Depression is more than just feeling extremely sad. It can be an excruciating, all-consuming condition that can affect every part of your life.
One of the more challenging symptoms? Feeling like even the smallest of tasks ― making your bed, doing laundry or going to the grocery store ― are completely insurmountable.
Author M. Molly Backes highlighted this often underdiscussed effect of depression in a Twitter thread this week, which has since gone viral. Backes pointed out that many people associate the condition with feeling blue but don’t talk as much about what she dubbed the “impossible task.”
The inability to complete these parts of a daily routine, she continued, often make no sense to people who aren’t living with the condition. Especially when the person with depression was able to do them so easily once before.
“The Impossible Task is rarely actually difficult,” Backes wrote. “It’s something you’ve done a thousand times. For this reason, it’s hard for outsiders to have sympathy.”
The thread also addressed how the types of tasks that feel impossible can change. Since depression comes in varying degrees, how it impacts your life can also shift.
“One time it might involve calling someone, but maybe you can work around it by emailing,” Backes wrote. “Another time it’s an email issue. Then when you think you have it pinned down, you suddenly can’t do the dishes.”
The statements resonated with thousands of Twitter users, with many people chiming in about their own “impossible tasks” and how they personally experience depression.
“Dishes and the mail,” one user wrote. “I can take the mail inside, but I can’t sort through it. I have skipped meals so as not to create dishes that will become Impossible.”
More than 300 million people worldwide live with depression, according to the World Health Organization. The “impossible task” can likely be attributed to feelings of hopelessness and a lack of motivation, both symptoms that are commonly associated with the condition. Depression can also cause physical issues like changes in appetite and sleep patterns, headaches, back pain and more.
Despite the prevalence of depression, there’s still a pervasive stigma associated with mental health issues. That’s why wide-reaching Twitter threads like Backes’ are so important. Not only are they an outlet for people experiencing depression ― which in turn can make people feel less alone ― but they educate everyone else on what it’s really like to live with it.
Backes added in the thread that she hopes those who know someone with depression ask the person what the impossible tasks are in their lives so they can “figure out ways to help ― without judgment.”
And for those who are trying to face an impossible task right now? Try to “be gentle with yourself,” she wrote. “You’re not a screw up; depression is just an asshole.” (Amen.)