Thought of the Week: The Energy Barrier

One of the things that used to afflict me terribly in my days of depression was the utter inability to find the energy to actually do anything. The very thought of even the simplest of tasks – getting up out of bed, or brushing my teeth, was more than I could bear.

As my depression mutated, evolved, and turned into a variety of other, yet-undefined mental disturbances, this has stayed with me. It isn’t always the case, of course – hell, I wrote a damn book; something got me going with it! But there are things I simply can’t stand doing, and when faced with them, I build up a mental resistance to even the thought of it, and it becomes impossible to get it done.

Do you have any idea how dry our grass is right now? And the sprinkler is sitting by the back steps, right next to the hose!


I remember, many years ago, my father explaining something to me. It was a rare instance of empathy, a point where, inexplicably, he actually said something that made sense to me. Maybe it was a fluke.

He said that, in the process of thinking about activity, there is a mental energy barrier. The nutshell version is that it requires far more energy to convince yourself to do something than it actually takes to do it. And it’s true; four days of dread, of procrastination and excuses…and in the end, the garbage was taken out in about thirty-six seconds.

All right, I didn’t actually time it. It might have been longer – after all, I had to take it all the way from the kitchen through the back door (in the kitchen) to the garage (next to the kitchen).

My worst vice here is doing the dishes. Here is a graph of what it takes to do them; hit ‘Like’ if you know what this feels like! Oh, and bonus points if you can spot the Iron Maiden reference.

I’ve timed myself: it has never taken me more than fifteen minutes of my life to do the dishes. Maybe twenty if I include scrubbing the stove down. Yet it is the one thing I dread more than any other in my daily life. Having to chase and swat the hornet in the bedroom doesn’t even come close. Sometimes it gets to the point of a full-blown panic attack, and images of sporks and plastic cups, festering with mould and rising up against me, fill my mind.

And that damned energy barrier is to blame. Look at it: I think there’s a point just before the peak where my head has actually exploded, and the brain bits are dancing on the walls singing the song about pure imagination from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (please don’t ask why).

Sadly, I don’t have a satisfying conclusion to this post. I still haven’t figured out a way around this, and I still have dirty dishes hanging around in the morning, like the party guests who got too hammered to drive home. They’re a bit of an embarrassment.

I’m reminded of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the thought that as an object approaches the speed of light, the energy required to do so approaches infinity.

I desperately need a wormhole. Or maybe a house elf.

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