Is there something wrong with me?

I deal with a lot of stress during the school year, and it’s really no good. I spend a lot of time shutting myself away from class/professors because I’m afraid of facing them with incomplete assignments and things like that. It’s been a huge issue for me, and I thought this year I had it under control, but I don’t. Below is a letter I sent to my two professors today explaining why I hadn’t handed in either final paper for them (each will be a week late tomorrow).

Basically, at least a few times a year pressures from school make my life miserable. There are other things in my life that also just send me into emotional spin. I know that you all aren’t doctors, but lately I’ve been wondering whether I might suffer from some sort of depression. I’m a very happy person almost all of the time, but I get myself into these situations where I just can’t deal with anything and it generally takes some sort of emotional release for me to get back to “normal.” Any input from those of you who do deal with this sort of thing would be greatly appriciated.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent. :slight_smile:

You should take a time management course. I’m not being flippant, I’m being serious.

Getting stressed out under pressure is a pretty normal thing - if the rest of the time you’re happy, calm, etc, then you certainly don’t need any sort of medical intervention. I think you just need to develop some more effective coping strategies, as well as some time management skills.

I would consider consulting with a school counselor - they are trained to not only provide support for emotional issues, but can also offer suggestions to help you get things done on time, without giving yourself an ulcer.

People react to stress in a variety of ways - your way is pretty normal, but you can get help with it.

Al. :slight_smile:

I don’t want to underplay your anxiety, but from what you describe it sounds as if you need help learning how to organize and ‘dive into’ large projects. I understand exactly what you say about staying up late and fretting - I can get myself into that same mode.

However, if you’re not like this with small assignments, then what you need is to learn how to make ‘big’ assignments into a series of small assignments. Organizational and study skills help with that. As an example, if your assignment is to write a 10 page paper on, say, the history of women’s rights, you can look at it this way:

1 - Write a ten page paper on women’s rights in two weeks

or this way:

1 - On Monday, go to the library, do some research and choose 3 historical women from 3 different time periods who will be the focus of your paper.
2 - On Tue and Wed, find 3 or 4 important ideas or incidents in each of these women’s lives pertaining to women’s rights, and take notes on them.
3 - On Thursday, figure out the basic premise of your papers. Is it that these women are the key figures in women’s rights history? Is it that a particular incident was key? Do some thinking, write down a topic sentence.
4 - On Friday and saturday, write up an outline of your paper, including topic sentences for each paragraph.
5 - on Sunday, review the outline

etc. etc. Does the second way seem more feasable than the first? If so, get some tutoring on how to organize projects, and go from there.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s anything WRONG with you. I think you need some help and guidance in dealing with stuff like this, but it doesn’t mean you have a major horrible flaw.

Figuring out how to manage time & chunk down big projects into little ones might help you, but it also sounds like maybe you have some additional issues that talking to someone might help. Both approaches certainly couldn’t hurt.

Hang in there.

I don’t know if there is anything wrong with you, but FWIW, I was the exact same person in college. I found it so difficult to get things done, and I still suffer from it. I skipped class all the time if I thought a professor was disappointed in me.
I wish I had gone to counselling when I was your age, though. Maybe it would have helped make things easier. I still need to go get help. As it is, I am 30 now, and although I am a happy, relatively successful, well-adjusted person, I still do things that I know aren’t rational, such as avoiding problems I don’t want to face, even though I know they won’t go away. Like you not wanting to read emails from professors, I am the same way. I feel…trapped and pressured or something.
Anyway, I am a little better now because I realized some things.
1-I am terrified of being yelled at or upset with or having people be disappointed in me. Growing up, my Mom would scream at me if I told her anything less than ideal was going on, no matter how minor or trivial, so I learned to just never say anything, or face problems if I thought she would find out about them As a college student and now as an adult, I have trouble remembering that in the real world, problems have to be faced, the sooner the better, and they can’t be hidden the way they were in childhood. It’s my responsibility now. Can’t blame it on a hot-blooded Mommy!

2-I have an insidious, passive aggressive rebellious streak in me. Since I am non-confrontational, if I don’t want to do something, I just…won’t. I know that sounds odd, but I think I’ve come to realize that my whole life, what I and others thought was insecurity, or fear, or whatever, was just plain old insolence and laziness combined. I once didn’t finish a course I had a “B” in because I just didn’t want to do the 10 page paper required as a final exam. Really. I fretted over it, tossed and turned, etc etc, but looking back, I realize that the subject matter was so incredibly freakin boring, and I so resented having to buckle down and do that paper, that I just…didn’t.
Stupid, huh? It felt very liberating and devil-may-care at the time, but I sure felt like an ass when I had to repeat the boring course, and lost tuition and time to boot!
Does it get better?
Yeah. I just hated college. I do not have these problems at all at work, for some reason.
Can there be lasting consequences?
Absolutely. When I was younger, I had that same “I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-it” attitude towards money and bills and such, and believe me, when I bought my house, I had a lot of explaining to do regarding my credit report in years past!
Anyway, sorry no words of wisdom, and of course YMMV from my situation, but I remember feeling like I was the only person who couldn’t get it together, and I just don’t want you to think you’re alone.
Go see your professors. Then go see a doctor and a counselor.
Trust me, the sooner you help yourself out, the more thankful you’ll be later!

