unable to perform thy terms too hard
August 27, 2007 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I really really dislike doing things. This goes all the way ad absurdum in that I actually would rather freeze into nothingness than deal with college, work, chores, and so on.

I assume this isn't normal. What to do?

I'm coming round to thinking I need to unplug and get help since I haven't snapped out of it all these years but it just seems so lame an issue, there's the internal disciplinarian saying "stop being lazy and it'll be ok"--and I stay skeptical of the capacity of external help to address something so mundanely internal.

I guess my question is "oh god what's wrong with me!", or more specifically whether you find this indicative of a particular pathology or dysfunction you're familiar with.

It's so frustrating because all the structural components to crawling back on track are laid out for me, but however resolute I get, I keep betraying trusts--mine own and other people's--and staying on one side of the bridge. It stings so badly when for example at work someone says "can you do this now? are you back? are we gonna kick ass?" and I'm all like "yeah!" and then flicker out again.

The irritating part is that this is independent of the nature of the task in question, they just all weigh down on me as numbingly boring.

It's all so greasy, dank and dreary, man. wtf.
posted by raisons de coeur to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
In addition to the plentiful feedback you are about to receive that you are suffering from depression, I'd like you to try the following until you decide what to do with yourself:

1. Get more sleep. Unless you already sleep more than eight hours, in which case, get up earlier.

2. Get more exercise. Doesn't matter what. This will also help with #1.

3. Analyze your diet and try to eat a little better. Check out ThePinkSuperhero's recent post, for example.

These things may give you just the boost you need. Or at least when you go see someone about your problem you'll have already started working on three of the main things they're going to ask you to try until they decide if you need a little medicine.


4. Laugh at yourself. When you catch yourself avoiding something or muttering about something or feeling put upon, realize how ridiculous this is, laugh at yourself for being such a dummy about things, and then immediately dig in to the task with relish. You already know you're being a silly goose, don't be shy about reminding yourself.
posted by hermitosis at 10:49 AM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Classic depression. Go get some help. See your doctor as well as a therapist. Life is full of transition, change, too many demands. When all the swirling makes you want to give up, or when you can't prioritize, or when you can't get off your butt (even if your mind says you're just being lazy), go get some help. No shame in that. You might need just a light dose of something to kick the proper chemicals into proper ratios, and you'll fell more like yourself in no time. But go get help before you start swirling out of control. And stay away from alcohol and drugs. You need your wits about you right now.
posted by orangemiles at 10:49 AM on August 27, 2007

Do you feel bad even after you get something done? I mean, do you get no rush at all from accomplishing things?

I'd focus on that. If nothing ever pumps you up - either the act of doing it, or looking back at having finished something - then I think you might be depressed, pure and simple. Anhedonia is a hallmark of depression. If you don't already get exercise, start. In my opinion, that alone can take care of all manner of problems - anxiety, fear, depression, anger - that might keep you from feeling inspired.

If there are some things that make you feel really great (OK, besides sex, drugs, gambling & other such) it might help to work to change your life to bring more of that into it.
posted by pammo at 10:51 AM on August 27, 2007

Hey kiddo, I'm right there with ya. For me, this is situational, only been going on for a little while, so I really recognize how abnormal it is, and maybe sharing my tiny pieces of progress can help you see how to set and achieve little bitty goals.

As I've mentioned here before, I keep a things to do list. There are several categories on it, and yeah, maybe when I'm lazy I don't do many things or don't even update it, but at the top of the list is the "DAILY" section. YMMV, but my "DAILY" section says"

8 hours sleep
30 min. reading
60 min. excercise
15 min. housecleaning
Count calories

For beginners, maybe your list should have two or three things on it. Then, focus all your energy on accomplishing just those things. Think of them as the mandatory things you have to do. Probably your list should contain

-Regular Sleep

This is depression, and you need help, and of course, facing such an admission and making change happen is the last thing you feel capable of. Reach out for help. Tell someone you know that you think you have depression and need to be taken to see a doctor.

