reached and she blows up at you, and then you feel shitty... but apart from the general unpleasantness there is no real incentive for anything to change. Because at the end of the day your mum still loves you, and is going to provide you the external motivation to do what needs to be done. Your own internal motivation never has a chance to develop. Moving out really forces to you grow up and learn what being a responsible adult is about. This is something that you will never develop while you are living at home, because while you are there you are going to be the Child and your mum is going to be the Mother and that means that she tells you what to do or it doesn't get done.

I used to be exactly the same. Every few weeks, like clockwork, my mum would crack it at me over the state of my room, over the fact I left dishes in the sink, that my clutter would follow me like a bad smell... but usually when she was cracking it she was in the process of cleaning MY mess and had worked herself up into such a state over it that she didn't want to look at me. She honestly despaired over what was going to happen to me when I moved out.

Moving into a house with people who weren't family was honestly the BEST thing that could have happened for my cleaning habits. You are forced to be considerate of other people when you are living in shared accommodation because they don't 'have' to put up with you the way your family does (it's a bit perverse, I know). We had a cleaning roster and list of tasks that needed to be done, and after a few weeks of being mindful of cleanliness in the kitchen/bathroom/lounge room, the tidy habits spilled over to my bedroom. Doing it for myself made all the difference because I developed my own idea of what meant messy and liveable. My standards are never going to be as high as my mum's, but she doesn't worry about me anymore!
posted by roshy at 6:51 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

The way you casually throw around the words "NOTHING" and "EVERYTHING" suggest that you've got some fuckey thought patterns that might be great to examine in some sort of CBT type setting.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:01 PM on November 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think there is anything wrong with you. Of course you are overwhelmed and have no energy to clean, if you commute three hours a day and on coming home are the emotional support for your mother and she'd be enraged if she found out you were depressed. My mother did that kind of thing to me, and also constantly yelled at me about cleaning my room. I wasn't allowed to have any negative feelings despite a living situation (including parents in an unhappy marriage who had screaming arguments all the time) that would make just about anyone depressed. Blowing up at you is not OK, by the way. I don't care if everyone thinks she's a perfect angel. Blowing up at you out of frustration with other people, who you are not responsible for at all, is not fair to you and not right.

I mean, why are you tuning out of reality by surfing the Internet all weekend? Because the environment around you is a pretty sad place, actually, and if you had a clean room and no Internet to occupy your free time there, it might just be worse because then you'd have to face it and manage all the totally normal negative emotions that would rise up. Anyone would feel terrible living in the same house as parents who are getting into horrendous fights all the time and with no emotional support, only more criticism and negativity, from extended family.

Can you focus your energy on making a plan to move out? Find roommates, maybe? You deserve to have a peaceful living environment where no one's yelling at you.
posted by citron at 7:40 PM on November 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Hmm, your description of what is draining you includes intense emotions, self-esteem and body issues, family drama, and addiction relapse prevention. Even if you're right and you're not dealing with brain-chemistry, capital-D Depression, it doesn't matter. You are experiencing an inability to function that you think is caused by a confluence of emotional issues and family issues. You're doing a great job of hanging in there, but it sounds like it's taking all the energy you have. You need to get some help untangling all of this and figuring out how to lighten your load. In my opinion, you should go to a therapist to get help, and be prepared to do a lot of emotional work over the next two decade or two.

The other thing I suspect you must do is move out. It's very interesting that you're here to ask "why am I not getting things done?" but your conversation keeps turning to your mom. When someone says "maybe this is about your relationship with your mom," you defend her (not that that's wrong to do or anything), casually mention "...father's mistreatment...father acts like a total dick..." and go back to discussing how amazing she is, how you are so terrible by comparison, how guilty you feel, and how you can't get treated for depression because your mom would be "enraged." (Enraged???)

