How do I stop being lazy?

Is there a drug I can take or a religion I can join? I will do anything.

A BIG SWEETIE:

I am fecklessly lazy and have no willpower. Starting from school I've always fallen short of my predicted grades and had to resit exams to meet them.

I have managed to bluff people into thinking I am extremely intelligent through a mix of being a good raconteur, fairly verbose and people assuming white guys are knowledgeable for sadly obvious reasons.   

At university I had various mental health crashes (i'm type 2 Bipolar) including a half-hearted (I know, the irony isn't lost on me and is objectively hilarious) suicide attempt and addiction problems, however in my heart of hearts I know this isn't the reason I got a shit degree result. I know it's because I am lazy and can never concentrate on something that doesn't interest me fully. It's like my brain just cannot focus on mundane tasks, which I know is a standard facet of human existence. 

I've been bailed out and skated by because of loving parents and privilege, I was regarded well at my job after Uni for a time but my legarthy, sloppiness and mental health/addiction caught up with me. I've tried to remove sources of procrastination from myself, including deleting Twitter years ago after being an annoying reply guy dickhead for a while but I always find others.  

Is there a way to force myself to concentrate and force myself to do these tasks? I tried Adderall at university but just had a panic attack because I took too much (and I think I still had other drugs in my system). Is this just a personality defect for life? 

I know a whining white guy in the current climate is ridiculous, but 28/single/home with parents/fat is a terrible situation to find myself. I know I'm a self pitying mess, and most of this is self inflicted, but I want to change. Is there a drug I can take or a religion I can join? I will do anything.

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SOPHIA:

Ok, there are a lot of threads here!!! The subject of your email to me “How do I stop being lazy?” is, in fact, not the only—and perhaps not even the biggest— issue.

The good news for you is that you seem to have some resources at your disposal. I’m going ahead with the assumption that you’ll be able to access certain things like medical and mental health care, but even if you can’t currently, there’s lot’s you can do. If you can afford to get medical and mental health care, however, I desperately think you must start there. In fact, I insist! As I say after almost every sentence, I am not a doctor. My “professional” opinion is valuable when it comes to crushes and sex toys but I cannot diagnose you. Understood?

That said, a lot of what you’re describing lines up with a lot of what attention disorders look like in people I know. Attention disorders vary from person to person and the symptoms vary by age and gender (and I’m sure by a whole host of other things we don’t understand yet). I also think that attention disorders in people who are privileged, as you are—and I’m super glad you’re aware of this fact; I’ll address it more in a minute—often look different because the world/parents/school administrators often bail them out. Sometimes without even noticing. People probably give you the benefit of the doubt a lot, which has perhaps covered up some of the times when you’ve been flailing, which certainly helped you in the moment, but it may have also delayed you getting actual long-term help. Additionally—and again I DO NOT KNOW if you actually have an attention disorder, it is just my suspicion and I hope you talk to an actual professional about it!ADHD and depression often go hand in hand, and it does seem like you might be depressed. Often people who are undiagnosed describe the frustration they feel with not being able to complete tasks, and it making them feel small or worthless or shitty.

Again, I’m very glad that you’re aware of your innate advantage as you walk through the world; that’s a great first step to not being a general dipshit. HOWEVER!!!!!!! as my brilliant college roommate Shelby put it: your biggest problem is your biggest problem. That does not make it the world’s biggest problem. Your laziness is not on par with climate change, of course, BUT THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT NOT A BIG PROBLEM FOR YOU! You are allowed to have problems even if you have privilege. The two are not mutually exclusive. I think in many ways you have avoiding processing some of this because you feel guilty for feeling bad. But beating yourself up for being frustrated or feeling stuck is not going to make you unstuck. That’s like punching yourself in the fact for having gotten a flat tire. It doesn’t do anything to actually fix the tire and in fact makes the situation WORSE.

