Depression Personal Experience

The Lazy Student

In this article, the writer talks about their experience with depression and the importance of self-compassion over the Michaelmas vacation

Content note: depression

Today, I did nothing.

I woke up at 2pm, a whole four hours after my alarm first roused me. I rolled over and clamped my hand around my phone. Taking care not to mis-click on any of the reams of unread emails or texts or WhatsApp notifications, my fingers had begun to trace the familiar path on the glowing screen, skipping from cat videos to Camfess, from Vice articles to Buzzfeed quizzes. Lazily, I thumbed through my Twitter feed, pretending not to notice the peeling pink polish on the cracked nail.

Soon, it was 3pm.

I made a bowl of cereal. As I dragged my feet reluctantly to the sofa, the bowl slipped slightly and milk spilt down the yellow sweatshirt that I had worn for the last three days. I held back tears, and considered the irony of the situation. Then I shrugged, and let the milk join the menagerie of stains which populated this particular sweatshirt.

I watched a Disney film. I cried at a Disney film. It was 6pm.

Today, I have done nothing. I look back on the timetable I mocked up back in early December. By this point over the Christmas break, I had hoped to make notes on the lectures I missed in the last 5 weeks of Michaelmas, complete 3 of the 4 essays due in, organise meetings for next term via endless Doodle polls, go to London to visit university friends, and finally, to sort out my medication.

None of the above happened.

A few days ago, I plucked up the courage to look at the essay titles set, and after seeing that part of the task required choosing one title of twelve, I promptly closed the PDF and filed it away under “To Do”.

I feel incapable of beginning any of these tasks, and for that reason, I blame myself for being the archetype of the “lazy student”: I hardly ever change out of the same sweatshirt and joggers, my Netflix account is exercised more than my Hermes account, and I cannot think of the last time I put on a sports bra. I am lazy, unmotivated, lacklustre, idle, work-shy, plus any other synonym which undoubtedly pepper my reports on CamCORS, if I ever choose to open them and see. I am the lazy student.

However, I wasn’t always this way. As a child, I used to get up every morning at 5am and drag my body to figure-skating practice. From there, I hopped on the bus from town to school, where I would glide effortlessly through lessons, skimming the top of the class like a flat stone on a lake. Every day, too, there would be a different lunchtime activity: choir practice, chess lessons, rehearsals for the school play, Duke of Edinburgh preparations, mentoring younger students, you name it. After school, there would be more figure-skating, or gymnastics, or ballet lessons; I lived the childhood of a middle-class Bratz doll. I kept up with it all, for years.

I often trace my mind back to that person I used to be. It’s easier to frame it that way; I break myself into two separate entities, split my timeline in two, create a “before” and an “after” (self)-image. It is a form of protection, convincing myself that I have somewhat fundamentally changed between a childhood of excellence and this present life of… laziness. I have swaddled myself in this conception of my past and current self for so long that it feels wrong when I connect the timelines and inch closer to understanding why I am wracked by an inability to choose, to do, to be.

And that’s what it is. I look at the way I spend my days — eating and sleeping — and label it as “laziness”, as me being “unwilling to work or to expend energy”. But this isn’t true, or rather, it is an unfair characterisation. I haven’t stopped being the same fiery, spirited, driven person I was so many years ago; I am still filled with unrelenting vitality and passion. Only now, that energy is being rerouted and redirected from Proactivity into Avoidance. I can spend an entire day sleeping, or watching Netflix, or playing Solitaire in a dimly lit room, and feel exhausted at the end of it. How? Because the very same activities I do every day, with the curtains drawn shut and the notifications from concerned friends muted, are not motivated by an unwillingness to expend energy but rather an inability to use my energy proactively, and as a result, the necessity of avoidance to protect myself.

I am not a psychologist; I am not even a student of psychology, nor a particularly avid fan of TED talks or the therapy side of YouTube, but I have lived with myself for the better (or worse) part of nineteen years and I’m finally beginning to recognise my behaviours and triggers for what they are.

This Christmas, I have not been lazy. I have been depressed.

I want to change our perception of laziness in relation to our reactive behaviour: some days I may watch Friends reruns with a pint of ice cream and call it self care, and others I may watch Friends reruns in a dark room because there is no other way to deal with the overwhelming heaviness of taking each breath as it weighs upon my lungs. This Christmas, I have not been lazy. I have been depressed.

Today, I did something. I finally checked my emails and discovered that I have a few more days than I anticipated to complete the essays I dread. They may get done in time. They may not. I cooked a hot dinner for myself. I told my boyfriend that I love him. I thought about how I was feeling, and why, and I made something. I did something.

***

If you are looking for mental health support in Cambridge, be sure to check out Find Support Cam

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