Every time you try to discuss this, the conversation goes back to talking about your parents. I'm no family therapist, but it really seems like there's something there. For starters, I sure wouldn't want to follow in my mom's footsteps cleaning-wise if that might also include being mistreated by someone acting like a total dick. I might also feel really drained and guilty if I was watching my mom get mistreated. And it would suck to know that my mom might get "enraged" if I said I needed emotional help. She sees how low you're feeling; doesn't she care? It's tough to say "I'm going to show myself and my current pain more compassion and concern than my own mother does." But it would make sense if she couldn't see your pain, given everything that's going on for her. And since you are watching your mother be mistreated by your father, it must be tough to see YOUR pain as the pain that should take priority. But it should; it should be YOUR priority. Could you move out, start therapy, or both?
posted by salvia at 7:46 PM on November 17, 2013 [9 favorites]

You honestly sound like you might have ADHD. IT's less likely to be diagnosed in Women, because it's not always coupled with the hyper energy you see in boys. However, the messiness, the good intentions, procrastination, etc all sound very ADHD to me.
posted by spunweb at 8:08 PM on November 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, hey, I recognize your screen name. You are so cheerful and bouncy and dynamic, you might like Epic Win. It's an app where you get like little awards like a video game when you live life. You can make different characters representing different things and level them up by accomplishing your goals.

Just make sure you are making SMART goals. That's specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. For some ppl with ADHD, it's hard to concretely imagine the steps involved in making a goal happen... so your room stays messy because you haven't been like, by clean my room, I mean vacuum, which means picking up my socks. SMART goals help that by challenging to think, okay, if I want to vacuum, which what else do I gotta do?
posted by spunweb at 8:15 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are also a lot of non medication strategies for managing ADHD. Memail me if you want me to suggest some sites.
posted by spunweb at 8:18 PM on November 17, 2013

Best answer: The main reason I wrote this was that my mom was totally in tears today, frustrated beyond belief at my inability to "contribute anything to the household", how lazy I've been, not lifting a finger, refusing to help her, treating the house like a hotel with free food and lodge and laundry. It totally sucked hearing this because I'm seriously NOT doing this on purpose.

Your mom is telling you that she can't handle her burden. She needs you to pick up some slack. You sound like you love and admire her, so I'm sure that you want to do that for her. I think what's leaving you paralyzed and overwhelmed is that you wish you could just pick up all of her burdens and slap them onto your own back, but you know you aren't equipped to do that. So, you can't pick up all of them, but you can't let that keep you from at least *lightening* her load.

Maybe that won't be enough for her -- I understand why you're freaking out about that, and it's a valid fear. In fact, I think anything you do very well might *not* be enough for her. But look, you love her, so it'll be good to help her, even if that help turns out not to be enough or even if she can't acknowledge your effort. Try to pinpoint the parts of her burden that are toughest on her and that you're most able to take on.

If you and your mom talk together well, then you can sit down and make a list together of the things she would most like for you to take over from her. If you guys don't talk together that well, then I would listen to specifically what she's complaining about and/or look for which chores she seems to be most exhausted by tackling, and make that list by yourself. The list might include things like: the grocery shopping, gassing up her car, dishes after dinner, cleaning the bathroom she usually cleans, taking out the trash -- the point is to take on maybe 3 of her chores, the ones she hates the most or has to deal with when she's at her worst. I know that doesn't sound like "enough," but it's so much better than nothing. And you'll be taking on more over time anyway, don't worry! The point is to give her *some* relief as well as to build up your strength. Getting proactive will probably also make you feel better.

If you need to get any of your own stuff done, you're going to have to get out of the house to do it, because your family's home is about getting things done for the family and you aren't going to be able to concentrate on your own stuff in there. And in terms of getting stuff done *for* your family, just try and guilt yourself into thinking: these things need to be done, and if I don't do them, Mom will have to. On the other hand, have a set (and feasible) list of chores that you do, so you don't overwhelm yourself into paralysis anymore. If you still find yourself not doing those chores, come up with a particular song that is your "get to work" song, put it on, and start going through the motions. Most housework/chores are mindless, so as long as you actual move around and at least attempt them, they can usually get done at least adequately.

Look, I've been in a very similar situation and it's brutal. It's sad and draining and frustrating, and for what it's worth, you don't sound depressed to me, you sound rightfully sad and drained and frustrated. I can't give you much advice for long-term, because I've made so many mistakes, and continue to make so many mistakes. The only thing I can stand by absolutely is, you need to create very specific boundaries (about where you'll live or how you'll entangle finances or about things you'll commit to doing for yourself no matter what they want from you) and you need to stick to those boundaries like your life is at stake. Because your family probably loves you to death, but they're not looking out for you anymore, you're looking out for them. Part of that also means looking out for yourself, because if you give them so much in the short-term that you're not in a position to take care of them in the long-term, you're all screwed.