I also recognized myself in your post, Eonwe. It was suggested to me that I had a time management problem, but in retrospect, I’m pretty sure it was a mild anxiety and depression problem.

Because it’s mild, and you’re functional most of the time, it’s easy to think that you just have some sort of “character defect” and to feel like you’re just being “whiny” or failing to take responsibility for your (in)actions when you try to describe the trouble… But I’ll join the others who suggest you see a counselor* about this. You might feel better just for having taken control of the problem and taken action to deal with it.

*The title alone may scare you, but a psychiatrist is probably best, as he/she would be able to help with both counseling/therapy and medication, if needed. I’d be surprised if your school doesn’t have one or more qualified individuals in its Health Services office who are very familiar with what you’re experiencing.

Best of luck with this. You’re definitely not alone, that’s for sure!

can i just wholeheartedly agree with 12hazel - I was (and still am) one of those people suffering from mild depression. I was the same at school, college and now work. I have learnt to cope with it.

My big fear is failure, or of disappointing my boss (and/or myself).

Certainly some time management techniques help - now I see big tasks as a number of little ones and therefore don’t panic so much. As a result, I am better at my job and more sociable as well!

My only advice (FWIW) is to do what you are starting to do - address the problem head on, and take any help that you can get.

Good luck!

Hi Eonwe, as I mentioned when we met, I have suffered from mild, chronic depression all my life. In college and since, it manifests sometimes as procrastination. Sometimes I really think I’m addicted to procrastination. I delay doing something important until the anxiety is almost unbearable, then I postpone it. Huge sigh of relief and a high that lasts for days until the pressure starts to build again. I see you doing the same thing. Remember missing your flight to San Diego? From our brief time together I know you had a lot on your plate, what with papers due, exams coming up, work, travel and moving! Something’s gotta give and it was the papers. Basically I think you need to see a councilor of some sort. You might respond to anti-depressant medication and/or talk therapy. A councilor can suggest ways of dealing with procrastination and anxiety. He or she can point out to you the danger signs in you life.

Get help. Don’t wait, do it now.


Sidle, you’re freaking me out here! Are you my long-lost twin? And if so, which one of us is the “evil” one???

Eonwe, I echo the posters who’ve urged you to learn some organization/time management skills for the future. You’re on the right track by setting a deadline for yourself (and making the promise to the professors) to get the papers done.

For the present, I echo the played-out Nike catchphrase: Just Do It.

In other words, whatever it is you think you can’t deal with (talking to a professor, finishing an assignment–or three), just force yourself to face it head-on. And when it doesn’t kill you, you’ll be a stronger, more kick-ass person for it!

No no no! I never said I was “evil”. I said I am “lazy!”
I’m too lazy to be evil!
I am reminded of Mike Myers in So I Married an Ax Murderer;
"Have you ever done something evil? So evil, that, in fact, it would be called evIL? Like the fruITs of the DeVIL?

I’ve been dealing with my depression an awful lot lately, it has taken advantage of a very strange phase of my life and decided to just make itself right at home.

Lately, however, I too have found myself paralyzed by strange, irrational fears, that are most unlike me. (In situations different from yours, however, I should note; as far as writing papers goes, I have an overactive bullshit gene that just takes over. It’s genetic, my dad’s in advertising). I have wondered, as I wonder in your case now, if these feelings might not also be an anxiety disorder ( Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD). It’s somewhat different from depression, but it can be helped. My opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it, bear in mind, but it’s something to consider.
Don’t EVER think of it in terms of something wrong with you. Depression taught me that. To be honest, I have trouble talking to people who aren’t depressed most of the time. I feel like we have a better view of who we are as a person and are generally far more insightful.
Hang in there, Eonwe. We all have our crosses to bear, and despite all these hard times I’m going through, I still try to believe that we will be stronger for it in the end.

EONWE – Just wanted to post to say I too can relate. The problem you’re experiencing is very common. Big assignments tend to be intimidating, so we put off doing them, then they get bigger (because we have less time), so we put them off again, and the next think we know we’re on the verge of a panic attack with some big honkin’ assignment overdue and not done. I get this way, too; I think probably almost everyone does.

I highly recommend the time-management suggestions given above. For me, what works is not to look at the whole enormous task, but just the first few things – and then the next few things, and then the next. . . . The other thing that works for me is to say “I will work on this for two hours, and then I’ll [do something fun].” Hey, you can do it for two hours, right? Then the next day, do two hours more.

Most people I know who have completed major academic projects (like theses or dissertations) do this – because you can’t look at the whole project too much without freaking out. So they say, “I will work three hours on this,” or “I will crank out 10 pages, even if they’re crap, and I won’t stop until I have those 10 pages.”

It’s true that sometimes procrastination can be a sign of depression, but sometimes it’s just procrastination.

Jodi, who is not depressed, just basically a lazy-ass.