This is not the most fearless of posts. In fact, I write rather fearfully.
My sleep cycle has been wonky for a few months.
There was a time that this wouldn’t have bothered me so much. There was a time when this would have been the norm. It wouldn’t have phased me. It wouldn’t have phased any body.
In college I went through a bout of insomnia.
I would stay up all night watching things and IMing with other insomniac friends. Why we didn’t just hang out in person at that point, I’m not sure. Maybe we believed that if we stayed in bed then sleep would eventually overcome us.
Eventually I got out of that hole.
I didn’t do anything about it. I just allowed my body to do its insomniac thing for a while and eventually, I guess, it got out of its system.
During the two weeks of my life that I stopped going to work all together, my sleep cycle was also quite a mess.
I slept very little at night (if at all). I would end up falling asleep for a few hours around 5 or 6 AM. I would sleep until 11. Order cheap Chinese food delivery. Eat myself into a food coma. And sleep for a few more hours on the couch.
It was a very attractive phase of my life.
This started intermittently before the two weeks, but eventually it took over, happening daily.
This was my depression.
At least that’s what the doctor said at the end of the two weeks when I got enough courage to face the fact that I hadn’t been at work for two weeks. I say at least because I didn’t fully believe it until many months later when I was back in therapy. I thought the diagnosis was my excuse, not something real.
As I’ve shared before, my therapist diagnosed me with continuous depression – as in, I’d been depressed on and off probably since I hit puberty.
My problem with being diagnosed with continuous depression is that I’m always on the lookout for my symptoms to come back, for me to hit a slump, and enter my next depressive state.
And since weird sleep patterns was a defining characteristic of my last depression, changes in my sleep patterns basically FREAK ME OUT.
My personal experience is that depression and anxiety can sometimes turn into downward spirals. Depression feeding on the fact that I’m depressed again. Depression feeding on the worry and fear that I might be depressed again. Worry affecting my sleep. My effected sleep making me worry.
For a while there I basically took any struggle with sleeping (in anyone, by the way, sorry people on whom I tried to push my diagnoses and fears) in the “normal” hours as a sure fire sign of depression.
But I’m trying to take a different approach now.
Remember, I’m learning to trust my body.
I’m trying to not immediately think “Uh oh, you woke up in the middle of the night. You’re definitely depressed. There’s no way you’re going to fall back asleep now.” whenever I wake up before my alarm.
When friends tell me that they’ve been sleeping from 1 to 9 or 3 to noon, I don’t immediately tell them to watch out for depression.
When I wake up now, I try to keep myself amused, the way I did when I was in college. I still stay in bed, in case sleep overcomes me. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s ok. I trust that my body will eventually balance itself out. Maybe I’ll effortlessly sleep for twelve hours one night like I did about a month ago. Maybe not. All I can do is go with the flow. Relax. Be calm. Not let my brain and my fears hijack my life.