Moving out can also seem like a panacea, and in some ways it is/would be. But your family isn't going to just let you go, because they *need* you. So if you do decide that you have to get out, understand that you're either going to have to find a way to contribute to them just as much or more than when you lived with them, or you're going to have to cut yourself off from them (at least emotionally) and have your guard up because they're going to do basically whatever it takes to get you back.

Sorry to ramble on and go in so many different directions, your situation is tough both logistically (you can only do so much) and emotionally (draining and discouraging), and I feel for you.
posted by rue72 at 8:30 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try to pinpoint the parts of her burden that are toughest on her

... but keep in mind that if it's her marriage, then no amount of housework help is going to ease her life to the point that she's happy.
posted by salvia at 8:41 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You may also like SuperBetter (there's a YouTube talk too). Regardless of depression or not, a therapist can help here - this is what they're for!

I went to the doctor with my mom...
You need to go to a doctor WITHOUT your mom, where you can say all this (or hand her this post) in private without fear of repurcussion or enraging your mother. You need to get bloodwork done (thyroid, iron, hormone levels... etc.), and you need to see a therapist - if nothing else for moral support! You need someone on YOUR side, who's there FOR YOU, who can do a reality check, give you a safe place to vent, put things into perspective, prescribe meds if necessary, and help you figure out what your next move is etc...

What's making everyone say that this is depression is the fact that being like this is making YOU unhappy and frustrated, and YOU want to do and be more.

My dad is underachieving (for what he's capable of) and messy, and he's happy as a clam. The point is, the things you dislike about yourself aren't inherently a problem and aren't moral failings. They're a problem to you, and that's worth fixing. YOU ARE WORTH IT.

Brene Brown has some good YouTube talks (and books) too. Stat.
Pema Chodron: Things Fall Apart x a million.
Sustainably Creative you may like too - lots about accepting limitations.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:17 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh girl, I think you need a hug :)) You sound like you are so hard on yourself, like you have to conquer the world and all of it's problems, and keep your room clean at the same time ;)

You truly sound like you're overwhelmed. "People say what an amazing person my mom is". I think you're missing the point and not giving yourself the credit, of what an amazing person you are!!! Yes, your Mom might be great, but that doesn't make you less of the wonderful human being that you are. I think maybe you aren't hearing a lot of that from other people, so you don't think you have as much worth. I've done (sometimes still do the lazy weekend with not doing anything, plus all the things you mentioned doing). I don't think it's that bad at all, sometimes your week is so hectic and long that when the weekend comes you just want to rest and recharge. Don't beat yourself up for that. It doesn't make you a lesser person, or brand you as lazy. You have a LOT going on, a crazy long commute on top of it- that will wear anyone out. Your mom blowing up at you probably has more to do with mounting pressures she has in her life, than anything directly to do with you. You don't need it, and it's effecting you deeply because you're having a hard time right now. What you do is enough. Who you are is enough. On top of it, from the question you asked about your dating profile, you are truly, stunningly beautiful :)

You care about the world and want to see change happen, and this burden takes it out of you. Don't put the world on your shoulders. Go do something fun that you enjoy, just for you, to take your mind off things when the world (and your head :-D) starts spinning around. Join up with a project that will start initiating the changes you want to see and become a part of the change, I think it will make you feel so much better about yourself, and see the power you do have over your life situations.

You are good, take a breath, relax, and know you're important in this world. I give you a big hug through the internet ((hug)).

Go watch something funny, and give yourself permission to do whatever you like!
posted by readygo at 9:17 PM on November 17, 2013

I feel EXTREMELY, EXTREMELY guilty that I am unable to do anything on the weekends, that I spend ALL my time on the internet, that I have a hard time working out or studying or doing the things I need to do....It makes me hate myself. But I have such a hard time snapping out of it. I don't know why.

Hi, are you me?

I spend too many weekends in my room, wasting time on the Internet (so I can't really help you there), but I've gotten better with the studying and schoolwork thing this year. I decided that when I'm unmotivated, it's time to switch tasks. Don't want to do a problem set? Then do your reading for a different class. Or watch that film for your film class. Then go back to the original problem set. It's really helped a lot.

I also realized that when I'm messing around online, I tend to visit the same four sites (Gmail, Facebook, Metafilter, and Feedly). When I notice that I've visited the same website twice in a span of five minutes, it's time to move on and switch to a different task. If I can't focus on a new task, I'll take a shower or start a load of laundry or sort through a pile of papers that are on the floor and then try again.

