Mental Health

When Mental Illness Makes Small Tasks Overwhelming

Overwhelmed and unmotivated aren’t typically terms that go hand-in-hand. But today I’m feeling both. I read a quote on a piece of art by Kelly Malka, and it sparked some inspiration, so I want to talk about it; “Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by everything I want to do that I’m afraid I might not accomplish anything at all.”

Some mornings I wake up and think about all the things I want to do, and it makes me feel so overwhelmed. I end up laying in bed for half the day, dreading my life. I become overwhelmingly riddled with dread, and I don’t want to get out of bed and be me.

I lay there in bed, thinking of all the things I want to do, and all the things I need to do. Then, I become terrified that I won’t accomplish anything.

I send myself into a spiral of dread and unrealistic expectations… and it’s a spiral that I can’t get out of. Inevitably my dread keeps me from accomplishing much.

Today for example, I wanted to; read, take a walk, shower, and go to the grocery store… but I became riddled with dread because I was scared that I couldn’t accomplish it all. I became overwhelmed, so I did none of it.

Thought spiral: Does this happen because I have a mental illness? Is it my mind playing tricks on me? Why can’t I complete simple tasks?

I wish I could say that this is a seldom occurrence, but it isn’t. This is the norm for me. And days like this are never solo, they come in pairs… Thus causing a day of inactivity to turn into a week. The tasks continue to pile up, nothing gets done, it all becomes overwhelming, very overwhelming.

Then, worthlessness and self-doubt comes in.

Thought spiral: Why can’t I complete simple tasks? Why is showering so insurmountable? Why can’t I go to the grocery store? How long has it been since I left the house; a week? Why can’t I be normal? Have I showered this week? Does it even matter?

The tasks I wanted to accomplish become mountains that I’m incapable of climbing. I continue laying in bed… even days later. No shower. No social interaction. No grocery store. No walk. I move to the couch.

Thought spiral: I hate myself. Why am I like this? If I could just go to the grocery store, I could eat something healthy. It would make me feel better. But I have to shower before I can go to the store. That’s too much. I can’t do it. I’d have to make a list, shower, and go to the store… but I need to clean the fridge first. I don’t have time for all that. Maybe tomorrow.

Then tomorrow comes, and everything repeats. Again, and again. Worthlessness. Self-doubt. Self-hated. Still no shower.

Small tasks become huge. I don’t know why. Maybe this is due to my Bipolar Disorder, or maybe my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Perhaps, it is a combination of the two. I sincerely don’t know. Perhaps I never will. But this is a part of my life. This lack of motivation. This tendency to become overwhelmed by simple tasks. These feelings of worthlessness. They are a part of me.

There is also a nighttime version of this; where the anticipation of my to-do list overwhelms me, and keeps me from sleeping. I sit awake all night, anxiety ridden, cycling through all the things I need to do in the morning. Then, the morning comes and I’m too exhausted from lack of sleep and anxiety pain to accomplish anything. Then, one of two things happen; (1) the “morning thought spiral”starts, which I’ve explained in this post, or (2) I go days without sleeping, because my anxiety overrides my mind; but that’s a different blog post entirely…

Here’s the super odd part: only small tasks seem overwhelming. I’m fine with tasks that are actually huge. There is a John Green Quote in Turtles All The Way Down; “But the things that make other people nervous have never scared me.” This is true. Things that seem huge or scary to other people (medical emergencies, party planning, natural disasters, etc…), seem small to me. While things that seem small to other people (showering, going grocery shopping, etc…), seem scary and huge to me.

You may be wondering: why would she share this ugliness? Well, I share because someone like me might read this, and I want them to know that they are not alone. This will get better. It always gets better, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but it always does. So, I never give up.

Sincerely, Elizabeth – Uncustomary Housewife

Every time you call out, you’re a little less alone. You matter, and you deserve support. To view a list of mental health support systems and online communities, visit; Uncustomary Housewife – Mental Health Support Systems and Communities

Overwhelmed and unmotivated aren't typically terms that go hand-in-hand. But today I'm feeling both. I read a quote on a piece of art by Kelly Malka, and it sparked some inspiration, so I want to talk about it; “Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by everything I want to do that I’m afraid I might not accomplish anything at all.”

I would like to thank Kelly Malka for creating this awesome art, and for granting me permission to use it. To see more amazing art by Kelly Malka, visit her website, and etsy shop

You can connect with the Uncustomary Housewife on social networks: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also subscribe to the Uncustomary Housewife Blog.

