When my depression symptoms were at their worst, my entire life felt unmanageable. It was more than just being sad and apathetic. My mind felt like it was sloshing through heavy, sticky mud, causing my thought processes to slow down and my memory to fade. I was sure there were things I had to do, but most of the time I couldn't remember them, and if I did, I couldn't focus on them. Simple tasks became absolute torture, and I gradually just ignored and avoided my responsibilities to the point that they amassed into one giant overwhelming blob. How was I supposed to live a normal life when my mind wasn't cooperating?
What I didn't know then was that this phenomenon had a name. This inability to concentrate and difficulty with memory is called psychomotor retardation, and it is a frequent and common companion to clinical depression. This new knowledge was a relief–at least I wasn't abnormal (chuckle, chuckle)–but I still had two significant concerns: First I hated the term retardation, for obvious reasons, and second I had know idea how I could mange it.
My mind felt like a bulletin board littered with thousands of incomprehensible post-it-notes. Everything felt incomplete, and I lived constantly with a sense of "I've forgotten something." You know the feeling. Kind of like wondering if you've left the oven on, except the feeling never disappears. It's nagging and persistent and it interferes with every aspect of your waking (and sometimes sleeping) life.
To combat this I implemented a fairly simple strategy that I still follow today. On the days I was feeling a little less murky, I made a list of everything I needed and wanted to do. I arranged and rearranged this list in order of priority and when I finally finished it, I felt an almost immediate sense of relief. All those things I was trying to remember, the things that were bogging down my mind like a jeep in quicksand, were now on paper and OUT of my mind. It was liberating.
Some people claim that "things to do" lists make them anxious. They claim to have this "I have a deadline" feeling, so I'm sure there are some of you out there that will disagree with my reasoning here, but that's okay. This list technique worked for me and maybe it will work for someone else. It's all about finding something that brings relief. In my case, I just felt lighter all over knowing I could now refer to a piece of paper to help guide my day, rather than carrying around incomplete bits of information that were making my mind and life feel cluttered and slushy (I like the word slushy). Maybe–hopefully–it will work for you too. I look forward to your feedback.