When I was younger, it was not uncommon for people to think I was lazy. I didn’t ever want to go outside (we’ll ignore that playing outside involved a high likelihood of being bullied), I watched too much TV and later spent too much time online, I quit too easily, I didn’t try hard enough in school, I put off doing my homework and chores, etc, etc, etc.
I’m sure lots of kids have these things said about them and I’m sure I’ve made my fair share of choices to earn that label, but I think it was a bit more of a fight for me. There were times when I felt like there was a mental force field blocking me from doing something even when it was something that I wanted to do. Something sucked the strength from my muscles at the thought of getting up and accomplishing something. It may be made from the same stuff that keeps your from touching something dirty like poop or bugs or dead animals or, more likely, it’s made of that stuff that makes you think you need to stop running way before you actually need to. It’s the thing that makes you want to stay in bed when your alarm goes off and makes you want to run away from an embarrassing situation.
I could never quite articulate it. I didn’t know that I had depression at the time and I didn’t even really know what depression was. According to TV commercials, it was something that makes attractive moms with very clean, but blandly decorated bedrooms want to lean their backs against the door frame and slide down to the floor with their head in their hands. I was pretty sure I didn’t have that. But look at some of those depression symptoms again:
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Feelings of pessimism
- excessive sleeping
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
Laziness is a unwillingness to do work, use energy, or do things with care, but depression can rob you of that willingness or that capability. I am not, not, not saying that everyone who acts lazy is depressed or that people with depression can’t get work done, but in my circumstance, I think I was further deflated by the blame and guilt placed on me for something that I didn’t understand and couldn’t describe, but felt was an affliction.
There were times when I couldn’t get important work done without waiting long enough for panic to set in and motivate me. Eventually this turned into starting 10 page papers at 3 am the day they were due. Then the morning of. Then at some point the panic didn’t even kick in until a few days after the assignments was due. Once, in college, I just stopped going to a class because I couldn’t get myself to do the final assignment. I would sometimes fantasize about getting hit by a car on the way to school. Not badly, just enough to get me out of turning in the assignment on time. In middle school, I distinctly remember fantasizing often about just collapsing in the hallway for some unknown reason. That was at least I could stop and lie down and everyone else would realize there was something wrong with me without me having to justify it.
I wasn’t like this all the time of course. I would snap out of it and get my energy back. I would be able to be productive and social and act like a real human, but those times also came with a little bit of self-shaming. Why couldn’t I just do these things before? Why couldn’t I just get them done and make my life easier? I just didn’t realize at the time that I was cycling through better and worse times and I didn’t have the language to talk or think about it. I didn’t figure much of this out until my late 20s (which I am still in).
I really wish I had discovered this laziness/depression connection sooner. I experienced a lot of hurt and frustration over being blamed and insulted for the obstacles in my way. Then I turned around and shamed myself for it. The laziness thing kind of became part of my identity over time which, when paired with eventually not giving a fuck, turned it into a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy.