Deadlines and depression
Most school children are asked to carry out homework or coursework and complete the task by a deadline. For most people, the deadlines don't go away as we grow older. Some students at university find deadlines a constant and nagging problem which often detract from the pleasure and interest of the course. Anxiety starts as a small cloud on the horizon and looms larger and blacker with each passing week.
At the beginning of term, there is apparently all the time in the world. The sun is shining brightly in the minds of most students. The deadlines are months away. However, as time passes, some students will be diligent and preparing their work in good time; others will begin to worry. At this point the worry itself often acts as a spur to action and many students are to be found frantically writing their essays in the last few days before the deadline. However, in a few cases, people become increasingly paralysed by feelings of impotence and fear and do nothing - except worry.
Eventually, such students may arrive at a counsellor's office saying something like, "I want to leave the course now. I can't complete the work". A few may even say something like, "I want to kill myself. I can't face going on."
Deadlines also affect those in work in a similar way.
The counsellor's task is not to apportion blame. Many sufferers have already criticised themselves so much that they are truly close to suicide. Rather, the sufferer has the opportunity to work out how to cope - perhaps to negotiate a deferral in the short term.
Some people have distressing events happening at home, dealing with stressful events such as death, divorce, or serious accidents just to name few. Others may need skilled help to uncover reasons for their fears which have hitherto remained unconscious. For example, a student may fear the effect that success might have on her/his relationships, family or even job prospects. Bizarrely perhaps, failure can sometimes feel like a safer option.
A counsellor can gently explore the underlying reasons for this terrifying form of emotional paralysis and help the sufferer not only "live to fight another day" but hopefully to find a less threatening way of coping with deadlines.
Counselling can help to untangle what is often a complicated and confusing story where a problem with a deadline may be simply the tip of an iceberg.
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