I can't move. Everything is a massive effort. I sit and think and wish I could do something, and nothing happens. I am cold, but I can't cross the room to close the window. I would like to watch TV, but it's turned the wrong way so I can't see it and I can't turn it towards me. I want to play a game on my iPad, but I can't seem to pick it up even though it's sitting next to me. I am so tired I am falling asleep sitting up, but I can't gather the initiative to go to bed.
I am a capable human being. I have two university degrees. I'm raising 5 children (well, one is done 'raising'). I can articulate my thoughts. I can drive, cook, and dress myself. Yet I can't pick up the remote control to turn off Eastenders. No one should have to watch Eastenders against their will.
For a long time I wondered why I seem to be pathologically lazy. Now I have a word for it: catatonia. That helps, but it doesn't quite seem to fit. I have seen people with catatonia in real life and in films. I don't get frozen in place. I can still speak, use the toilet, and eat (too much). This doesn't seem like catatonia. But I've always felt the film Awakenings, featuring people with extreme persistent catatonia, captured something of my experience. It's as if I have just a dash of catatonia that exists mostly in my head, and isn't so visible.
I had a proper episode of catatonia when I had a psychiatric crisis as a young adult. It was probably induced by the medication they put me on. I just lay in my bed, unable and unmotivated to move. I considered moving, but felt no need to act on it. At the same time, I had a host of other symptoms from antipsychotics, so I figured that was just part of it. To the extent that I figured anything at all, because my thoughts were as sparse as my movements. I wasn't frustrated or bored except by my inability to watch TV or play games on my Gameboy.
If there is residual catatonia, I guess that's what I have, but this also predated that episode. I couldn't get myself to do things I was capable of and motivated to do. Really important things like applying to university.
When I have to do something urgently, particularly if someone else needs it, suddenly I am capable of mobilising. I get the kids to the school bus. I pick them up at the end of the day. I go to Quaker meeting. I go to doctor's appointments. If there's no time limit, though, it doesn't work, even if there's a need. 1.5 hours to start making dinner. 40 minutes to start putting the kids to bed. 2 hours to get myself to go to bed.
When someone else tells me to do it, I often can, particularly if they approach it in a certain way, but I don't know how to describe that exactly. They get me when I'm not stuck into something, but when I am prepared to move anyway. They catch me when I'm already up and about. They do it very consistently, so I associate their arrival with time to do things, not time to relax. I need someone to keep me doing things all the time, or I just seem to grind to a halt after a short time. But I also can't tolerate that much interaction and activity, even if that level of support were available.
This isn't a lack of motivation. I have failed to do paperwork that would have gained me thousands of pounds over the years. I failed to apply to university even though I desperately wanted to go. I fail to complete essential tasks for voluntary work I have taken on. I can't see how this problem could be compatible with any sort of work. It's barely compatible with life.