Last week, an IMGUR user – a media sharing website – triggered an online debate after posting a ‘before and after’ picture of a room that was previously littered with bottles and trash, but was now completely clean. The user, who identified as a depressed person, wanted to show that people suffering from depression could try to make a difference in their lives.
However, as is common with the online community nowadays, this post started a debate asking: Is this really a depressed person or someone who is too lazy to clean their room?
It is not clear whether the perception created by the movie industry that many people grow up as slobs and have to be forced by their parents to clean their rooms is indicative of what truly happens in most homes. What’s intriguing, though, is that this question of “laziness or depression” is one that is debated constantly among those who are depressed.
Some say your laziness causes the depression, while others say that laziness is as a result of depression. It is like the ‘chicken or egg’ question in another format. In other cases, it’s not about one or the other. There is an unstated consensus that some people lack the discipline, motivation and commitment to do things that will improve their lives and their environment.
But what is really going on?
The Real Problem
Even though we expect life to be this beautiful experience full of happiness and love, we find that there are times when we will go through pain. You have to learn to be disciplined, to be proactive, to be purposeful in your actions, to be giving (in terms of charity and service), to be clean and to do everything required to achieve your goals.
Some people by default hate cleaning in any form. They are just unmotivated to get to it. Others are indeed lazy. They have to be prodded by some authority figure to clean up after themselves. In your lifetime, perhaps you’ve had a room or gone into a room and thought to yourself, “No one should live in such a dump.”
However, the problem arises when people automatically assume that someone who does not clean their room is simply lazy. You might even be one of those who have been called lazy.
A perceived failure in life is also put into the category of laziness. You might feel like a failure because you are unable to get a job while your peers are out there accomplishing great feats and receiving praise and accolades. This perceived failure has led many to question their purpose in life and the reason why they should continue living. It cuts to the core of our self-worth.
The expectations placed by society to become successful can be overwhelming. The society’s definition of success is to have a great job, money, family, and to achieve great feats. Unfortunately, not many people live up to these expectations. The negative impact of that failure can thus be detrimental to someone’s mental state.
Unexpectedly, you sat down one day and asked yourself whether there is something more happening inside your head other than these thoughts of failure and lack of motivation. Why do you have trash littered all over your room; with discarded food lying around? What is making you lack the desire to clean up or to get anything done? Perhaps, at this point, you considered that you could be depressed. Well, if that’s the case, then it is possible you are on the right track.
It sometimes takes a while before people can be diagnosed or self-diagnose depression.
People don’t understand what depression is. Many believe it is being really sad. For those who go through depression, it is a mix of a lot of experiences.
For one, you lack motivation to doing anything important. You just want to sit mindlessly watching TV or doing some other time-wasting activity. It acts as an escape from the painful reality of your present life. Secondly, you become isolated and unwilling to interact with peers, friends, and family. You isolate yourself because you don’t want to be a burden to anyone. It’s as if you are now hiding yourself from the world. Yet, deep inside, you desire to connect with someone. Thirdly, you go through a painful process of introspection whereby you critique yourself and everything that is wrong with your life as you perceive it. You die inside slowly every single day till the point you believe your life no longer has meaning and you choose to die.
Once depression has taken root in your life, you might even find that you are battling thoughts of both loving and hating your family and friends. It is strange. You wish them well but their success makes you envy them. You wish it were you. Then you feel guilty for thinking like that and hate yourself even more. You feel so much pain inside and want to let it all out. At times, you think about crying but there are no tears. There is no escape for you and no release. You’ve bottled it up inside for so long and you wonder: “Who will listen to me? Who will hear my silent cry for help?”
Depression can blind your ability to analyze your life objectively in order to improve yourself. You blame yourself harshly for everything bad that has happened in your life. You feel guilty because the person you see in the mirror is not the person you expected to become. You believe that working hard would have brought you the success you craved.
But it is not that simple.
The reality is that depression is not a choice, but a disease.
What you can do now?
Once you come to terms with the truth that you have a mental illness, you can begin the process of healing. Depression is a potent disease that when given time to thrive can end up killing you or cause you to end your life.
