I was up at a reasonable hour this morning. Doctor’s appointment, food shopping, and one or two other things needed to be done. It’s not exactly a rare occurrence, but it is a break from the norm. A pleasant one, mind.
Throughout my life I’ve been a bit of a night owl. Go to bed late, by which I mean anything between 2 and 3am. I’ve always been like that though. The last full time job I had, however, was an 11am start. It fitted in perfectly.
When it becomes a problem, however, is when you wake up just before Mid-day. You want to get up but somehow, there’s a voice in your head, telling you that whatever awaits you beyond the duvet is far worse than staying where you are.
There’s things that always need doing. Breakfast, shopping, work or job searching, cleaning, washing, even just getting some fresh air. When you’re in that state of mind though, it falls by the wayside.
As your mind awakens, all that negative thinking kicks into gear, telling you how pathetic you are, being in bed with half the day gone. A shake of the head, and you then begin the cycle of reminding yourself why you’re pathetic.
By the time you’ve gone through the first of the day’s negative thinking, anything up to another two hours have passed. Skip breakfast then. Hey, look at the time. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze going out, getting the shopping, and back in time for tea. May as well stay where you are. It’s intensely depressing but it’s warm, comfortable, and keeps the outside world at bay.
Eventually, your body screams at you “You need the bathroom. Now.” Still you leave it to the last second. A glance out of the window. “No, I don’t want face the day.” So it’s toiletry functions, maybe a wash, and back to the duvet, to be enveloped by the torture of your own mind again.
Why go back there though? It’s because we want to hide away from the world, from everyone, to face the demons in our mind alone. Of course it’s not thinking straight, but that’s how it is in the grip of depression.
Along comes supper time. Your stomach is rumbling. You know you need to eat. But still you don’t do anything. By this stage, you notice little aches and pains. The body feels heavier and heavier.
You feel drowsier and drowsier, and soon enough pass out into another snooze. It’s blessed relief. At least your mind can’t torment you consciously and dreams, in the negativity turns up there, are often forgotten.
By the time you wake up, early evening and dark skies are abound. You make an effort to get up and draw the curtains. Then that voice in your mind starts off again. “Well done. Another day wasted doing nothing.”
Then back comes the self criticism, the creeping feeling at the back of your mind that something awful is about to happen. There’s usually no reason to suppose that, but reason is in short supply in a depressed, stress and anxious minds.
It washes over you, making you feel worse, your body achier, your mind as well as yourself feeling more and more tired. And the unremitting misery. Eventually, you may just nibble some food. Often, though, it’s junk, something from a wrapper, which gets thrown to the side of the bed.
Soon, it’s the end of another day or torture. Try as you might, and as much as you want to break the cycle, once depression has you in its clutches, it is devilishly difficult to break out of it.
People around you, of course, notice the signs. The look of being perpetually tired if you are up. The lack of energy. The soft, trailing, unenthusiastic voice. The lack of eye contact. The discomfort in being around someone. And being hardly able to go back to bed.
Any suggestions to get yourself out, or see a doctor, or even a hint that something may be wrong with you, is usually met with a snappy “There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m fine.” Hiding how you feel from others is an essential way of getting through the day if there’s visitors. That is, at least, what your mind tells you.
And that’s the wonderful life of bed with depression. At least from this perspective. All day in bed may sound like bliss to some. But it’s hell. Absolute hell.
So, what do I do to combat this if I’m feeling low? I try to keep to these five steps. There’s no medical proof that any of this works, but hey, it works for me.
1. Drink water just before bedtime. And if I wake up in the middle of the night, drink more. If nature calls, eventually, you have to get up.
2. Set the alarm for 7 hours after it’s lights out. We’re all fairly bad and getting out of bed and rising instantly. Although we don’t need the proverbial 8 hours, 7 hours and an hour or so waking yourself up is no bad thing.
3. Put on some positive music first thing. If the first thing I hear when I awake boosts my self confidence or motivation, it makes it that bit easier. My current favourite is Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”, a song of defiance and anger. Exactly what I need to face the world down.
4. Breakfast. It’s there waiting for me. A bowl of something, usually muesli, that I’ve put out the night before. If it’s there, you may as well eat it. And your body feels so much better for it.
5. Shower after breakfast. Even if you have no shower gel or shampoo, feeling that water on your face – and all those bits usually well hidden – somehow makes you feel more alive.
It certainly won’t be a winner for everyone. But if you’re suffering from the bed-ridden blues, even if you can’t bring yourself to do all five steps, just one of them will make you feel better. Or at least less worse.
And on that note, time for bed. Or is it? I’m not sure. So I’ll just sleep on it ….
(Hey, less of the groaning, this is a blog about depression, not Live At The Apollo. If you want decent jokes go and read an MP’s expenses form)