All too often, people equate sadness with depression, full stop. While feeling down can be a very real symptom of the mood disorder, a viral Twitter thread begun by author M. Molly Backes suggests it can be marked by something else entirely: the “impossible task,” an item on your to-do list that feels incredibly daunting regardless of how difficult it actually is or how many times you’ve done it before.
Backes kicked things off by calling out depression drug commercials for failing to recognize the common sign. To date, more than 6 500 people have retweeted the original message, while another 15 000 have liked it:
Depression commercials always talk about sadness but they never mention that sneaky symptom that everyone with depression knows all too well: the Impossible Task. pic.twitter.com/lPix73WO2d
— M. Molly Backes (@mollybackes) August 28, 2018
In additional tweets, Backes went on to explain that the impossible task can be as simple as making your bed or refilling a drug prescription, and that as soon as you complete it, another chore often fills its place as the new undertaking that feels just out of reach. “When you think you have it pinned down, you suddenly can’t do the dishes,” she tweeted.
Some of the 200-plus people who responded to Backes elaborated on the symptom she described: “I never felt sad,” one tweeted of his experience. “I felt pointless. Useless. And heavy. So heavy.”
“‘Aggressively apathetic,’ is how I remember describing it to my shrink,” another replied. “Not only do I not care, I can’t even bring myself to worry that I don’t care.”
The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) refers to the impossible task indirectly as an “’empty’ mood,” and “helplessness,” while noting that depression isn’t ubiquitous: It can surface in different ways depending on the patient. If any of the aforementioned descriptions—or symptoms like anxiety, irritability, loss of interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, or suicidal thoughts—feel eerily familiar and have persisted nearly every day for more than two weeks, you could stand to benefit from therapy or medication, according to NIMH.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): http://www.sadag.org/