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The Most Infuriating Symptom of Depression

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I’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression since I was a teenager (over 30 years now). One thing that still gets to me is how I can desperately want to do something, but can’t seem to make myself do it.

One prime example has been going on the past couple of weeks: I have really wanted to go to the pool. I have a membership for the YMCA pretty much for that purpose. It’s been really hot, even inside, the past month and it would wonderful to go cool off and relax at the end of a workday.

But I just can’t make myself go.

It seems simple to just put on a swimsuit or pack one in a bag, get in the car and drive the 10 minutes to the gym. I don’t understand why it’s not. Every time, I feel frozen. I will plan to go, then when it’s time, I’ll actually start to get ready. Then I find something that makes me hesitate: it’s pretty cloudy outside, will I get there just as it starts to rain? Are my waterproof earbuds charged up? Will it be crowded? (I hate crowds.) Do I have enough time before it closes to make it worth going?

Even one of these questions can start a spiral. That’s all it takes. Suddenly I’m doubting myself and start to feel frozen.

Then, the last nail is hammered into the coffin. One small, innocent question is almost always quickly followed by, “I’m so overweight and undisciplined that one time in the pool won’t make a difference anyway, so why try?”

At that point, I know I’m done for. I don’t have the strength at this point in my life to overcome that specific thought at that moment. When I’m not in the moment, I can tell myself the pool relaxes me, that the weightlessness in the water helps my joints, even temporarily. I can tell myself being out in the sun gives me much-needed vitamin D and helps my mood, that the time in the hot tub is helpful for my often sore muscles. But in that moment of trying to actually go, none of that matters.

The worst part is as soon as this dialogue with myself has occurred, usually lasting until it literally is too late to go (since I usually go in the evening), the guilt and shame set in. Why did I not go? Why am I paying for a gym membership each month when I’m struggling so much financially if I’m not going to use it? Should I give it up? But if I give it up, will I suddenly want to start going? I know going would have made me feel better so I must be senseless to not go …

The spiral continues with these thoughts, which get louder and louder and stronger and stronger until I just want to quit everything.

Then the next day, I wonder why I just couldn’t make myself go.  I decide that next time I have the opportunity, I’ll try again.  However, there’s a part of me that knows the same thing will most likely happen.

It’s terrifying to know you are a smart woman who has had some major successes in life, but you can’t make yourself do something as simple as go to the pool when you want. Even knowing all I have been able to do, I still have no idea how to accomplish this simple task.

Original photo by author

Originally published: January 8, 2020
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