For the cleaning stuff, what helps me is making sure everything has its place. If I come home and immediately put my coat in my closet and my notebook on my shelf, my room stays cleaner. It also helps me remember where my keys are.

I got better at cleaning things when I was subletting over the summer and living with a bunch of strangers - I was suddenly invested in having an immaculate kitchen, and a clean bedroom and bath. That was partially because if I didn't clean the common spaces, my roommates wouldn't either (they were really shitty roommates), and then I'd be stuck with a gross living situation.

As for the mom thing: I love my mom and all, but my relationship with my mom improved a lot after I stopped living at home. Zero fighting. We're friends now.
posted by topoisomerase at 9:56 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My mom says if I leave, my father will blame her for making me "too independant" and "ungrateful"

I also worry my mom won't have any happiness if I leave. We bond over fashion, over humor, over shows--shallow stuff, but mom clings onto that, and we have fun together. I don't want to leave and for her to be all alone in her depression.

These statements really struck me from one of your prior questions. You are really stuck in a dysfunctional family dynamics catch-22. At twenty-one your job is to separate from your family and strike out on your own, but it seems like both your parents explicitly don't want you to leave and in a certain sense don't want you to stop being a child. So how do you reach your potential when your environment is holding you back from becoming independent and your own person? I suspect that your "lazy" behavior is functioning for both your parents to help keep up the status quo. You comfort your mom, are her friend, and by your "laziness" she gets to get frustrated at you instead of your dad who seems to have serious anger problems. I also wonder if you are carrying some of her depression for her, and expressing feelings that she doesn't let herself dwell with, but that the family interprets as your laziness, since it doesn't seem that your family handles feelings well. It seems like you are on your way to being an "identified patient" who in family systems theory is basically the most emotionally honest member of the family and manifests the latent dysfunction in the family. If you are depressed, I think it is more likely has to do with this really impossible family role that you are asked to play with what I hear as no support. A bunch of people have said it already, but you can't fix your family, you can't fix your parents marriage, and you are not responsible for you mother's happiness. At this point you need to get out and save yourself and start your own life. I think you really need to see a therapist, and begin to see how problematic these family dynamics are, how they are hurting you, and how they are not your fault. Otherwise you could waste years feeling bad, worthless, lazy, etc., when it's just plain not true.

I see different versions of your story all the time in my work as a psychotherapist. When crazy shit happens around kids, kids basically assume that it is their fault. This assumption gives them a sense of control, and they try to fix the situation through changing themselves. Often this "guilt" and trying to change to make it better for other people lasts into adulthood and sometimes it lasts a lifetime. Parents in unhappy marriages often unconsciously use their kids to try to stabilize their marriages. In families like this, it is really hard when the kids rightly grow up into young adults and try to leave and become independent. The parents realize on some level that if that happens they will have to face the instability between them which is terrifying. Out of their own fear they sometimes exert pressure on these young adults to stop growing up, and reflect back that they are incompetent, unable to cope, dependent, etc. Please don't stunt your own development out of false guilt. You don't want to be forty and still living with your parents, and still trying to fix them. I have seen middle-aged people still in your position, and it is such a waste of life and growth potential. Seriously. If you memail me I'll help you find a good, affordable therapist where you live. At a certain point this becomes a life or death struggle for your own personhood, and I think part of you is aware of this and that is where many of these symptoms, intense emotions, and difficulties are coming from. In summary, all of this is not your fault, and I believe you are asking the wrong question. You don't need to change, you need to change your dysfunctional environment. I went through something similar with my parents, and I have seen many other undertake the same struggle. You are definitely not alone in going through this. ::huge hugs::
posted by amileighs at 10:24 PM on November 17, 2013 [26 favorites]

You have a horrible living situation, and we've told you repeatedly to move out.

I'll give you a list of things to do, but as we've pointed out to you repeatedly, you are intent on following your mother down the Martyr-trail and this depression you're in (yes, the clinical kind) is your brain telling you, "Get the FUCK out!! Enough already!"

1. Go to the doctor, alone, get vitamins and perhaps a prescription for a mild anti-depressant. I like Prozac but eventually settled on Celexa.

2. Just DO what needs to be done. Seriously, don't turn on the computer until your room is clean, you've had a shower and you've unloaded the dishwasher.

