The super obnoxious thing about depression is that most of the time it looks like nothing more than laziness. Just laying about being useless. But while that’s happening connections to friends are being severed, maintenance of good habits withers and disappear, and responsibilities start to be ignored. And because the depressed person is internally thrashing around trying to find something that feels good again, they’ll probably take up some bad habits (eating junk food, shit sleep schedules, drinking, drugs, etc) because at least they offer a spark when everything else is dull and uninteresting.
People promise they’ll be there when you need help. But depression is a chronic problem, and when it’s really bad, really dark, it’s already gotten past the point of “cut off connection to anything requiring leaving the house” and past the point of “made snarky or angry remarks that pushed people away” and past the point of “ignored paperwork needed to get back to therapy or renew medication.”
If depression were cancer, the point someone could help would be Stage 2, when we’re just kind of obnoxious. But maybe, if you’re patient and persistent, you can convince us to take a shower and step out of the house for an hour. If you think you’re going to help when we’re suicidal: You won’t. That’s stage 4 and we’ll never tell you about it.
When you have depression, even mild depression, at best you’re at Stage 1 all of your life. Kinda submerged, but getting by. Mostly everything is good really. Life is very handle-able here, but the pain in the ass is when we’re supposed to be happy and we just can’t be. All we can do is nod and say, “Yes, that accomplishment I’ve been shooting for for years has finally come about, and it is good.” It’s hard to feel happy about it, but we do know it’s supposed to be happy making. And we may also know (this comes with some experience) not to expound on how we feel weird and conflicted about it because someone will try to helpfully inform us that we should be happy – something we already know – which will make us just feel worse. So we’ve learned to slap a smile on and say thank you to praise even if we don’t feel grateful or elevated by it. Yeah, intellectually, I can grasp a lot of things. I worked hard for this and I *should* be proud. I *should* be happy. I *should* be grateful. I *should* be eager for the next thing. I *should* be driven to do the things I say I like doing. But I’m not.
Some people can get right to work on the things they don’t like doing just to get them out of the way. Some people can go ahead and do things they aren’t interested in, because it’s a step toward getting to their goals. That “getting it out of the way” that “accomplishing a step toward a goal” makes most people feel good. It’s enough to make motivation happen.
Motivation to me seems like: you wake up in the morning and you have a vision in your head of doing or being something and it makes you get right up and get to work on it. You don’t think about it much, you don’t measure your desire for it, you just get to it. If you don’t have a specific thing to work on right then, then you get to planning the next stage of what you want, letting yourself get excited over your goal.
I wake up, sometimes in the morning, often, not, and spend a lot of time trying to talk myself into getting up. I try to think about what I want to get done, what’s feasible that day, what I wrote down the night before for today, etc. Should I clean? Should I work out? Should I work on career things? Should I budget and pay bills? Should I do the work I promised other people I’d do? Should I respond to emails?
It’s maybe like testing solutions on litmus paper to see how acidic they are. I try out each option in my head to see which one gets a reaction from my heart. One or two may get tiny little lift of “maybe…” and a couple more will get an “oh shit, I gotta do that” Most will get jack. Silence. Even when I think “well this step will contribute to that goal that I really want” …squat.
The best I can say is the same feeling you might get when you have an assignment and the due date is in more than a month. Are you going to get to work on it today? Are you reeaally? Because most people I know tend to wait until the deadline “feels” real, and then they get in gear. When you don’t have a deadline on things, and it kind of doesn’t matter if you do it or not… or, more importantly, it doesn’t “feel” like it matters… it’s hard as hell to get the damn motivation going. I can’t seem to connect to the far out goals no matter what I do. I guess I want to have a real career? I suppose I would like to have good variety of friends? I wanna lose the flab but what is that really? What would I even look like?
I need the near term stuff to matter. What I can get done this week, today. But right now everything in front of me is repair work from having been disinterested for so long most of it just collapsed in on itself. And just observing that alone is crushing.