Also, in my case, caffeine works to get me off my ass to do a task or two. It doesn't change how I feel, I still feel crappy right now, but I am at work. I got to work. It's enough. Remember to love yourself and forgive yourself all the things you want to do, but can't. Just keep what you want in mind. Think about what might be making you feel this way. Is there a reason? The answer is not "I'm a sucky individual who is worthless and lazy." That is a symptom. If there's a reason: i.e. I miss my Mom who died, or I hate where I live, this may be situational. If it's not connected to a circumstance, it's purely chemical. In either case, counseling will help and medication might too.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:59 AM on August 27, 2007 [8 favorites]

Maybe check out some info on Cognitive Behavior Therapy too. It might help you sort out some bad thinking habits that sort of self-defeating. While it's not a replacement for therapy/medical attention when depression seems to have sunk in, it allows a person to take some immediate action to identify steps that can be taken to improve the situation.
posted by Richat at 11:00 AM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

4. Laugh at yourself. When you catch yourself avoiding something or muttering about something or feeling put upon, realize how ridiculous this is, laugh at yourself for being such a dummy about things, and then immediately dig in to the task with relish.

Actually, this helps much more than you'd think, if only for the little stuff. It'd be tough to start or finish a gigantic project with just that, but when it's things like making a phone call or cleaning your dishes it helps to ask "Why shouldn't I do this now? Seriously, I'm not doing anything else."
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:51 AM on August 27, 2007

Been there. Tried to get myself out of it for more than a year. Finally got professional help and a prescription. Probably saved my life.

Laughing at yourself, drinking more water, exercising are all good suggestions. But they all fall in the category of "picking yourself up by the bootstraps," and try as hard as I might, I could never quite pick myself up. Assuming you've tried all of those things, I'd recommend finding a professional (and my advice is that at least one of those professionals should be a psychatrist -- aka, someone who can prescribe medication). You might be embarassed (I was), or feel like you are admitting to a personal failing (I did), but experiencing those transitory emotions is far better than continuing to suffer with little quality of life. Good luck.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:10 PM on August 27, 2007

Response by poster: pammo, I guess I do feel proud of my accomplishments, but they're strung far too infrequently through time. I like myself in some way, my potential self--just wish I knew how to smash him through the glass wall.
posted by raisons de coeur at 12:21 PM on August 27, 2007

I'm there with you. I have to fight on a daily basis just to get anything at all done. What helps me:

1. Setting a timer so I'm not online too long. When it goes off I have to step away from the computer and do something. Anything.
2. Taking a shower and getting FULLY DRESSED first thing in the morning.
3. On days I don't have anywhere to be, getting out of the house and going anywhere at all. Mailbox, corner cafe, around the block.
4. Doing tasks in 15-minute chunks (again, with a timer). Almost anything is palatable for 15 minutes.
5. Resetting my expectations and realizing that most tasks are boring and monotonous.
6. Having something, anything to look forward to. My favorite flavor ice cream. A favorite TV show. Ordering something online and having it arrive at my house.
7. Being accountable to someone who I respect, so when they ask what I did today, I'm too embarrassed to say "nothing."
posted by desjardins at 12:30 PM on August 27, 2007 [5 favorites]

Just going to put ADD on the table. You haven't said enough to be in any way certain, but I'll put it out there in case the diagnostic list rings some bells.
posted by loiseau at 1:56 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Differential diagnosis: Disorder of the executive function. You lack a "decider."

But, y'know, "If you choooose not to decide YOOO STILL HAVE MADE A CHOICE!!!" God, how I hated that band... my brother had every single solitary shrieky record... "My uncle has a country place/that no one knows about/HE SAYS IT USED TO BE A FARM!/before the motor laws..." Jesus Christ.

Okay, sorry, sidetrack. But in another way, no: this is maybe how you tell whether you're doing nothing because you're too tired/sad to move or doing nothing because you can't figure out how to do anything. If there is always something even a little easier or more divertingly unproductive you could be doing--like quoting Rush lyrics when you're supposed to be answering a question--and you always always ALWAYS choose the least worklike, most frolicsome thing, then you may have what I have--if indeed that's what I have (of course I never made the effort to find out for sure--just read some things on the internet).

I bet you don't have zero feeling of accomplishment when you get something serious done, I bet you have more like a delighted, relieved feeling, like, "At last, I'm back on track." And then of course you go back to playing sixtytwo hours of solitaire a week and feel disappointed and guilty and nervous and ashamed. What helped me was splitting up all the stuff I have to do and assigning different things to different days. Also, recently I decided that anything that I can farm out, I will. It is worth it to pay somebody who's not wrong in the head to do what I can't stand to do. I'm feeling a lot less shame about it lately, too. I mean, sure, I backslide all the time and I don't accomplish much, but what of it? At least I didn't write, "Catch the spirit! Catch the spit!" and then spend the next decade screaming it into a microphone.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:25 PM on August 27, 2007 [4 favorites]

Definitely see your doc about it. If your GP is no help, then find a specialist in depression. Is there some physical reason for this: drinking or drugs, poor diet, too much caffeine or stopping caffeine suddenly? Get your thyroid checked. Might want to get your testosterone checked too while you're at it.

