The last few weeks, I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting out of bed in the morning.
I’ve slept through more alarm clocks this week than I’ve woken up to. Some mornings, I’ll actually wake up, go into the other room to turn off my alarm (because that’s where I keep it) and then get back into bed. Most days, I’m struggling to get up and into a shower before 10am.
This is unusual for me because, for the last year or so, I’ve been waking up pretty consistently at 5am. It’s the only time of day that I can get any really heavy creative work done.
I’ve told myself this is partly my fault. That I shouldn’t keep setting my alarm clock for 5am if it’s clear my body needs more time to rest. Or that I’m just not being disciplined enough if I get up, turn my alarm clock off, and then get back into bed as if I think it’s going to end differently this time. As if I’m not going to go straight back to sleep. I’ve been kicking myself over it. Jocko Willink would be so disappointed.
I’ve also told myself that I have a reason – that this is partly not my fault. It’s not that I’m not disciplined, or that my body needs more sleep. It’s that I have depression.
Depression slows everything down and fatigue is one of the most common symptoms. It’s one of the symptoms that lingers the longest even if the rest of the brain and body are working fine. It can also be linked to the seasons; I haven’t seen a sunrise before 8:30 in months and I haven’t properly seen sunlight in much longer. I got one of those UV lamps, but it’s not helping as much as I’d hoped. It could be that my mind is just craving an environment that the country I’m living in just can’t provide.
It would be one thing if I were just sleepier. I think I could cope with that. But depression is never that simple and, often, ‘fatigue’ isn’t just a sense of being sleepy. It’s more than that.
Dr. Maurizio Fava writes that: “[f]atigue is one of the identified symptoms of MDD listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria where it is defined as physical fatigue or loss of energy. However, in my opinion, fatigue is much more than that. We see apathy and considerable emotional disturbance occurring as a consequence of fatigue.”
If I was just sleepy, then I would still feel compelled to get out bed. I’ve been tired before and still managed to do what I needed to do. For the last week or so, it’s been different – even though I know that I’m going to regret the decision later, even though I know that there’s so much I need to be doing. The problem is that I’m sleepy and I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I just. Won’t. Do it.
I originally wrote ‘can’t’ in that last sentence. I deleted it and wrote ‘won’t’. Then I went back and typed ‘can’t’ again. It went on for a little while. Because I couldn’t decide if it is right to blame my depression for not being able to get out of bed. I know that it is a symptom, and that tackling this sort of thing is not as simple as just saying: “I’m going to make a decision to get out of bed now, and my body will cooperate” because sometimes, when you’re in the black, you feel like there’s a straight jacket around your brain and even the most simple commands aren’t getting from there to the rest of your body. I’ll tell myself to get out of bed, and then continue to lie there. The commands just aren’t being followed.
I’ve tried to sort it out. Naturally, there are a lot of tips and tricks on the internet about dealing with depression fatigue and how to cope. These tips and tricks only go so far. At the end of the day, it comes down to a choice: do I follow the commands of my mind, or do I succumb to the fatigue in my body? Either way, I think it must be a choice, though it may be one that is made for me in the end.
In Lilly Singh’s book, How to be a Bawse, she has her reader complete an exercise to demonstrate the power of the mind over the body. She asks the reader to touch their nose. It’s similar to this youtube video of hers. Basically, it boils down to this: if you make the decision, your body will follow. If you decide to touch your nose, then you will. If you decide to complete a task, then you will.
It’s simple in theory. It’s tough in practice.