3. Get ahead of EVERYTHING. Turn your procrastination around. With school stuff I'd look through my syllabi and start my papers on the first day of class. I'd have them written WAY before they were due. Often I got extra points for turning them in early. I never had the stress my classmates did, and I NEVER crammed or pulled an all-nighter. NEVER. (This was in the days before word-processing, where I had to type my assignments on an IBM Selectric. So no WHINING!)

4. Move out. Move out. Move out. That environment is toxic, you know it's toxic, we've told you repeatedly that it's toxic and you are turning into your mother.

5. Your mother has chosen her life and she wants you to join her. You are the focus of her frustration because you aren't being the dutiful daughter she wanted, but just another drain on her dwindling resources. Your mom thrives on being able to martyr herself on the altar of this horrible, dysfunctional family.

So I'd like to know, what keeps you in this awful situation? Nothing except your unwillingness to do something different.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:19 AM on November 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think starting a daily yoga practice will change your life. Honestly, I really think it will. If you cannot summon the energy to commit to anything else at all currently, summon the energy to commit to that. The rest will fall into place once you do.
posted by corn_bread at 9:22 AM on November 18, 2013

Response by poster: 1) Enraged was probably the wrong word. She'd probably feel more incredulous that I could be depressed. She just doesn't like knowing that I'm hurt. However, I've sent her this post and its answers. Hopefully she'll understand.

2) After a few days of a post like this, I feel I've given the wrong impression of my parents. They're amazing in so many ways and believe in me deeply. I don't love anyone in the world more. My mom sent me an apology email for freaking out at me last night. My heart honestly breaks for her and what she has to deal with. I don't want to add to her burden anymore.

3) My mother has said, for many months now, that she's OK with my moving out, she'll support it. It's not her that's the problem--it's my bad finances and bad timing. I can't afford to move out. She WANTS me to leave this dysfunction, to be independent. She'll help me as much as she can. But I can't leave on my parents' dime, especially with my dad being unemployed.

I'm learning so much from this thread, so I thank you. But though my parents are deeply flawed people themselves (my dad more than my mom, I gotta say!), they're so wonderful. So brilliant, nurturing, caring, hardworking. I really don't want to throw them under the bus. I love them. :/ Ijust wish things were easier.
posted by rhythm_queen at 10:36 AM on November 18, 2013

This really, really sounds like inattentive ADHD. I can say this because the messy, lazy, unproductive, under-achieving existence you describe was mine until I was around 33 and finally was willing to entertain the idea that I had ADHD. I struggled for years with the notion because, yeah, it sounds like a BS cop-out diagnosis. Then I got tested, then I got treated, and my life improved by roughly 1000%. Just something to consider.
posted by fairfax at 12:24 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

You've asked this question here multiple times, and have gotten some really solid answers. I'm getting the feeling that this anxiety builds up within you and posting one of these asks has become something of a steam valve release.

Was there any advice you got previously that was useful? Anything you took to heart and tried out? I'm seeing a lot of the same answers here that you've gotten previously, if you keep asking the same question and getting the same answers and nothing is changing, maybe some feedback on what you've tried would help shape some new advice.
posted by Dynex at 12:26 PM on November 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Life is complicated. Relationships are complicated. I understand what you are saying about your parents-heck, I can relate to it personally as a parent myself. But at some point you have to stop diagnosing your problem and start taking steps to solve it. (That is not a put down, just an observation.)

So, deep breath.

You say you cannot afford to move out. Okay, that is a problem. Can you think of some concrete steps you could take to solve that problem? Or, is this something you can gut out till graduation (I believe you are a senior, correct?) Can you move in with roommates, or make concrete plans for a particular future date to do so?

Right now you are caught in a morass of learned helplessness. I promise you if you will sit down and force yourself to come up with some kind of positive step, no matter how tiny, and follow through with it-and then, build momentum on it-well, life will get better. There is a light at the end of your tunnel but you need to take some steps so you can see it.

Oh, and hugs.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:19 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

THREE HOURS of commuting every day?! Holy shit! Fix THAT by moving as close as humanly possible (walking/cycling distance if it's an option) to where you work and you will be shocked at how much better you feel.

Commuting is toxic. Seriously, read any of those articles. It is physically damaging, psychologically stressful, and emotionally taxing. Small wonder you feel so terrible all the time.
posted by Ndwright at 5:37 PM on November 18, 2013

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