When Mental Illness Makes Small Tasks Overwhelming - Uncustomary Housewife Blog


36 comments on “When Mental Illness Makes Small Tasks Overwhelming

  1. sharonschwartz2018

    I get you! Maybe sometimes you feel compelled to share because you need to know you’re not alone either. When I get extremely unmotivated I vent to my husband. I feel my depression creeping up on me, but he tells me it’s normal to be unmotivated sometimes. He doesn’t struggle with mental illness at all but he does tell me he gets the “unmotivated” mindset. It kind of helps me to not stigmatize myself so much and realize okay! I’m normal!  Everyday people feel this way sometimes and now I can give myself permission to feel this way. I think it’s so hard for those of us with a mental illness to do that. We can’t give ourselves days to just do nothing because we are SOOOO performance driven. Then, things spiral from there… Anyway…just my thoughts 😊💕hopefully if they didn’t help they didn’t hurt. 🙏

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    • Sharon, thank you for your advice and kind words, I always enjoy reading your feedback. I agree, most people don’t understand what having a mental illness is like — that is one of the main things that keeps me writing, I want to educate. Most all people understand what it means to be unmotivated; however, being unmotivated because of a mental illness is different in many, many ways. My husband tries very hard to understand, and be a support system for me… and he does an amazing job. I liked your point about giving yourself permission to feel this way. I understand that. Thank you.

  2. I hear you and know exactly what you mean. I can organise residential trips for 80 children and staff and I can work my way through a huge stack of reports, but cleaning the bathroom or planning meals for the coming week is completely overwhelming.
    Be kind to yourself.

    • THIS. Absolutely. Perfect example. I’m so sorry that you understand this, and feel this way. I sincerely appreciate you sharing it with me, though. I hope you are also kind to yourself.

  3. I hope you can find a professional to talk with. Sometimes just a bit of medication helps. Mental illness sucks. I am a high-functioning depressed person. Meaning, when out and around folks they don’t see it. You are not alone.

  4. Sounds similar to they way I sometimes feel. I take Prozac and something for anxiety regularly. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, dependent personality, egocentricity, and depression. Symphonies get worse after stress.

    The anti-anxiety medication helps me get going when I can’t get moving. I used to call the office and tell them I could not get going, then take a pill and would be able to get out in a few hours. My doctor thought it was from my obsessive compulsive disorder.

    You might try to notice if there these episodes follow any increase in stress or if any thing else precedes them. Finding a pattern might help.

    Hope you start feeling better.

    • Symptoms get worse after stress. I sometimes go to sleep at the symphony.
      I accidentally hit send before I could correct the change auto spelling made.

    • Thank you for sharing, and for your feedback. It takes a lot of strength to share the vulnerable parts of mental health, and I applaud you for doing so. To answer your inquiry: I monitor when this un-motivation happens, and it is normally during a depressive episode. Most of the time, I can’t control when my depressive episodes happen. Other times, like you suggested, my un-motivated episodes happen after I’ve overexerted myself socially. I’m working on better self-care, so that doesn’t happen as often.

  5. I’ve known the feelings, Elizabeth.

  6. pixelanonyme

    Thank you for sharing this story. I’ve been in this place for the past week or so and, even though I know intellectually that I’m not alone, it really helps to see a blogger that I respect sharing the same experience. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone you look up to has it all together and would never go through the same struggles.

    • I totally understand, sometimes I look around and everyone seems to have their ducks in a row. It’s nice to be reminded that I’m not alone… Also, thank you for your very kind feedback. It sincerely means a lot to me. I hope you are doing well. You aren’t going through these struggles alone.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I felt so strange for feeling this way. I usually feel this way when it comes to household tasks which is strange for me because I hate clutter. If I have fitness planned I can usually get it done even if it’s running 13 miles and strength training for 2 hours that day. I’m working on improving this and I understand the need to want to share. I want to share as well. It helps get the thoughts out there and helps me feel less alone.

    • Thank you so very much for sharing with me. Feeling strange isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of my favorite actors, Ben Platt, talked about being “strange” in his Tony Award acceptance speech; “Don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.” I think about that, a lot, because my mental illness makes me feel strange. I’m very glad to hear that you are working on improvement. That is wonderful. I hope you are doing well.

  8. Pingback: Uncustomary December: A Rundown of my Month – Uncustomary Housewife

  9. I get unmotivated all the time too. I also have a weird thing of thinking I closed cabinet doors or want to pick up something to throw away or put away but have a mental block and walk past it for days.

