Where I Find I Am Lacking Motivation and How I Try to Conquer It
I have always been a naturally motivated person until I was diagnosed with PTSD and that rapidly changed.
I have always been a driven person, at least mostly. I have always that sort of person that could get up early every day without struggling, work seven day weeks in the same place and live on four hours sleep a night without losing power of performance. I could do this for work, as an emergency nurse, for sport, for travelling, I was just a motivated person that would generally speaking always put out a strong effort for whatever was on that day.
Things have been very different since I was diagnosed with PTSD and depression, more specifically depression but that came around because I had PTSD. In the first six months of having symptoms and making an attempt on my life, I had crippling anxiety/hypervigilance, nightmares, insomnia, constant nausea, muscles tension, further suicidal ideation and had been prescribed nothing to help manage these symptoms.
Towards the end of that period I began to notice persistent low mood, increased suicidal ideation, my voice became monotone and I began lacking motivation for the first time in my life. It’s difficult to explain but wearing an inflatable sumo suit filled with sand gets close. I just felt like everything was totally impossible and that was reaffirmed by anxiety.
I knew I was getting ill.
I would eventually leave my beloved job because of this, thinking I would work agency shifts as and when I was able. Instead I remained indoors and spent my life between bed and sofa for a couple of weeks, I reacted more severely to leaving work than I thought I would and as a result I punished myself for it. I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. Getting a shower doing any housework seemed to take forever to walk myself into and anything didn’t matter at all.
I knew I was getting unwell when I would stare at the television remote right next to me but be unwilling to outstretch a hand to pick it up and select another programme on Netflix. I had never experienced anything like this.
Motivation is balanced between my anxiety and depression.
The weird thing that I am beginning to understand a little more now is that anxiety has always pushed me to do things which is why I believe I was able to work eighty hour weeks and quite often would work fourteen twelve hour shifts running. All of these shifts would be in an emergency department and sometimes would have a lengthy commute. Everyone I knew thought I was insane and I’ve never met another person who could maintain that sort of stamina in work. So, even when I’m not well mentally, I can still work like this.
Alternatively, when depression is the main issue, I become unable to do things due to this crushing lack of motivation. This means I ignore stuff and procrastinate which worsens my anxiety and worsens my mood when problems begin to grow. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I live with anxiety which pushes me and depression that flattens me and although both are there all the time, it depends where the balanced lies as to how motivated I am at that time.
At this current time I am still recovering from an uncompromising period in terms of my mental health, which means I am staying with family. So I am under little pressure to work, go shopping, workout, do housework but I put myself under pressure to do some of those things because I feel that’s the right thing to do.
However at times I have been truly shocked at my wilting enthusiasm which leaves me asking how do I push past this? I would like to think I will return to work but how when it takes forever to get to the gym when I said I would that day or to make some food because I haven’t eaten yet and it’s four in the afternoon.
My three steps for pushing through with lacking motivation.
Personally, it feels like brute force that enables me to get that ball rolling. Sometimes I just decide on something and I simply drag myself to doing it. However, there are better ways, here’s a few that I use every day.
Firstly, I decide if it matters? Do I really need to? What are the pros and cons? Take the gym for example, I try to go every day for my mental health, to spend some nervous energy, to care for my physical health and to maintain a high level of physical fitness for the other sports I do. On the other hand, if I don’t feel up to it because I’m more fatigued than usual, my muscles ache or because I feel really anxious, I will not benefit so I then have to decide whether it’s worth it.
If it is worth it, I need to try to break it down a bit. If I’m having the ‘pros and cons conversation I’m already struggling so I need to break it down into more manageable pieces. Like getting changed, getting to the gym, getting warmed up and by that point, I’m usually way more into the idea of working out and leave the gym an hour or two later after a good session. There’s a reason people say just turn up and see what happens. But when turning up is the hardest part, that’s where the brute force comes in.
This bit, I really struggle with, but it takes some positivity to reassure myself that taking a risk and doing something against the grain was a good thing. This means being pleased with myself for getting a workout in after fighting anxiety to achieve it. Another example is overcoming social anxiety to go for a coffee with a friend or turn up to an event l of some kind, this takes guts and as much as I battle to do this, I do try to be positive to make it easier next time.
Don’t get me wrong, it is still really difficult and sometimes the depression and or anxiety is stronger but then I reassure myself that it’s not worth it that day and resolve to try again the following day or week depending on the task. I am not personally in a place where pushing myself really hard is going to do any good so I try to maintain a good balance when motivation is lacking.