Depression and Why I Feel Like a Failure
I’ve been having a very hard time making myself take a shower. There is nothing like knowing that your hair needs to be washed, trying to make that happen all day, and then realizing, at bedtime, that you’ve failed, again. Now, as I’ve remarked earlier, we don’t want to shower when we’re sick and this is just a part of the grand disease known as depression. I get that. But somehow, that doesn’t make me feel like any less of a failure.
It’s the Little Things that Seem Overwhelming with Depression
I have problems with lots of the little things. Opening mail, for example. You would think that tearing tiny pieces of paper and reading letters would be relatively simple, but it’s not – at least, not for me. For me, I just think about the mail and I get overwhelmed. I actually have to talk myself into actually opening little envelopes.
And while this could be driven by, say, an inability to pay bills, for me, it’s not. For me it’s just mail, in and of itself. For whatever reason, I just can’t do it.
Feeling Like a Failure at the End of the Day
And I know I need to do things like shower and open the mail. These are normal, everyday activities that need doing. But so often, at the end of the day I find that I haven’t done them – again. And this knowledge of failing at the little things is so depressing. I tend to beat myself up about it.
It’s a Symptom of Depression
As I mentioned earlier, feeling overwhelmed by even tiny things is one of the things that happens to people who are depressed. I totally get this. But this doesn’t make me feel any better. This intellectual knowledge doesn’t seem to seep into my emotional center. It doesn’t seem to chip away at the feelings of failure. But then, I find so often that intellectual knowledge is incapable of beating something as powerful as depression.
Don’t Let Depression Remove Your Compassion
What I think I need to remember, though, is that if I were someone else, I would feel compassion for that person. I would feel like being kind to that person. I wouldn’t consider them a failure. I would consider them someone with an illness that needed help.
And if I would exhibit that compassion and kindness for someone else, then I deserve it too. I need to not let my depression destroy my compassion – for myself. Because these problems really aren’t my fault. They’re an illness. And not overcoming a particular illness symptom on one day isn’t failure – it’s just admitting that the disease was more powerful than me – on that day. Tomorrow is another day. And with my compassion, I can view that day as a fresh slate onto which to write success.
3 Tips for Getting Things Done Even When Depressed
You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.
Tracy, N. (2014, May 27). Depression and Why I Feel Like a Failure, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2014/05/depression-and-why-i-feel-like-a-failure
Author: Natasha Tracy
What a feeling hearing that I'm not crazy. I was diagnosed years ago with depression but in the past five years have had the added stress of caring for my husband and grandmother. I hide my emotions from all but 2 friends that listen to parts of my feelings. But just recently have begun feeling totally overwhelmed by everything, especially simple self care issues. I try writing lists so it is not just in my head. But then looking at the list gets me down. And I felt totally alone and crazy for feeling this way. Someone sent me a link to this site to help her explain how she felt. It was an eyeopener for me. It will help us both.
And I thought I was one of a few that had a tough time with easy things. I went to behavioral health professionals years ago and received medication and counseling on what was diagnosed as depression. From these comments, I know that I am still dealing with depression. I still avoid doing the simplest of things because I see them as overwhelming. For example, I would leave a sock on the floor for days because I saw it as a burden just to pick it up. Let's not talk about the bathroom project that is approaching 18 months. I've found that the book, Psycho Cybernetics, written by Matthew Maltz, has provided at least a plan, if followed, to improve one's personal impression of them-self. Again, a good source of information if I can get past the feeling of being overwhelmed to improving my situation. It seems that I am my own worst enemy.
Andi - I feel the exact same way. Every word. And I spend WAY TOO MUCH time in my head. Maybe I'm not as weird as I think. :)
I just stood in my living room opposite my husband gazing out of my living room window at the tiny patch of front lawn that's grown into a meadow and my hedge that looks like it's been dragged backwards!,
I like gardening!, I have the knowledge, so why the heck can't I just go out there and do it. Its so frustrating and I was standing gazing at the messiness and talking to myself (inside my mind) trying to convince myself how easy I could sort it out. Hubby said What you doing? Talking to myself I said. Then he asked me if I wanted the computer.