  10. Oh..child, I know those feelings so well. Especially feeling overwhelmed by all the other feeling. Especially when the creative juices are flowing I want to write to draw, contact old friends, do projects around the home, etc., etc. I know what you mean, it can get very frustrating. Sometimes it zaps my energy so that I get less done.

  11. I appreciate your courage in sharing your struggles. It’s difficult to express these thoughts with stigma, both from others and, perhaps, what exists in our own minds. Reading your posts encourages me to strive to be more open about my own struggles.

  12. MeToo

  13. Wow I complete relate to this. I have so much I want to do for the day; I want to work or sign up for classes or go the library and I feel overwhelmed by those little things. In my worst depression; maybe I don’t brush my teeth or take the time to wash my clothes; I hate it so much. And it was painful to read this because it was all me; like someone finally knew exactly what I do through on a daily basis. I have bipolar and OCD tendencies, I am also on the Autistic spectrum and this post really spoke to me and made me think. Oh and my sleep is also terrible due to overthinking and worrying about everything I need to get done and of course I always put it off until the last minute. Thank for this and no, we are not alone. I am so happy I stumbled across your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts. Take, care, Dave

  14. Pingback: When Mental Illness Makes Small Tasks Overwhelming — Uncustomary Housewife (reblogged) – Revolutionary Musings

  15. I scanned by this post on my feed. At first glance I thought, well this is something I could read and enjoy. I began welling up with tears after the first paragraph. This piece hit me right where it hurts—in the best way possible. What a pleasure to read something that encapsulates daily depression and to do so, so eloquently. Amazing read, thank you.

  16. It’s so nice to know that I’m not alone! I have been struggling with this for some time. I often feel guilty and defective because of these feelings. I’m receiving help from my doctor, therapy, and posts such as these. Thank you for sharing.

  17. I felt this way this past week–overwhelmed by a long list of “little things”. I had 2 bills to pay sitting on my computer desk for a week. It was on my to-do list all week and I just couldn’t face it. It wasn’t even about the money– it was having to call someone on the phone and give them my payment info and act normal when I was feeling horribly depressed. I get you, girl!! Thanks for sharing!

  18. I’m the same way!

  19. I’VE BEEN THERE. I feel like it can become a vicious cycle. Have tasks that don’t get done –> feel bad because nothing got done –> more depression/anxiety; even less motivation –> more tasks piling up –> even more reasons to feel behind and down. I think the hardest part is identifying this early and not getting sucked into that depressive cycle. This post reminded me of the concept of behavioral activation therapy. “Depression often cycles out of control because a low mood can cause one to withdraw from activities. In the absence of those fulfilling activities, a person’s mood worsens, causing them to withdraw further. Behavioral activation breaks this cycle by encouraging a person to resume an appropriate schedule of activities. Participation in these activities helps boost mood.” (

  20. Thank you for posting this… Me too.

  21. I am like you. Thank you for writing this. You have brought me a tiny amount of comfort.

  22. K Anderson

    I have been dealing with this for over the past several years. Counseling and Rx do not seem to work. I feel lost trying to break free. Now I’m dealing with bouts of amnesia. Help.

  23. Thank you I really needed it read something like that

  24. I am going through this and it was comforting to realize I am not alone. I feel so overwhelmed by the simple things as well as the larger challenges. Housework is the worst challenge along with making dinner which haunts me daily. Last fall we revamped our backyard and I was excited about having a huge vegetable patch. But now the thought of planting and tending the garden is so overwhelming it has me tied in knots of guilt and shame and anger. It is hard to contemplate planting carrots when I struggle to brush my teeth. Your article has given me an understanding of how this is a symptom of depression which I am being treated for with an SSRI drug but which I didn’t really understand as I thought depression was sadness not this overwhelmed feeling and inability to overcome a resistance to daily tasks that i didn’t understand but which made me feel so bad about myself. Thank you..

  25. This is exactly what I’m dealing with. 2 hrs work feels like 40 hours. Constantly overwhelmed, and feel extremely guilty for not doing enough. I am so glad I found this post. Makes me feel a little better knowing I’m not the only one.

  26. I’m currently crying over not being able to open the bag of cheese because the kitchen scissors are missing 😢

    I only feel motivated for about 30 minutes then all drive leavers me and i feel exhausted just thinking about having the make dinner again

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