I Can’t

By Kay

One of the hardest things for me to do is to say that I can’t. It goes against the very positive message that I’ve had engrained into me my whole life, that I can do anything. Saying otherwise feels like giving up, and I hate that.

The psychologist I was seeing last summer never suggested that I couldn’t do things. The issue at the time was the same as it always is, that I was going between unemployed and underemployed, and my parents weren’t pleased by it. My psychologist suggested that instead of letting my depression drag me down to the point where I was sleeping instead of working, I should see working as a step in treating my depression, and most of our sessions were spent discussing ways to become employed, her encouraging me to take on more work, even suggesting places for me to apply. When I did start working full-time, my 9-5 schedule kept me from staying in bed all day, and both my psychologist and my parents declared that it was therefore helping me to get better. I didn’t tell them that I was struggling to keep my eyes open at my desk, and spent every lunch hour napping, and that I was still miserable.

Then I went back to school, and was no longer working, and was struggling with my classes, and my parents were on my case to get a part-time job during the school year. After a few months of going lower and lower, I found myself trying to explain why I hadn’t gotten a job to my new psychologist at student counselling.

“So, you’re having trouble keeping up academically, and you’re sleeping through classes. And you’re exhausted all the time. And you were hit by a car, and you’re still recovering from that. Well, it sounds to me like you’re not in any position to be looking for employment on top of all that, not if you’re not going to be thrown out for not paying the rent any time soon.”

“But my parents-”

“Your parents are right, you’ll have to work at some point in the future. But maybe right now you can’t, and that’s okay.”

A few months later I was referred to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with ADHD. I tried to articulate to her how exactly I managed to lose things and forget things so much.

“It’s not as if I want to, it’s just that when I need to remember something, I don’t know how to make that information be in my head at that moment. I’m always thinking about something else, and I’m not even thinking that I should be trying to think of what I need to remember.”

“Of course. You don’t forget thing because you’re trying to. It’s not even because you’re overly indifferent. You would remember if you could, but you just can’t.”

Both times it made me feel a lot better to think that I couldn’t, because if something is truly beyond my limitations, then it means that it’s not really my fault. It’s difficult to explain it to a lot of people though. I have a lot of conversations, especially with my parents, along the lines of “what do you mean, you just can’t? Is there something physically stopping you? Have you been tied down or something?”

The idea still bothers me a lot. I hate to think that I have limitations, and I hate even more to admit it to others. And I never want to use my problems as an excuse for not trying hard enough. But a mental illness by definition means that sometimes I can’t. If it didn’t limit me, it wouldn’t be a mental illness, because there would be nothing wrong. So I’m trying to learn to acknowledge those limits, and work from there.

Originally published here.

Posted by guest writer on July 8th, 2008
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3 Comments a “I Can’t”

  1. Beca says:

    people who have never been depressed just don’t get it.

  2. bipolarlawyercook says:

    And if you can remember to keep your “mental illness” apart from your knowledge of who “you” really are, then you can successfully look at the “can’ts” and find a way around them, since the problem is an illness, not a personality flaw. Best of luck.

  3. Tigerlily says:

    There’s such a lack of compassion & kindness. What’s wrong with people? If you had cancer, people would be like “what can I do? How can I help? Of course you need to rest.” Depression is a life – threatening illness, dammit!

    Good for you for acknowledging your limits and standing by them. This is a powerful act of self – respect. Be gentle with yourself.

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