I have a lot of this problem myself, and I'm just wondering what you feel when faced with needing to do something. Is it fear of some sort that holds you back, or a feeling of futility, like it won't work out if you try, or is it a feeling of not really caring at all whether it gets done or not, even though you could do it? (for me it is often fear of looking foolish or sometimes a feeling of futility that holds me back).

Are you suffering from any of the cognitive distortions?
posted by DarkForest at 2:38 PM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

This comment on do-nothingism might be useful to you.
posted by paduasoy at 2:39 PM on August 27, 2007

I second just about everything above and I am also glad to see this question because I am having similar issues. (Hell, I'm on Metafilter rather than filling out that job app.)

One more thought for you: Many people are "phoning it in." Sometimes just getting to work is, as the poster above said, "enough." To quote AA (blech), fake it 'til you make it. I wonder if you only reward yourself for "big" accomplishments. When someone is this stuck, it truly can be a big accomplishment to take that shower, fill out that one application, make that one phone call. Allow yourself to own those as worthwhile achievements for now. Don't say, yeah, but I didn't ________ today. Set manageable goals and don't denigrate them as not enough.

Good luck, and I am now going to go fill out that application, thanks to you and this question.
posted by thebrokedown at 3:40 PM on August 27, 2007

Response by poster: I'm just wondering what you feel when faced with needing to do something

"I should get more food", "I should listen to more music", "I should [insert lame useless task here]" (repeat until I'm too worn out to do anything) interspersed with "it's so late this had better be really good to make up for it", maybe the occasional overcaffeinated flashback to how sucky things have always been, which leads to "man life sucks just shoot me."

Cognitive distortions--I guess the 'mind reading' part of Jumping to Conclusions. I have a seriously avoidant sort of personality for various reasons, but that's a whole other kettle of fish, I think. In that self-esteem & social issues can be fixed later, meanwhile this one is a crises.

I bet you don't have zero feeling of accomplishment when you get something serious done

When I do get something done mostly I think how ridiculously easy that was compared to all the gnashing angst I engendered putting it off.

You have a very good point Don in that putting something off is actually deciding to fail at it. It's a realization that I've occasionally come to recently and I think keeping it in mind will be helpful. As in "I'm not just putting this off, I'm actively working against it right now."
posted by raisons de coeur at 4:45 PM on August 27, 2007

It's all so greasy, dank and dreary, man. wtf.

I was there too until pills got me out.

The sheer impossibility of even talking to my family through the grey fog of every day finally persuaded me to go to the doc. Like pardonyou? the prescription probably saved my life. Sounds ridiculous, but the paxil did the trick. It took me almost a year to be back to "normal" and off the pills, but it really was so very very helpful to be medicated for a while.

Go see a doc.
posted by anadem at 6:22 PM on August 27, 2007

Elaborating on how paxil helped me: I felt ABLE to do things, kind of empowered. The grey fog went away and the sun shone. I had energy, and actually DID things. Feedback from accomplishments (having a shower, doing some work, cooking supper, going for a walk) made me feel better about myself, and able to be decent and human to my family. After half a year I began to feel that I didn't need the pills, because I wasn't sick any more.

After stopping the pills ordinary life continued, but without the grey fog. It's over ten years since I was ill, and though life has had its ups and downs I'm fortunate to have been non-depressed and fully functional ever since.

Good luck!
posted by anadem at 6:34 PM on August 27, 2007

Something small that I learned from cognitive behavior therapy: stop thinking about things in terms of what you should do.

Instead of saying to yourself: "I should stop being lazy and get out of bed already."
Say: "I'll feel a lot better if I get out of bed."

It's merely a small difference in how you phrase your thoughts about yourself, but it makes quite a difference. Instead of feeling like you're "nagging", it'll feel more like you're actually trying to help yourself.
posted by arianell at 9:05 PM on August 27, 2007 [13 favorites]

arianell, friggin' brilliant.
posted by desjardins at 9:29 PM on August 27, 2007

I often find myself going through this as well. Great to see everyone mentioning sleep, exercise, water and eating right. That has been the combination that has worked for me in the past. My own personal 4 steps to wellness.

