Finding motivation when depressed
By Margaret Lanning
My brother once said that his earliest memories of our mother involved a sound. He could hear her footsteps moving back and forth through rooms, up and down the stairs, in and out of doors. Never stopping. Always cleaning, wiping, dusting. She was evermore a woman on a mission, with a dust mop in her hands.
I grew into the ultimate of imitators. I matched the standards that were set and adopted them as my own—that is, until my responsibilities became too many and too heavy. Then I struggled just to get out of bed while unsatisfied duties lay strewn around the house and office. Motivation flew south with the Canadian geese that year.
My counselor disagreed with me every time I brought up my lack of motivation. I said I had a “want to” problem. I didn’t really want to do anything but read, watch TV, crochet, eat. She pushed back, saying that I was a perfectionist living with unrealistic expectations. If I would sift more carefully through real and imagined obligations, I could choose wisely and have more impetus to do those.
My immediate thought was that I needed to go live deep in the woods somewhere where no one would bother me … but since the wilderness didn’t seem to be a viable option, I was left with a problem.
Find your desire
Lack of motivation is probably the most difficult part of depression I continue to wrestle with. Trying to figure out how to get up and get moving is extremely challenging. It can make or break a day.
When I feel apathetic, my senseless thought cycle starts with the notion that I need to choose to do something (clean the kitchen). Then comes immediate resistance (I don’t want to clean the kitchen), then the guilt trip (good mothers clean kitchens so the family can be healthy), then the compromise (I can have a bite of chocolate if I clean the kitchen), then the shut-down (but I still don’t want to clean, and I’ll probably eat the whole chocolate bar), then the self-punishment (I am a bad person because I’m still sitting here).
This summer a friend asked me to join a Bible study with her. The study was on gifting and passions. As we got into the material, I took several tests. Checking boxes on lists of possible interests, I got a clearer picture of myself.
I am an encourager (an exhorter) whose passion lies in motivating (ironically) adults and children into closeness with God through spoken and written word.
This information sharpened the filter through which all possible responsibilities pass. What seems best for me is accepting tasks that use my abilities and rejecting ones that fit someone else better. So I began to review items on my calendar.
I was able to let some things go. And I added one “to-do”—the difference being that my motivation would be higher to accomplish what I was passionate about.
“Lack of motivation is probably the most difficult part of depression I continue to wrestle with.”
I also realized that I could attend to my responsibilities with more intentionality. For example, when hosting a spaghetti dinner for my daughter’s swim team, I prayerfully floated through the evening looking for opportunities to listen and encourage swimmers or parents. This motivated me to do more than show up with food. I was going to enact my life mission amid the pasta.