The very first step, which you have done, is realizing that what’s going on isn’t working. The next step, which you may not have started yet is being like, “Ok, I’m allowed to be sad. I’m allowed to feel like my life is hard right now even though I’m a white guy.” It is not hard because you’re a white guy. And addressing these issues is going to be easier for you because you’re a white guy. But that doesn’t make this not hard and bad and frustrating! Go to your room and stomp your feet on the ground and be like, “AHHHHH I’M SO PISSED THAT THIS IS HARD FOR ME!!!” I have had many mental health problems over the years including eating disorders, which wax and wane over time; sometimes I’m handling it well, other times, not so much. And sometimes I’m fucking pissed that I have to deal with it. Sometimes I just get really really angry that I have to keep up with this shit for my entire life! BULLSHIT!!!! I tell you this because most people who are dealing with mental health issues get very exhausted and pissed and sad from time to time and I think you should let yourself get all of those things.

And then you should ask for help. Again, ideally you get this help from a doctor. I think that it is very likely that a licensed therapist or psychiatrist will have great tools to help you make adjustments and break patterns in your life that are not working. Please seek this out.

Outside of getting help from an outside professional party, you can also make some changes yourself.

The first thing that I would suggest is that you actively work to change the narrative in your head. Instead of telling yourself that you’re lazy, which you’ve been telling yourself as a way to insult yourself—as if it’s a character flaw—tell yourself that you have trouble finishing tasks. It’s not that you are a bad person, you are struggling with something. Not being able to lift 75lbs doesn’t make me a bad person, I just struggle with it, and I would need to work up to it. Got it?

So. Start small. Celebrate all the little things you do finish. You finished an entire email to me! Emails suck ass and you wrote one—a hard one! THAT’S AMAZING! Woo! Yay. Celebrate when you run an errand. When you take the dog for a walk. When you call someone back. (Do not celebrate with unhealthy habits like alcohol or anything; I mean just tell yourself, “Good job, self. You did a thing! You’re a brilliant angel!!”) Those tasks might not be easy for you, even if that sounds kind of silly. When your brain is having trouble focusing on something, it is hard work to finish small tasks. That’s ok. Start small and try to notice the things you do accomplish each day. Make a list for yourself at the top of the day with one or two things. Try to get those done; some days you might not. Oh well! Try again tomorrow. Ask for help, ask a friend to join you to get your oil changed as a way of holding you accountable. If you can, start to take notice of what works for you. Some people focus better with music on in the background. Some people need to get everything done in the morning when they first wake up. Some people need accountability buddies. Some people like giving themselves incentives to finish things.

Once you’ve done some of the smaller things, start thinking about what you would actually like to get done. Our world is morbidly obsessed with productivity; it’s a sick byproduct of capitalism. We literally ask people to “pay” to be alive by giving corporations hours of their lives. It’s weird. Society loves productivity. But being productive isn’t god. It doesn’t make you a good or kind or worthy person to Do More Things. Find out what it is that you actually would like to accomplish. Is it having a certain job? Getting a certain degree or certificate? Moving to a certain city? Making a collage of a bunch of photos of Tom Cruise? I don’t know! I don’t think you necessarily do either! Which is fine. But start thinking, start fantasizing about what you would like to get done.

You may not finish it all; most adults do not accomplish all of their goals. Every few months (days) I tell myself I’m going to start working out four times a week again. Sometimes I even do it for a week or two. And then I lapse. It’s not about laziness or badness or immorality. I just… have other things that happen. Could I rearrange my life and prioritize working out that much? ABSOLUTELY! If I wanted to be successful at just that, I could probably swing it. I just want you to know that not everything is going to get done or even get done well. You know those video games where you like run a kitchen and a bunch of orders come in and you keep having to make more and more food and more and more orders come in? That’s how adulthood feels for most people who don’t have $47 million. Life is often hard and it’s easy to drop the ball on things. Even for people with privilege. Ok? Give yourself some fucking grace!!!! You are going to mess up. We all do. It’s fine.

Right now, your big job is to get help. If you find yourself having trouble making an appointment, ask a parent or a best friend to help you find a doctor. It can feel daunting. It takes A LONG TIME for most people to actually get to therapy/ meet with a mental health professional. But it will pay off in dividends if you find one that you like.

Please. You are not in an irredeemable place. This is all addressable, if not fixable. You are just going to have to break the process into tiny little steps. And you actually already did the first one, which was reaching out and asking for help. You are not lazy or bad!!!! I promise you. You’ve got this.


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