Except I know that and still don't do them. I spend much of my work time thinking about what I should be doing while reading MetaFilter and other sites, e-mailing friends, then reviewing my day and seeing I have accomplished little on my To Do list. Then when crunch time comes, I race to finish things and they always turn out fine. Which just reinforces my behavior.

But I don't seem to be getting ahead anymore. And that's the problem. I think I will go fill my water bottle right now. And that will give me a little exercise as well.
posted by genefinder at 6:53 AM on August 28, 2007

"...how ridiculously easy that was compared to all the gnashing angst I engendered putting it off." Fam to the miliar: I have been there, I am there.

Sorry: this is stupid long, but that's because I have a huge work deadline tonight, which pretty much guarantees I will spend the morning crafting a perfect e-mail to my brother about nothing and then check out Metafilter to explore the possibilities for nuking the afternoon.

Let me just elucidate about this theory of mine that we should be assigning different things to different days: I only recently found out that I can do this with my whole week. My Saturdays have been dedicated for I guess almost a year, now, and I am here to tell you that this method works. Here is how I figured it out: I realized that my trip to the laundromat could be combined with my trip to the farmer's market. I used to avoid the trip to the laundromat because the laundromat is one of the aboveground circles of hell and I used to avoid the trip to the farmer's market because you have to get there at 8:30 in the morning to get any food. But one fateful morning...! I realized that if I combined the two trips... I could get to the laundromat at the crack of dawn before anybody's there hogging up all the machines, fling my wash in, race to the market, buy tons of kale and sweet potatoes, race back to the laundromat, put the crap in the dryers, race home, put away the groceries (cool! Car Talk is on! No more fake-stuttering Scott "forgive me" Simon), race back to the laundromat, grab the clothes, go to a garage sale or two, everything's free by now (Oh, look, some kid VHS-taped all of Mr. Show off the TV; 25 cent--that's a must-have) race home, put away the laundry, eat a massive breakfast and engage in hours of wild, unrestrained puttering.

This routine is so demented and so appealing to someone who has dedicated a life to avoiding pain and boredom, I am now addicted to it. Plus it's automatic--I don't lie in bed going, "should I skip the laundry this week?" I can't ever skip the laundry! If I skip the laundry the whole circus act will be 50% less fun and exciting. If I skipped the laundry, what would I do? Sleep? I couldn't sleep for thinking about the laundry.

Every other day of the week remained undedicated, though--so I was only competent on Saturday, which made me feel doubly insane. Then two weeks ago I figured out how I could divide up my work week into dedicated days, and until this week I'd been doing much, much better. This week is effed because of two things: one, when you start doing your work, it metastasizes because of that phenomenon you described of the other people and their incessant, "Are you back? Are we gonna kick ass? Great! Here's a wheelbarrow full of crap to do!" Two, the deadline is making me into a worse crazy person than usual. After tonight the deadline I'll see how I do routinizing the wheelbarrow full of crap.

The other thing I did recently was hire my friend to clean my apartment. So far she's done the bathroom and half the kitchen. It has taken her two solid work days to do that much because my apartment is encrusted with the filth of ages because, I have finally realized, I Do Not Clean. I have tried and tried to get myself to stop acting like a two-year-old child on this front, but it hasn't worked and I am at last done trying. I'll do the dishes and (now that it's been rendered enjoyable) I'll do the laundry, and I'll begin any project that's semi-creative--like re-caulk the tile counter in the kitchen. But I will not vacuum, I will not mop, I will not clean the oven, I will not finish re-caulking the tile if I decide it bores me. For the most part I am an uncorrigable child who needs a keeper. The adult part of my personality has been thwarted too many times and has given up yelling about it. It makes more sense just to hire the keeper, already. It's stupid, it's a waste of money, but it's that or live in the zoo.

So: when you can, make the work not work. If it's possible to farm it out, do that. When it really is work and you really have to do it, make it as routine as possible, so you don't spend time thinking about doing it. You and arianell both said it: the thinking is the most painful and dull thing about it.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:01 AM on August 29, 2007 [6 favorites]

« Older Are there any really interesting web sites that...   |   Ear + Ring = Earring? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.