September 06, 2018
The Impossible Task
Depression commercials always talk about sadness but they never mention that sneaky symptom that everyone with depression knows all too well: “The Impossible Task”. The Impossible Task could be anything: going to the bank, refilling a prescription, making your bed, checking your email, paying a bill. From the outside, its sudden impossibility makes ZERO sense.
The Impossible Task is rarely actually difficult. It’s something you’ve done a thousand times. For this reason, it’s hard for outsiders to have sympathy. “Why don’t you just do it and get it over with?” “It would take you 20 minutes and then it would be done.” OH, WE KNOW.
If you’re grappling with an Impossible Task, you already have these conversations happening in your brain. There’s probably an even more helpful voice in your brain reminding you of what a screw up you are for not being able to do this seemingly very simple thing. Another frustrating thing about The Impossible Task is that it changes on you. One time it might involve calling someone, but maybe you can work around it by emailing. Another time it’s an email issue. When you think you have it pinned down, then you become overwhelmed by the dishes.
If you currently have one or more Impossible Tasks in your life, be gentle with yourself. You’re not a screw up. Depression is just a jerk. Impossible Tasks are usually so dumb that it’s embarrassing to ask for help, but the people who love you (who truly love you) would be glad to lend a hand.
If you have a depressed person in your life, ask them what their Impossible Tasks are & figure out ways to help. Do this without judgment. It isn’t enough to let them know that you are available to help. Please go the extra mile and think about how you can actually help then act on that. A friend once picked me up, drove me the two blocks to the pharmacy, & came in to help me refill a prescription. TWO BLOCKS. It was an amazing gift.
The one good thing about struggling with Impossible Tasks is that they help you to be gentler and more empathetic with other people in your life (because you know what it’s like). You know. The trick is to turn that gentleness and empathy inward. If you're currently struggling with one or more Impossible Tasks, you're not crazy and you're not lazy. You are not alone. Be gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up isn't helping! Despite what depression tells you, this won't last. There will be a day when you're able to tackle that whole stack of old mail or drive straight to the post office or get out of bed without effort. There may even be a day when you WANT to!
Those days usually come incrementally, not all at once. But one day, hopefully in the near future, you'll feel like your favorite version of yourself again, and it will feel like seeing the sunshine for the first time in ages. It's coming, I promise. Until then, hang in there.
Take care of yourself, even if that means cutting corners in your life or not being "productive" or living on Netflix and takeout for a while. It's okay. And try to let others take care of you, too, even when you don't believe you deserve it. Remember that people want to help you because they love you and allowing them to do something for you is its own form of kindness.
Whenever you're tempted to beat yourself up for being lazy, remember that you fought harder to get out of bed and get yourself dressed today than the average person could even imagine. You're not lazy. Your mountains are just that much steeper. Keep going. You are worth it.