Here are some few thoughts for you to consider:
- Get help IMMEDIATELY
Some people let pride tell them that they can’t go to a counselor because they don’t need to see a ‘head doctor’. The stigma surrounding mental health treatment has left so many people suffering in silence. Don’t be that person. Seek out a counseling centre to visit or maybe you can find one willing to talk to you over the phone or on the internet. Just get help.
A doctor might even diagnose you with other problems affecting you such as anxiety, sleep disorders, and attention deficit disorders. These might cause issues such as fatigue, sleepiness, and depression.
The key is to figure out what is going on in your mind so that a better treatment method can be found. Often times, a depressed person only needs someone to talk to them, connect with them and show them that they are important and that people love them. That is enough sometimes to get an individual on the path to treatment.
In other situations, however, the use of medication is necessary.
- Be kind to yourself
The world expects a lot from each and every one of us. Sometimes this pressure to fulfill what the society’s expectations can make us feel inadequate and unworthy to continue living. This pressure from life can weigh you down. Many smart people with university degrees haven’t achieved what was expected of them. Others have had their potential talked up but are yet (or are seemingly unlikely) to ever fulfill it. Some have experienced an illness or disability that has affected their pathway to success.
No matter what it is, remember that life is like that. Everyone has ups and downs. We do not have control over some things. But as Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “…we can find some form of meaning in the suffering.”
Learn to avoid comparing yourself with other people and their life circumstances. This is about you. So don’t discredit your feelings.
Find ways to improve yourself but don’t be too hard on yourself. The world is harsh enough already. So be kind to yourself. You are all you’ve got. And you are everything to someone else.
- Understand your potential
One of the reasons why you feel so down is because you believe you have talents that you have not utilized to the best of your ability. This frustrates you. Nevertheless, the introspection, the guilt from your failures and constantly judging yourself strips you of your self-esteem. When you have a low opinion of yourself, you are not being true to the potential that is within you.
You have to overcome the battle with your mind first before you can get back on your journey to fulfill your life’s purpose. Finding your purpose is key because it will inspire you to pursue your highest ideals. However, you have to solve the depression issue first. You have to see a therapist so they can treat you or give you medication to alleviate the dark cloud you feel hanging over your head. The more your outer world is out of balance (no work, no money, no friends etc) the more your internal state will suffer. You have to treat the depression, otherwise, it will trickle into every facet of your life. Work will become a chore, your relationships will suffer, and you might even think about giving up.
Once you get into treatment and find a community that has experienced what you are going through, you will be able to start working through any problem and perceived lack of motivation. People talk about pushing through your struggles or working hard to improve your life, but these statements fail to see that depression is a mental health problem. So deal with it first.
- Avoid taking substances that make you ‘high’
Trying to escape the reality of life through substances like drugs and alcohol will only fuel the feeling of fatigue and disinterest in pursuing your purpose. These substances are all about ‘chilling’ and relaxing and not about relentlessly pursuing a certain goal.
In addition, if you’ve been prescribed medication for your depression, it is always advised that you should not mix prescription medication with alcohol or any other drug that your doctor has not recommended. The interaction of the chemicals in the medication and the other substances can be life threatening.
- You are not Alone
Remember that you are not alone. Even when you are hiding yourself in your room or a corner somewhere, someone is going through something almost similar. Such people gather in community programs or in online forums and it can be helpful for you to join such groups. Others have gone through what you are experiencing and there is hope that you will get better just as they did.
Also, the people in your life care deeply about your well-being. Perhaps they have not shown it yet but at least give them an opportunity to be with you and to show you that they love you. Believe you will one day feel better than you do now. The season of suffering won’t last forever.
All in all, remember that your brain is key to your life.
People never think about that until mental health issues take over and overwhelm them. So nurture your mind, feed your mind, and seek help when your mind is ill. When you feel better, find a better meaning for your life and you will be able to brush aside any thoughts that you are lazy or that you are a failure. Instead, you will be able to pursue your life’s goals and achieve your own definition of success.