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Laziness re-evaluated

 

Mental illness can affect anyone. In England that number is 1 in 4 people in any given year [1], with up to 10% of the population suffering from depression in their lifetime [1]. And these are the recorded figures: in reality there might be more people suffering in silence.

Despite of depression being one of the leading causes of disability [1], before I moved to the UK I never even considered it one. It didn’t cross my mind that mental health could be a disabling factor. I never considered myself disabled, nor did I ever realise that some of my own thinking and coping strategies were actually forms of internalised ableism.

black and white picture of a bedside table full of various items in a disorganised fashion

It started out as laziness. I was lazy because I rather stayed in bed watching YouTube Poops than get up and take the rubbish, wash up. Then it became tiredness. I didn’t get up until two in the afternoon because I was tired. Why didn’t I sleep? I couldn’t, or I would wake up before long. Then I started feeling physically ill. I would get palpitations, shortness of breath, feeling I’m about to throw up or soil myself. Probably just bad diet, right? Not exercising enough? Well, both of those did contribute of course – I was too lazy to make proper food and too tired to care, and my old habit of morning runs was long forgotten in favour or another hour of sleep.

It all becomes a vicious cycle where self-care is sacrificed and neglect results in more suffering. For me a compilation of bad diet, little sleep, and very little exercise has resulted in feeling less well in general, while the messy state of my living areas makes me feel less capable of performing things like cooking or showering. This is common with mental health problems: things pile up and symptoms become causes too, and that’s why it’s incredibly important to catch the early signs and question your own perhaps negative habits. [2]

What we might dub as laziness is actually a symptom: conditions such as depression cause loss of interest and lack of motivation to do things you might’ve previously enjoyed, or at least got done. Irregular sleep is a symptom. Increased irritability and intolerance are symptoms. Depression is not only low mood and “feeling depressed”, [3] and the things that we often see as characteristics of our personality – such as laziness or not being a good sleeper – might actually be caused by something outside of us. Disregarding invisible disability is inherently ableist, and here we are, possibly being ableist even against ourselves. This is something to fight against.

I don’t have an immediate cure for any of this, and I myself am still learning and trying different things to overcome whatever obstacles my mental health throws at me. Some days I feel okay, some days I don’t. It’s unpredictable. But I want to say that if you suspect that you might have a mental illness, please talk to someone. Contact an adviser or your doctor. Symptoms of depression and anxiety, and these are just examples, are heavily stigmatised in our society, and not often recognised as symptoms of illness in general discourse, and this is why we must keep raising awareness as well as take the best care of ourselves and each other we can.

References, further reading, support:
1. Mental Health Foundation UK
2. Uncommon Knowledge: Clinical Depression
3. NHS

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