Greetings and Intro
I never thought I was 12-step material, you know? I've seen people re-enact meetings on TV...."Hi, I'm Joe and I'm an alcoholic", etc. I have always felt bad for people struggling with addiction, never realizing I have had one of my own since childhood. So, here I am, saying the same words. My name is Amanda, and I am a compulsive procrastinator.
I'm here today for a variety of reasons. I guess I just need to vent some of the pressure associated with the mess I've made of my life. I have a pretty bad case of general anxiety disorder as well as seasonal affective disorder (winter depression) and adult ADD. I've been in treatment for those conditions for over a year now and though the drugs are helping me with concentration and focus, there's still an underlying problem, there always has been, and there's been little improvement in the basic quality of my life.
Oh, I should warn you, this is going to be long. Feel free to skim it or just ignore huge chunks of it if you want. I just feel this overwhelming pressure to get it out, to tell someone, to admit it.
So now we are in the deep stretch of winter and my seasonal depression causes severe fatigue and general hopelessness, which just adds this really painful edge to my anxiety and my procrastination. All these conditions/habits swirl around each other, feed each other, and leave me wondering what sorts of these behaviors I have control over and which ones I just can't help.
These last 2 weeks have been emotional hell, and I've become avoidant to the point of not wanting to go out of the house and lately, not being able to move very far from a spot I've set up on the couch.
The house is a disaster area. I have 2 kids that I homeschool and we haven't done lessons in 2 weeks. (i'm supposed to be a housewife but I'm more of a houseplant).
Procrastination/avoidance has been a lifelong problem for me...I was a messy disorganized kid, mediocre student, college dropout due to procrastination ruining my grades, I'm chronically late to appointments, I don't return phone messages, I don't pay bills on time or pay them at all, I have horrible credit, no clean clothes for me or the kids, and my husband has no idea that we're two months behind on the mortgage and the bank is hinting at foreclosure.
Oh, and all that financial procrastination tends to make me a compulsive debtor, too. I keep borrowing to try and dig myself out, promising that this time is the last time and I'll do it right from now on...but that never happens.
My husband hates the mess around here and hates seeing me sit down in the middle of it all, claiming a headache and saying, 'i'll get started in a while'. He gets so angry with me and has always tended to be perfectionistic (I'm not trying to blame him here, I just want to say I married somebody who is vocal about others' faults) and when he gets demanding of me, I go into total resistance mode and basically passive/aggressively refuse to do anything, even if I know rationally that his point of view is correct.
For the longest time, I wondered why it was I got so 'stuck' and paralyzed and couldn't do anything even while anxiously telling myself "I HAVE to get going, I HAVE to do something!!" It always seems like I have two warring points of view in my mind. One says, get up and get to work, the other says, I don't want to. The first one then says, 'but you have to, and you want to', and the second one argues, 'no, you don't really want to'.
The tension that this kind of resistance creates in me is almost unbearable. I want to sleep all the time, I have no energy at all. Walking around the house feels like I'm carrying a ton of bricks on my back. Even taking one dish out of the dishwasher feels like "too much".
One of my ways of dealing with the internal pressure and tension is to dissociate...to "check out" in my mind. I go wandering off into daydreams. Sometimes, I will fill my mind with memories of a TV show or movie that I've watched, but will re-write the plot the way I would rather have it. My other way of doing this is imagining myself in a completely different life, where I have a different name, different face, special talents that I use to help people, lots of friends, lots of romance. I can literally spend whole chunks of time, hours, days, weeks, wrapped up in the same 'plot line' inside my head. My body is either on autopilot doing something like cooking dinner or shopping for groceries, or usually, just sitting on the couch staring off into space. These little escapes of mine may take the edge off all the anxiety and self-hate for a little while, but eventually it all comes crashing back in because all I have done with this escape time is procrastinate more and fall farther behind.
I have been in denial a long time about these 'mental vacations' of mine. I have always blamed them on my anxiety disorder, which can cause periods of dissociation and derealization. Or my ADD, which makes focusing hard and distraction very easy. But lately, after searching around on the net and lurking on this website for a while, I am coming to realize that it's part of an addiction. The daydreaming or escaping is like a sedative drug that I use whenever I can't cope with all my procrastination and mistakes and perfectionism. I LIKE taking these little mind trips. It makes me forget. It keeps me from having to deal with unpleasant things. I really, really don't want to make myself stop doing that and be HERE, in this place, that is so hard and so scary. I'm so tired all the time. I sleep clenched up in a little ball and wake up aching and miserable after a night of bad dreams. Going off in my head for a little while (or a little longer, or a few hours, or a whole day) gives me relief.
