An old one and much too long, but as ever, I got a little carried away …
There are times when the exhaustion makes me feel like I’m wading through treacle whilst carrying a donkey on my back. Pretty much impossible and not much fun, unless you’re particularly strong and have a thing for treacle that is.
Exhaustion which leads to lethargy so ghastly that any simple tasks like cooking food, emptying the dishwasher (first world problem – sorry), taking out the rubbish, going to the supermarket, anything and absolutely everything is an immense effort, and how would I deal with this? Obviously I would procrastinate. Durr! (As my children so eloquently say.)
The one minor flaw in dealing with life in this way, is that there is a distinct possibility of ending up existing alone on Tesco ready meals with a house akin to a hoarder. A hoarder who can’t move in or out of the front door because it’s filled to the gunnels with bin bags full of stinking rubbish. And then, God forbid, the neighbours call the council because there’s a bad smell wafting from the house – “A dead cat festering perhaps?” they ask the man from the council in his fluorescent jacket holding a clipboard ….. “Oh no,” he says, “it’s just the lady with the lethargy – she can’t be bothered to clean.” Sucking through teeth and much tutting ensues – oh the shame of it. Ok so I’ve gone a little off piste, but you get my drift …. Not very appealing, but frankly not completely unthinkable in days of old in my case.
All those wretched jobs that need to be done in order to lead a relatively normal life. Endless tidying up, dealing with the post and emails, doing the washing, cooking, cleaning, sorting out the children, feeding the children ….. Frankly the list is endless, and just when you think it’s done, a new day dawns and it starts all over again. Whether you’re a working mum, a stay-at-home mum or not a mum at all, if you suffer from the lethargy that depression can bring, it’s hard going! And for those of you who work and bring up children and done it as a single parent, hats off to you. It’s seriously hard. I should know.
The jobs seem to mount up in my mind which whizzes around like my mother’s old Kenwood. Then as I make yet another cup of tea (as a form of procrastination to begin said tasks), I realise that the grass hasn’t been cut yet, and I haven’t posted the (already) tardy birthday presents that gorgeous husband has entrusted me to take to the post office. Putting these extra two, very guilty jobs in the Kenwood and it’s all starting to metaphorically spurt out over the kitchen ….. brain has gone into overdrive so I grab the iPad, sit down with my tea and go on Facebook to look at my friends perfect ‘proud Mummy moments’ lives and curse the lot of them. Oh so constructive – not.
The problem, alongside my brain behaving like a Kenwood mixer is that all I actually want to do is sleep … although I’m a bit too fidgety to sleep (that’s the medication for you). Alright, just lie down and switch off my mind with something that requires little or no effort. Some me-time. A nice documentary perhaps, or better still, a murder mystery …. an Agatha Christie …. a bit of sensible old Poirot solving everything, making the world a better place in his wonderfully ordered, organised way. Yes, now that’s what I need. Poirot, tea and sofa ….. oh but the guilt! What if someone found out that I was watching daytime television? How sad am I? But I’m ill aren’t I? I suffer from depression and anxiety. Can I not therefore justify this slovenly behaviour? Can I not just lie down on that oh so comfy sofa?
And this is where the change comes in and the hard work begins.
How to combat this problem.
Firstly, a list. But a very short and easy list. Just put the absolutely have-to-be done jobs on the list.
Previously I was a great list-maker, however my lists just got longer, scribbled on and transferred onto new lists. There were urgent lists, leisurely lists, lists of things to do, things for the children to do, things for anyone except me to do, and things I should do, but in reality would never do.
- Ok, so one list. A short, achievable one.
- Next, the pact, or promise. I say to myself, “when I have done my list of jobs, then, and only then can I have tea and Poirot.” My reward. Simples! And absolutely no cheating.
The first job is always without fail the absolute worst. The issue, more often than not is simply the initial effort required, the actual levering oneself out of the chair with the right mindset. That’s the killer. That’s the treacle and the donkey. So count down from three, kick off the donkey and get wading through.
Once I am up and with the thought of the reward in the distance, I suddenly find myself weirdly propelled into action. The clothes are hung out, the kitchen is tidy and the bread maker is on (I’ve timed it … it takes 3 minutes and 45 seconds to put the ingredients in and set it off). As I’m doing my jobs, I keep doing little extra ones, emptying a bin here, putting clothes away there …. upstairs, downstairs, upstairs, downstairs. In fact, a lot of what I’m doing is simply moving things from one room to another.
Now here’s the curious thing; I’m on a roll. I’m enjoying the moment. I’m enjoying the result of my activities. The end reward of Poirot is no longer my focus …. my focus is the here and now.
It must also be said that because of the previous decluttering exercise, life is now considerably easier … as in, everything has its own place and space. So emptying the dishwasher (back to the first world problem again – must find another example) is in fact super quick because the cupboards are now half empty, (or half full depending on my mood). As in, I’m not at the stage when I open the door that 27 tupperware boxes and only 19 (mismatching of course) lids fall out. So there’s also the pleasure of seeing things ‘sorted’ and of course the rather smug metaphorical patting on my back as I admire my tidy cupboards! Reminder to self, smugness is not an attractive quality.
Nooooo, this is the new, improved me and therefore job number one is done in a flash. Another note to self, don’t get overconfident and attempt at this early stage of recovery to multitask … this results in utter bedlam. Well, it does for me. My brain requires complete focussed attention on one and only one activity at one time.
Pestering my mind however is the phone call I have to make. It will keep pestering me until it’s done. Bite the darn bullet and do it I tell myself! Betty the Demon Depressive is laughing at me ….. ok, Ill do it, I’ll make the call …. but I’ll go and clean the bathroom first … but eventually I do make the phone call because even I can’t stoop so low as to cheat myself and not complete the list. I speak to a very nice lady from the council who sorts out my queries and we have a nice little natter to boot. Sorted! YES! List officially complete …. Poirot here I come. Although it wouldn’t hurt just to clean the kitchen floor whilst I’m at it … I’d actually rather like to do it. I’m really quite happy. …
Every, single day write a list and do the jobs. This is training your brain to create a new habit. You are ditching the habit of procrastinating.
Every day, no matter how good or bad we feel, we can fall back on the list and the jobs. Until slowly, slowly it becomes a habit. Our routine and structure. We get up, we wash, make the bed, tidy the bedroom ….. just the little mundane tasks become a habit and normal. Gradually we can add other tasks to the list, slowly, slowly. The objective is to complete, achieve and reward. Yes, I have morphed into a dog.
The next days and weeks when we have to force yourself to beat the lethargy, it’s fractionally easier, in part because we know we can do it. We have achieved before and can do it again. Don’t forget, Betty wants us to hide under the bed with the bottle, the multi-pack of multi-flavoured crisps and a secret cigarette for the rest of our lives. Fight the bitch.
It’s very, very tough, but as my wonderful mother used to tell me, “Who ever told you life was easy?”
Do you suffer from this lethargy? How do you deal with it?