Although depression sometimes looks like laziness, there is one defining factor in depression that helps distinguish it from laziness: self-abuse when work goes undone.

Self-abuse in depression

There are many forms of self-abuse, but the most basic form has to do with how you talk to yourself. At its most basic level, self-abuse involves getting down on yourself for not being “good enough.” For example, if you do not get something done and you tell yourself that you are lazy and you should be better, that is self-abuse. Think of it as if someone you considered your friend was always getting mad at you for getting things wrong. If you did not get something done on time or you did not do it well enough, she would be angry at you and tell you that you are a disappointment or that you are not worth anything. It’s easy to see, that’s an abusive friend. Similarly, when it’s myself saying these things to myself, that’s self-abuse.

When someone is truly lazy and doesn’t get anything done, she doesn’t hate herself for being unproductive. She doesn’t care. She only wants to do what sounds good to her, not also what needs to be done. A lazy person doesn’t question her laziness, she only takes it as a fact. It doesn’t bother her.

Depression, however, is distinguished from laziness by the worry, distress, and self-abuse that a depressed person heaps upon herself when work goes undone. A depressed person gets down on herself for not getting things done.

When experiencing an episode of depression, part of “getting down on yourself” entails stressing about the fact that nothing got done. “Getting down on yourself” also includes worrying about what others will think about your so-called “laziness.”

Am I depressed or just lazy test

Simply questioning whether you are lazy or depressed can be a sure sign that the culprit of work going undone is more likely depression, not laziness. The vast majority of lazy people don’t care enough to worry about whether they are lazy or not.

It’s tough when you’re the type of person who likes to be clean and organized but does not have the energy to stay clean and organized. For most of my middle school years, I was a model student. I wasn’t a genius or anything, but I always did my homework on time and teachers liked me. But at some point toward the end of eighth grade, my academic performance started to deteriorate. I stopped caring.

I lost all my energy and motivation to do anything. This behavior of not doing homework or my chores seemed like laziness to myself and others around me. I hated myself for doing nothing all the time, but simply going to school was using up all of my energy. I constantly wished I could fix myself and make myself better, but it just wasn’t happening.

The self-perpetuating cycle of depression and self-abuse

“Depression is like being in an abusive relationship with yourself.” This is an anonymous quote I’ve heard time and time again and can’t argue with. The continuous cycle of unproductivity and then self-hatred is fueled by the more tasks that do not get finished, giving you more things to be mad at yourself about.

Many psychologists agree that one of the reasons depressive episodes occur in people is because of anger that is turned inward onto oneself. Anger is an emotion that produces adrenaline, therefore allowing an angry person to do something with that angry energy. For example, the other day while unpacking groceries with my mom, I was having trouble opening a box. My mom suggested that I wait until my stepdad got home, because I should let the man be the strong one. This angered me, and I ripped open the box in one fluid motion. In this case, my anger at thinking that women were not as equipped to do things that required physical strength allowed me to be productive. However, when anger is not fully processed and is stuffed down rather than used, it will make you miserable.

Think of it like an actual abusive relationship. When someone is abused, they will often feel anger toward their abuser. This anger can give them the courage to leave, but if it is not dealt with productively, anger that doesn’t produce eventually turns inward. For whatever reason, when anger is thwarted from producing the righteous (good) outcome it should produce, it doesn’t just vanish. It tends to get stuffed inside. And when anger turns inward it seeks a new target: yourself (AKA depression).

How to stop the cycle of self-abuse

The cycle of depression is not easy to stop. But one way to stop the cycle of self abuse and make the unproductivity easier to handle is to forgive yourself. Recognize that it is not a character flaw, and it does not affect your worth. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Forgive yourself for not being Wonder Woman. Forgive yourself for being depressed. Understand that it does not make you harder to love and people will not love you any less.

Not only forgive yourself, but stop abusing yourself. Most people would not let someone talk to them in an abusive manner. So why do we do that to ourselves? If the things you are saying to yourself are not things that you would want a parent or friend to say to you, then why let yourself say them to you?

My Grandma, Deborah Wittmier, says this: “We are not loved because of who we are, for there are many moments when we are not loveable. Neither are we loved in spite of who we are, because that would declare that we’re never loveable, which would be a tragic diminishment. We are loved regardless of who we are, because of the love that the Divine Lover releases which sets us free to simply receive and BE LOVED rather than to come under the pressure of being loveable enough.”

Here’s the thing: depression isn’t something to be ashamed of. Not having energy is not something to be ashamed of. Your worth does not rely on how many things you do or how well you do anything. Be proud of your achievements, no matter how small they may be. I know you are trying your best to be productive, and it’s okay if you aren’t doing as much as you feel like you should. 

EFT: A tool for forgiveness

Editor’s note: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a form of self-administered therapy that is based on concepts of acupuncture. However, rather than needles inserted in the skin to release pain through disturbance, fingertips are used to stimulate energy points on the body. When fingertips are tapped along specific points of the body, energy is released that helps facilitate healing of negative emotions. Tapping with the fingertips is accompanied by speaking affirmations in a process of self-acceptance. If you find that forgiving yourself (or anyone else) is difficult for you, check out this video by Julie Schiffman. It may be that you’d like to give “tapping” a try. By including this video, christianwomanhealth.com is not giving a blanket endorsement to all of Julie’s beliefs. Use discernment from the Holy Spirit. Get your affirmations from Scripture, not from the world. And at all times, let the Holy Spirit be your guide.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts about depression, tapping, or anything else that’s on your mind.