"Yes" I said and sat down in my seat and typed, .............. I feel like a failure, in Capital letters, it brought me here, I felt compelled to write. FAILURE SOUND EFFECT DUH DUNNNNNN. Ain't it crap? crap crap crap I really hate it, depression that is.
I do, I feel that at my age I have not achieved any sort of status, everything I tried always crumbled and failed or was taken away. I must have done something really bad in a previous life. i say that with humour, I do have humour. At least. I have so many thoughts going around my head, like stuff that needs doing, it's such an effort. Maybe my anti depressants aren't working enough, but overcoming my phone phobia and getting to the appointment if I actually remember when it is to go to the doctors is a whole other set of issues. Good Grief. Venting helps sometimes. Puts things in perspective a little. Your Blog is Great, Be Proud!!.
So I'm really not alone. I sure feel all alone sometimes. I've been depressed for years, very severely. I'm hanging by a thread. I also thing bi polar. Some days i.am proud of myself, for simply taking that shower. But I'm exhausted afterword....I need help. And I need it soon.
Just hearing that somebody else finds taking a shower so tough is really comforting! I'm not the only one!!! Thanks!
I have been dealing with this illness for 30+ years. I have gotten to the point where I can't even open my e-mail, much less an envelope. I have a ridiculously stressful job as a community college teacher, but with 3 days before the semester starts, I can't even get the energy to make oatmeal in the microwave. I guess it is funny. I've dealt with this by using The Rule of 4. If I can do 4 things in one day, then it is an official and a successful day. So showering, shaving, shampooing and having a bowl of cereal is 4 things: successful day. Or any combo of 4 -- walking and feeding the dog, making a bowl of cereal, picking a book off the floor--4 things. Success. Anything after 4 things is gravy. If you answer a text, that counts toward the 4. Reading a magazine article counts. Positioning a chair in a different direction counts. Pretty soon you might do 6 or 7 things.
Dedicated to all those who feel like giving up
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he'd stuck it out.
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are -
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.
Every DAY I fail. Every, g.d. day. Nothing ever changes. I try, and try and try and FAIL
Tortoise and the hare... I find as long as I try to do a little something each day (no matter how small) I don't feel like such a failure. I may not be first to finish the race but at least I know I WILL get done what needs to be done EVENTUALLY if I don't give up.
I don't do showers but I do find it hard to get motivated to take a bath most days. I try to break it down though. One day I have a bath and the next day I wash my hair - I am not always successful with this strategy but I try. Somedays all I can do is fill the tub with water and then go back to sleep
When I come home from work I often fall asleep on the couch in my work clothes and the next day I either change my top OR change my slacks
Don't even talk to me about the dishes (I don't have a dish washer but I do have 16 place settings). By the time I get to the weekend I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of dishes that need to be done but I still try to do something even if it's jist rinsing them off and letting them soak in the sink. Once I made a nice Christmas dinner (my mother helped) and then it took me nearly 6 months to get ALL the dishes washed after I'd rinsed them off but at least I got them done eventually one by one
I find I've had to lower my expectations since I've been on medication for this damm disease. For a perfectionist like myself that has been pretty hard to take. I've had to compromise a lot. I'm learning to rejoice though in the fact that I'm a lot more sane than I used to be. I try not to focus so much on the negative. I know from my own experience that things could be a whole lot worse...
