I made this list in response to how I’ve been feeling lately
Time can hang heavy on the hands of someone who’s depressed, especially if they’re not working that day (if they can work at all). Something that I never used to think about has become a huge ordeal for me. Getting out of bed when you’re depressed is, in my opinion, the bravest thing you can do.
I have a few theories on why throwing off the blanketed shackles is so hard:
Loss of identity. As I mention in a previous post, when you go through something as traumatic as a mental health breakdown, you completely lose your bearings. You can’t remember what worked for you before, or what your interests are. When you wake up with the uncertainty of what you’re going to do for the day, the hours stretching ahead of you until bedtime can be terrifying.
You know what you’re up against. You may not know what you’re going to do, but you have a pretty good idea how you’re going to feel. Anxiety, uncertainty, self-doubt, despair, loneliness. Is it any wonder you don’t want to face that?
Broken internal clock. When my old routine shattered, so did my sense of time. I couldn’t remember what month or season it was, but I sure as hell notice what time of day it is. Every. Freaking. Minute. That’s because the old cues of my routine are gone. In some ways, this has been a great opportunity for me to discard what didn’t work for me. In many ways, though, it’s just plain scary. My way of viewing the day has flipped. I used to panic that the days were going by too quickly and I wasn’t accomplishing enough. Now i freak out if I see it’s only eleven am and most of the day is still ahead of me.* Along with that, I’ve been sleeping less than ever, so I have more day to fill. (And let me say, the time change was a real bitch this year. I didn’t need an extra hour in my life, thank you!) When your sense of time is screwy, bed is the only constant comfort you can rely on. Ergo, harder to leave.
The season. Okay, this only applies if you live in the northern hemisphere right now, but man, getting out of bed when it’s cold and dark is hard even when you’re feeling great. Leaving your cozy warm nest is a bitter pill when you’re depressed.
Rumination. Every piece of advice I’ve been given about depression includes the following: Get. Out. Of. Bed. And it’s not really because staying in bed is bad for your health. In the short term, I think your body can handle the extra rest and lack of exercise. It does that anyway when you’re sick. It’s because mentally, you get stuck in a depressive loop when you’re in bed. I didn’t want to believe this when I hit rock bottom, because I really, really, really wanted to stay in bed. But when I tried going back to bed a few times in the day, I realized “they” were right (the bastards). I felt even more like miserable crap. And the longer I stayed, the worse I felt, because it was a reinforcing self-prophecy. I don’t get out of bed, therefore I can’t get out bed, therefore I’m a miserable failure at life. Repeat indefinitely for full inertia.
No, the only way I have been able to fight this thing is to get out and stay out until bedtime, as hard** as it is. At least then I could wave my middle finger at my illness at the end of the day and be like, “See? I can’t possibly be as useless as you think if I can get through the day without going to bed.” It makes me feel like a badass ninja warrior putting anxiety and depression in a headlock.
So how do you fill those long hours? My next post will cover some things that have helped me.
*I also have come up with my theory on why time drags when you’re depressed, besides the obvious of being bored. It’s because you get stuck in a “this moment forever” mentality. You look at the hour ahead of you rather than seeing the pattern of the whole day, week, month, etc. You think this feeling of being anxious/depressed is all there is in life and can’t see past it. Part of my healing process has been trusting life and time to change the situation and to see the ebb and flow of my mood.
**How hard is it? #$@!ing hard. Let me just say that again.