Depression and the Anti-Work Position

Giving up doesn't mean slacking off

Giving up doesn’t mean slacking off

I have heard people claim something to the effect of that people who don’t like doing a lot are “just depressed” or people who lack the energy to do stuff are merely suffering from depression. So naturally us slackers, idlers and general loafers are wide open (in a way) to being seen as just people who are struggling with depression and covering it up with ideological sprinkles.

This is more or less utter nonsense.

I say more or less because I have depression. I don’t say this to have a pity party (I’ll keep it to a party of one, thanks) but rather to say that some people may indeed have depression and feel like being less stressed, doing less things and so on compliments their lifestyle because they already have depression.

The problem with generalizing this idea is that people who are intentional slackers, loafers, idlers, etc. aren’t intentionally doing it (usually) because they are sad but because these things make them happy. When I lay on my inflatable mattress and look out the window to see the birds chirping on the branches or the sun setting and feeling the cool air hit my face, it’s lovely. I am doing nothing because it makes me happy. Not because I am depressed, which I may very well be.

I point all of this out not because this conflation of not doing anything because one is miserable and doing one particularly so they won’t be miserable are two separate things. But because for the past few days have been struggling with serious depression. It’s in my medical history but also in my family history to a certain extent. I won’t say much more there but just know that this isn’t my first time in the ring with depression.

Having depression didn’t make me want to do nothing though. At least not in the way I usually feel about life. It made me want to do nothing and then told me I was worthless the whole time. That what I had done before was worthless, that was worthless. Everything became a chore, everything became so fucking hard to do. I could hardly push myself to eat, move around and even have basic conversations sometimes. This isn’t my normal slacking behavior, this is something else and that something isn’t healthy, it’s destructive.

When I am slacking or doing something that’s relaxing, eating and playing and talking with those whom I love and cherish is a great thing and I typically have a great time. But depression makes you (or at least it made me) want to go back in your shell and never come out again. That’s not how I am typically and it’s not part of my anti-work position.

But I’d be lying if I said that my depression has nothing to do with my anti-work position.

I’ve heard rumblings from a few people (and I find these rumblings plausible) that being in a low-energy state a lot of the time can make you more predisposed to depression. Now, I don’t know how that exactly works but it makes intuitive sense to me (i.e. it sounds right even if I am not sure why it would be). Given that I have a personal and familial history with depression it also makes sense that even when some things happen that wouldn’t turn people depressed (relationship issues for example) sometimes make everything feel worthless for me.

So I won’t deny that my slacker style sometimes has its negative consequences. Sometimes I wonder if I am making a different in this world at all. Whether I really matter. Have I really done anything for anyone? Am I actually going to be able to make people happy? Can I take care of those whom I love and cherish?

And when I think about these things I try (emphasis on try) to think about those who love me. My partner, my close friends, my family and acquaintances online who I am close with. Thinking of them and their compliments to me and their kind words and dispositions towards me makes me realize that, yes, I do provide value in the world. It may not be as much as I’d idealistically want sometimes but it’s a good amount nonetheless and it matters to other people. That’s something even if it may not be anything to some people.

Does my anti-work position stem from my depression though? No, I don’t think it does. Even when I’m not depressed (which, thankfully, is most of the time) I am happy to lounge around and watch funny videos, talk to friends, read, enjoy life, go for a leisurely walk, play and play again, etc. I am happy to do most things that make me happy and while some things may be difficult to do sometimes (ADHD + executive functioning skills being less than average will do that to you) it doesn’t mean I won’t do them. In general I am actually pretty good on being on schedule with other people’s needs or desires. I pride myself on being reliable towards my friends and others whom I care about. I always try to honor commitments to the best of my ability if it’s at all possible. And if I think I can’t then I try to let the given person know.

But let’s consider (for a moment) what if the anti-work position could be more closely associated with depression. Well what would that really matter? So a lot of anti-work people are sad a lot of the time and thus don’t want to do anything, are we just going to say then that there desires (or lack thereof) are illegitimate? That their ideological commitments are thus false and hold no bearing on the world? Do we discredit their ideas just because they may come from a place of sadness? Maybe instead of dismissing them the better thing to do would be to try to understand them and then see if they’re not so wrong about the world around us.

I know I’d rather have people listen to me then just mock myself and my ideas because my mental health isn’t the best sometimes.

These past few days have been tough. And I’m still dealing with the depression as we speak.

But hey look, I just did a 1,000+ word blog posts in under a half-hour.

That’s pretty good for a depressed slacker, right?

9 thoughts on “Depression and the Anti-Work Position

  1. FWIW what you say makes a lot of sense to me. Work for hire is not a natural trait of humans, it’s a relatively new development for humans, and just 100 years ago most people still lived in the countryside and had a more direct relationship with their environment. Work made sense, say, if you had to provide food for your children, it was easy to see a direct relationship between planting a tomato plant, picking tomatoes and making a salad for your kid.

    Labour-derived conditions shouldn’t be pathologised. But when almost the entire constituency of the medical/mental health professions (and others alike) are upper middle class professionals with very little political discernment, their collective mindset drives standarisation of what “normal” humans must be like. “Normal” humans must work for hire and shouldn’t feel dissociation from an unnatural arrangement of society. And if you don’t fit that standard, we’ll assign a four-letter acronym to you. (There are other ramifications derived from this, like the vicious cycle of over-diagnosing and the link with Big Pharma, but that’s another story)

    Regarding work and work for hire… I mean, I accept some conditions, and I almost pretend I can play by the rules and pretend that this arrangement is fair some days. But I’ve never in my life believed any of that shit for a single second.
    I don’t feel as strongly about it as you do to make it the main topic of my discussions, but I’m glad that you provide your thoughtful perspective to enrich debate, so thank you for that.

    • Thanks so much for this and for your kind words. They mean a lot.

      I make this the main topic of my discussions because as Bob Black says in “The Abolition of Work” most of our lives are currently spent working or at work. So it seems to me to be inherently worth commenting on to some extent then.

      I think more people should take the topic more seriously but of course not everyone has to have it as their top priority. Ideally it would just be seen as another serious and worthwhile engagement for us as anarchists. One of importance.

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