I don't do showers but I too have trouble getting motivated to take a bath. I try to focus on either washing my hair that day OR taking a bath. When I come home from work I often sleep on the couch in my work clothes then either change my top OR my slacks the next day. Don't even talk to me about dishes (I don't have a dishwasher). One year I managed to make a turkey dinner for myself and my parents but it took me about 6 months to get ALL the dishes done. I'd just rinse them off and there they would sit for what seemed like an eternity. At work I am extremely neat and organized but at home I just can't seem to get it together a lot of the time. If I can at least do one small thing each day I don't feel like such a failure. It actually motivates me to do more the next day. But when I sit on the couch all day and can't bring myself to do ANYTHING it's then that I feel most like a failure. As long as I am making some progress (no matter how small) it makes me feel good. The trick is not to compare yourself to others who can do what you can't. Just focus on YOUR accomplishments and try a littler harder the next day. As long as you're making progress you are a success... just like the tortoise and the hare. Who cares that I'm the tortoise. I don't. Why should you?
Lol that girl in the red was making fun of depression and how it's hard to do small things.
I can relate to the thing about opening the mail. My desk looks like a tornado hit it at times because of my aversion to opening and organizing bills. It's a bummer.
You're absolutely right about compassion as well. I would never attack another person dealing with what I deal with, so why would I do that to myself? I think self-hatred is an integral part of depression itself.
Thank You so much for what you have chosen to do, and for listening to your calling. I have spent many years looking for someone who can understand my disease. I am not even sure how I found you on that y internet. I guess it was God. I have been so lonely for so many years. I pray that your posts help me to understand this crazy disease! PLEASE KEEP YOUR EDUCATIONAL POST COMMING! BY THE WAY I HAVE BI-POLAR 1 DISORDER, AND HAVE BEEN ON DISIBILITY FOR 14 YEARS. I ALSO HAVE A VNS INPLANT!!!
Here I sit, un-bathed for about a week (or more) now. A stack of mail growing taller every day. The feelings of failure beat into me like self-inflicted wounds.
As others have stated, they too thought they were the only ones. While this eases my feelings of despair, still, I am so completely overwhelmed by every day living, I sleep all day and am awake all night. My home is a disaster, I've lost my creative ability, I can no longer draw, paint, write. My ability to think is often clouded by fears of being wrong or thought of as stupid or unimportant. I've been in therapy about 2 years now since being diagnosed with anxiety,PTSD, BPD and depression.
Thank you to Natasha Tracy for writing this article and to those who commented. I know I am not alone and that in itself will help.
Wow, I SO identify. I have a hard time functioning. Somehow I make it to work everyday, but I have a hard time making myself shower, so when I go to work I wash the crucial spots with a wash cloth but my hair can get so disgusting it's embarrassing. Every day I set the alarm so I can take a shower but I only do it about twice a week. I also am too tired and overwhelmed to wash the dishes because even if I wash them, there are so many I have to load the dishwasher twice and the rest of my family contributes to it. I too have a hard time emptying the trash out of my bathroom trash cans. I have piles of stuff all over, clothes to mend, clothes to put away, piles of stuff on dining room table, piles of correspondence I can't seem to take care. I just don't understand how I can somehow make myself do professional things at work, but I come home so exhausted I can't move, and on the weekend I just want to check out by watching TV and napping I can't take anymore input. I agree with Natasha...the thing is if I do one little thing (i.e., wash one load of clothes, just put the silverware in the dishwasher, I feel better and sometimes get the energy to do more, but also feel exhausted after just putting the silverware in the dishwasher. In my mind, I don't just feel like a failure, I truly AM a failure. I can't get birthday cards, father's day cards, christmas cards out. I also have ADD I think or it may be depression. I get out a card, then put it down and can't find the envelope. I find the card, find the envelope, and write the card. Then I can't find the address book. I find the address book and can no longer find the card. I finally finish the complete process of writing card, addressing it and even putting a stamp on it. Then I lay it down somewhere and can't find it. I put it in the car to drop at the mail box at work and find it in a grocery bag piled on my dining room table a month later. I SO identify with JGM Ohio. I am a 56 y/o grandma. It's too much to go to grocery store, unload groceries, cook then clean up, so I buy take out or TV dinners. I make lists and put it down in half hours intervals and tell myself tomorrow I'm going to do this, and then tomorrow I may be lucky to do 1/4 of something on the list. Then I write a new list and can't make myself do those things the next day or week or month later. I felt SO proud of myself because I managed to get a going away card in the mail and even pick up clothes at dry cleaner. Thank you thank you thank you for being here. This is my first post at this web site. I also just started going to DBSA support group and this wonderful helpful man told me about this website.
