Those who struggle with depression are probably familiar with ‘the impossible task’
Depression symptoms vary from person to person. What one person struggling with a bout of depression may endure on a typical day may look wildly different for another person — it’s so much more nuanced than just “sadness.” One Twitter user highlighted an important symptom of depression that doesn’t get as much focus as other symptoms — the “impossible task.”
Author M. Molly Backes shared a thread about the “sneaky symptom” of depression many of us can relate to but one that is rarely, if ever, highlighted in mainstream discussions about depression.
Depression commercials always talk about sadness but they never mention that sneaky symptom that everyone with depression knows all too well: the Impossible Task. pic.twitter.com/lPix73WO2d
— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
While commercials about depression (and even more so commercials advertising anti-depressants) aren’t the end all, be all for how we talk about our mental health, it would be beneficial if they didn’t just skim the surface of what living with depression is truly like for millions of people.
Take the Impossible Task, for instance.
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.— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
Personally, my Impossible Tasks fall on a sliding scale depending on where I’m at in my state of depression. There’s Impossible Lite, which is when I put off replying to emails or text messages and communicating with people in general. Then there’s the other end of the scale, which is when my household organization is a giant dumpster fire metaphor for my mental health.
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 & get it over with?” “It would take you like 20 minutes & then it would be done.” OH, WE KNOW.— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
It’s probably frustrating for outsiders looking in. We know this. We still can’t help it.
If you’re grappling with an Impossible Task, you already have these conversations happening in your brain. Plus, 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.— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
Another cool 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. Then when you think you have it pinned down, you suddenly can’t do the dishes.— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
BINGO. This tends to create a snowball effect for some of us, and it feels even more Impossible to find our way out of it.
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 an asshole. Impossible Tasks are usually so dumb that it’s embarrassing to ask for help, but the people who love you should be glad to lend a hand.— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
Earlier this year, I found myself teetering on the edge of a deep depression. A lot of personal issues were exploding simultaneously and years of not making myself a priority began to really bite me in the ass. My Impossible Task was getting myself in a therapist’s chair. My sister made a list of some in my area, sent it to me, and offered to call them and make an appointment around my schedule. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to not have to do it for myself.
If you have a depressed person in your life, ask them what their Impossible Tasks are & figure out ways to help—without judgment. 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.— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
The one good thing about struggling with Impossible Tasks is that they help you to be gentler & more empathetic with other people in your life, because you know what it’s like. You know. The trick is to turn that gentleness & empathy toward yourself.— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
Backes’ words resonated with many people — some of whom thanked her for being able to articulate what they couldn’t.
Which is sometimes something as minor as brushing your teeth/getting dressed/answering a yes or no question https://t.co/yuEDrJ0zVE
— Felonious Munk is at @zanieschicago 8//18-19 (@Felonious_munk) August 29, 2018
Others found her words validated their own struggles — whether they’re depression-related or not.
Yesss. Also ADHD gives me a lot of habitual Impossible Tasks and even if I'm not depressed when they pop up, my inability to get them done can death spiral pretty rapidly. Hating myself for being useless at things others find easy = epic mood. https://t.co/TDfXvDQWyG
— Bree should be writing #MercenaryLibrarians (@mostlybree) August 29, 2018
This thread on the Impossible Task in depression is very true and very familiar.
*looks pointedly at envelope that's been on my desk for months that I just need to get a stamp for and post* https://t.co/55B2dsnmya
— Georgia | Saoirse (@sniphist) August 29, 2018
Trying to explain yourself to people who don’t totally “get it” feels humiliating. If you’re someone who doesn’t entirely understand why a depressed person in your life can’t pay bills on time or run errands or clean their house — offer to help them with those things. If you’re someone who can relate to this thread, please know you’re not alone. You’re not less than, you’re not a screw-up, and you’re not lazy.
Sharing experiences with one another — like this thread and everyone responding to it — just helps us all be better humans, period.