I think I'm addicted to that mental state because every time I try to shake myself out of it now, I can't. I honestly just can't control it at all. I find myself slipping off into it all the time, and I don't want to come back out even though I know that the best thing I could do for all of my problems is to keep myself present and deal with these challenges.
Discovering the articles on this site and other places about demand resistance really cut through my illusions. Once I really sat back and asked myself whether I want to keep slipping off into neverland just to feel better or just turn and face these problems and defeat them, I realized that I've been switching "want" and "should" around, that I've been playing passive/aggressive with my controlling and perfectionistic husband, and that what I want, what I really, really want, is to be well, and energized, and productive, and be a meaningful member of society. I do want that, deep inside. But now I seem to be faced with a host of automatic thoughts and reactions and habits that are very, very strong. I read that the first of the 12 steps is to admit powerlessness over the addiction, so that is what I am doing here. I can't control my procrastination, it's getting very bad, and now I feel like I'm slipping away into a constant dream state, but I want to stop being this way.
Anyway, sorry if this is rambling and incoherent. I've been through such emotional hell and I had to get it out of my head and share it with others who know what it feels like.
Choosing to reach for freedom,
PS: Almost forgot to say I'm going to talk to my doctor about whether or not my medication needs tinkering with, but my firm belief is that this compulsion, this addiction, has got to be addressed or no amount of pills are going to help me.
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response to Amanda
Hi there Amanda,
Thanks for sharing what must be a really difficult time. I have just discovered this website and only recently have admitted to myself that chronic procrastination is something that has kept me back in life. I just want to say that I understand parts of what you are going through, and do appreciate how tough alot of this is.
Not that I'm qualified to talk about these things but I did want to say that in terms of picking up mood exercise is one of the best ways to do this naturally. Looking back I realise that times of my life in which I have been happier have been the times I hace been more active. I don't see that drugs can be an effective long term solution.
A question I wanted to ask - have you ever thought of writing down your day dreams? Alot of procratination has to do with fear, and you hide that fear by finding distraction. By writing them down you might be able to get that fear out of you?
Welcome - you'll find help here. FYI (if you didn't know), procrastination is a very common problem among people with ADD (I have ADD). There is a lot of literature about this.
Your message sounds like you are depressed. Depression is also strongly associated with procrastination. It's very hard to get anything at all done when you're depressed.
> I have 2 kids that I homeschool and we haven't done lessons in 2 weeks.
I very strongly recommend that you enroll your kids in school. When you are struggling with procrastination to this degree, you can't home-school responsibly. It's one thing to suffer the penalties yourself, but you really don't want to deny your kids a basic education because of it. Please do enroll them in school.
There are many resources on the site - lots of articles and book reviews, and a very effective tool: the check-in board. There's info about how to use the check-in board here.
Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.
Thanks for responding so quickly! Sometimes it's so nice just to connect with somebody 'out there'.
I know I'm pretty depressed. I've been watching my moods bounce all over the place this week. I'm supposed to see the doctor in March but I don't think I ought to wait that long. I'm going to call on Monday, and see what the nurse has to say. The seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is pretty intense right now. Every January is like this. No matter how many times I remember that and try to brace for it, plan for it, I never do and it sinks into me. I want to be more proactive when it comes to dealing with the inevitable seasonal nuttiness, and for that, I'm going to have to stop procrastinating all around, I think.
I am starting to agree with you about the homeschooling. It's not really what I want to admit (it brings up internal criticism and failure feelings) but it's probably best. The reason we homeschool, though, is because my kids are both ADD, anxious/avoidant and have temporal lobe epilepsy. Their teachers were being totally insensitive and so I withdrew them to hopefully keep them from developing more avoidance/resistance/phobia from such a harsh environment. As much as I want to be (read: perfect perfect perfect) all they need as an educator, I see what you mean about dragging them along with me on my destructive path. I still can't, in good conscience, subject them to public school. I think they'd be devastated to hear they have to go back and wouldn't understand why their mother can't handle it. So I'm going to try on Monday to make calls to the alternative education systems around here and see if maybe there's something we can both afford and tolerate, that will at least get them some stable educational input each day. You never know 'til you try, right?
I don't know what it is about posting here that feels better than journaling. Why is that? Is it the feeling of connection to another human being who has suffered? Whatever the reason, it does feel good to talk here and I thank you for listening.