Wow! You just nailed it. I feel so much better reading this. I feel utterly overwhelmed by having to deal with mail. Little stuff like this just feels huge. Yet if you were to ask me to go off and write something for you I'd not even blink and run off and come back to you with something great! Why is it that the stuff others find not a big deal is so huge for us? Thank you for making me feel not so alone in my struggles with this!
oh my gosh...I thought it was just "me" being dysfunctional with this BPD. The effort of dragging myself into the bathroom, get everything ready, actually TAKE a shower...sometimes it seems insurmountable. I have therapy once a week, and church on Sundays & it takes HOURS for me to just get ready to leave the house because it seems like such a daunting task. The mail..yes..I have piles of unopened letters, bills, etc. I dread opening the envelopes. Again, like others have said, not because of actually PAYING them..but all the contents, leaflets, and other stuff (in my mind)are just too much to handle. As I read this post, I'm sitting here looking at 2 trash bags that should have been taken out days ago, a sink full of dirty dishes, a pot of spaghetti that has been sitting on the stove for at least 2-3 days and a kitchen floor that should have been mopped a month ago. I've never been a super-Suzie-homemaker, but when I'm in this "place" of depression there's no amount of MAKING myself do anything. It isn't that I WON'T, it's that I CAN'T. I'm a 57 yr old woman, with grown adult children who all live in other states..although my mother still lives next door. She is 90 and still keeps her home immaculate with no extra help. I *want* to be like that. When I do see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, I'm still so overwhelmed with everything, so I plan & make lists (in my head and on paper), revising them in the order each thing needs done. Revise, repeat, list, revise, repeat, list. Still nothing gets done because my lists end up being so huge, there's no way to get any of it done in the first place.
I've even thought of asking my mother for help, but that's not a viable option. If I hear her say "How in the world can you live like this?" , or, "You certainly weren't raised in a house this nasty" one more time I'm going to scream !!
@Ross. I too used to live in a shelter. Having no home became the hardest part. The landlord would come in and be cross with the state of my room. I had to navigate the hallways of recently released convicts, all of whom were men, to even get to the shower room. My door was knocked constantly buy heroine addicts ''Nat, have you got a can?'' Nat, have you got a roll up?'' ''Nat, have you got a pound?" I was 18 months living in shelters. I was bullied in the first one (by workers), kicked out of the second, and the one I describe above was the last one I stayed in. This one had no workers. I was there for 8months. These places will make you crazy but it's there or the street and you want to get housed. Having nothing doesn't make you nothing. Money and material posessions ar dead things. You are a living breathing being that is more important than all that crap. I hope you get well soon and wish you get a place of your own soon. My best advice to you is when you are feeling up to it, read up on your rights and entitlements as a resident in a shelter in your country and find out if there is a positive thinking or a mental health/ depression self help/support group. These kind of places you will tend to meet people interested in you as a person not in what you have or don't have. Unless it's to help you.
Great, great article. Sometimes I wish I could switch bodies like in the movie "Freaky Friday" so my husband could see the depression I live with everyday. When the sink is full of dishes, the house is dirty and cluttered and I just want to roll over in bed and sleep my life away and not have to DEAL with anything.When you feel like a failure everyday of your life and I get no compassion at all. The only thing he can say to me is "O poor pitiful Jill". Like I want to feel this way!
So hard to be dependent on meds to just get up and go to therapy because you have kids and hubby who never notice all we do to make sure they have clean clothes, get up in the morning, and have a lunch made for them to take to work. Sorry for the ranting. :)
Great article.People just dont understand why I can't just get up and do something.
Kate Walsh I completely know what your going through and everyone else. I wish that people could walk in my shoes for just one day so they could see how much bipolar can be such a struggle on a daily basis. Most of the time,I just be a fake pers9n.
Oh wow! Can I ever relate to all these posts. I've been sitting here for 3 days looking at a pile of dirty dishes and am in desperate need of a shower. I only have until Wed. am to get this trailer organized as I have to head home. It's really not looking good. Then the thought of packing is only making it worse. Thanks for the posts and listening
I have been so grateful to read this I can go two months without having a shower. My flat has gone from untidy to dirty. My depression is maintained by being a carer to my parents, which was identified as one of my my stressors by a counsellor. I get home and look around and make great plans for the next day which never happen.
Personally, I can't relate to this, but I have friends who can. Is there anything I can do for them?
Unfortunately, I can really relate to this article. Thank you so much for sharing. It is good to know that I am not alone...
I live in a shelter, I can't work, I forget my meds because the keep them locked up (out of sight, out of mind), I feel as if I have nothing of myself and nothing else to give. I have nothing and therefore I am nothing......
Rachael, I so relate. I used to be considered high functioning, working part time, cleaning the house, cooking meals for my family...I've been very sick since the middle of Feb with depression and psychotic symptoms. I've had to go on extended leave from work. It takes so much energy to take a shower and only take one every 3-4 days so my family doesn't complain. I'm now considered not functioning, just surviving and it sucks! Everything takes so much energy and then I wind up sleeping 15 hours a day. My Dr is looking into ECT for me, he thinks it's my only chance of getting back to a high functioning person.
I to struggle with the shower. Luckily I have a very supportive boyfriend. Almost all my bills are auto pay and I have myself on a cash budget for incidentals during the month. I have found Flylady.net is helpful to encourage me. I find if I do get dressed to shoes it does motivate me to do a bit more.
I am so glad I found this website. Knowing others are going through the same experiences is comforting, but not that I wish anyone to have this mental illness and the toll it takes on your life. I'm 62 and feel most of the time, that I should know what I need to survive by now. It doesn't matter how long this illness has been in my life, its just that by now I would catch the pitfalls, jump and keep moving forward. I rerun in my head everything that must be done on the inside and outside of this house, my bible study for woman, taking a shower and getting dressed before 12 noon. And exercise before it is too hot in the day, so the even the dog can get some too. And then wishing I didn't have to take the medicine because of the weight gain, and when your sick you don't want to get up and therein lies another culprit. And so at my age, I'm in good health, but if I don't lose the wtg. where will I be in the next 10 yrs. So many worries,and I just give up and do the least possible for the day, and feel like if I made it through supper for my husband, accomplishment has been made. I am overwhelmed. So I have gone back to therapy to see if I can get help about a schedule and other tools to help with this kind of pain and lashing to my mind.
I am 70 years old. I spent my entire life thinking I would someday be better but now I know I will never be. What the world fails to see is that we have no “shock absorbers” a tiny bump in the road is like hitting a boulder for us yet people simply tell us we are too sensitive. They judge us by our messy houses and unkempt appearances I have found solace in massive amounts of self imposed isolation because I can be kind to myself even if no one else can. Put on some simon and Garfunkel music turn off your phones. Have some pot if you live in a state where you can get it. Don’t come out until you want too. Tell yourself you are wonderful even if you have to force yourself to. Never keep a critical person in your life. You don’t have to take a shower to do this. God bless I know
As someone who suffered/suffers depression and anxiety and also worked in mental health I would say to clients 'just do what you can' if a shower is your big achievement for the day then give yourself a pat on the back, do not measure yourself by society's or others ideas of 'success'. What is it about showers? they make us feel so much better when we are wading about in the sludge of depression and yet having one is like climbing a mountain - there is something for me about feeling very vulnerable having a shower when unwell. Like a snail without its shell.
Natasha--great article!! I want to share the video portion with my mom, who has no computer. Any way to get the transcript?
I'm sorry, I don't have a transcript. I'm glad you found the article so useful :)
I struggle with showering and doing any of the basic daily things others take as due course. I feel a failure every day that I don't accomplish these simple things. It is comforting to know others share this struggle but disturbing to me that it seems to be so common among us with bpd. I wish everyone the best in their endeavors.
I also have a problem with showering. If I don't have to go out I put off showering until I have to go out. I really don't understand except that it is part of depression. I will literally let myself run out of the basic food like milk, bread etc. before I get in the shower to go out.
I totally get this. I feel like a failure quite often. I don't know why it's so hard to take a shower, clean the house, go to the grocery store, cook a meal, or make a phone call. Sometimes it feels difficult to do anything! I think it helps if we can avoid comparing what we can do to what others can do(or even what we have been able to do in the past).
I am so happy to read this! Not that I am happy that any of you are struggling, it just felt good to have someone understand! I did manage to bathe and get dressed today and felt so much better after I did. But days go by when I just cannot force myself. I have the same thing with garbage, as Bewildered Bug. Got it out today, but it was a full leaf size bag and a kitchen trash bag full and it's just me. I tell myself each time that I am not going to let it happen again, but the pattern just repeats itself.
Ms. Tracey, I feel the exact same way. The whole mail thing has been plaguing me for years - not because I cannot pay bills, but just cause opening them and deciding what to do with them feels overwhelming - just as you stated. For the last few months I have been forcing myself to shower, which grosses even me out - it takes me hours and hours of self-cajoling to get myself to go shower - which is weird cause I love showers and baths! And to clean the house? Takes weeks of internal yelling. Right now my front hall is packed high with recycling and garbage to take outside because I "cannot be bothered". I hate that I cannot seem to beat this by myself but am a bit comforted that I am not the only one going through this sort of thing. And yes...that, the seeming inability to get past this stage of life and the difficulty in seeing any way out is completely making me feel like a failure!!
If I don't have to work or otherwise go out, I don't bathe. I could but the payoff (clean body) does not seem worth the price (effort). I have to look normal when I go out for work or to the store. Otherwise people will notice me and I don't want to attract anyone's attention.
I don't even know any normal people to tell if this behavior is with acceptable parameters to be considered normal.
I have no desire to make new friend. I have not met anyone new and become their friend since high school (I am 45 years old).
I think that when normal people look at depressed people and hear the symptoms we exhibit, they think depression is real and that there is a problem, but 15 minutes later they think it is our fault. That somehow we are weak people. That we could be normal if we tried.
There is a little truth in this but if your body only stands 5'2" tall, even if you stand on your tippy toes, you will never be 6' tall. Somethings just cannot be done.
I so relate, at least to the part about not showering and the mail. I can laugh about it now! In the present day I no longer suffer most of the time. Maybe one day a month at the most (hormones). I started by giving myself atta-girls for what I was doing and shrugging off what I wasn't as no big deal. It sounds cold but if you can accept the distress without giving away your power..... And remember depression is anger turned inward. clinical or situational it's all suppressed anger (and it's not at you, what situation or person hurt you to the point where you couldn't (because you weren't safe enough) even admit to your feelings let alone express them. If you can tap into that.....look out! Oh the feelings won't kill you, even though it feels like they will, try not to be afraid of them.
Thank you for posting a great article! I have struggled with similar tasks being so overwhelming and then I too come down hard on myself. It is also hard to explain to others without depression just how hard these 'simple tasks' are. Considering that I am also what is called high functioning it can make it even more difficult to explain to others. Yes, I am able to make sure that bills are paid on time, I can have meals prepared for the kids, help the kids as needed, run errands, etc but at the same time it takes a lot of self talk to do those things and then I need lots of down time to just recuperate. It is hard to explain how I am able to do stuff for my kids, but the simple task of showering just can't be done at times. Love reading this blog and just seeing how I am not the only one who has to struggle with depression.