For the best part of a week and a half, I have lived among the millions of people who experience the better bulk of their lives in the wee hours of the morning. Their reasons for being night dwellers undoubtedly vary from person to person, maybe it’s an accumulation of stress, work requirements or even a mental disorder. Yet, others live in the darkness voluntarily, known as night hawks.
While night hawks claim to function best when the world is shrouded in darkness, I take no pleasure in it. I especially detest my own personal darkness, a dark that has overridden my ability to sleep, granting me one or two hours a night. In my waking hours, I have been consumed by the heavy dread of depression. This depressive episode has been one of the longest and most painful to date. I have ventured outside of my home only a few times since it settled in unannounced.
One thing I have noticed about this particularly troubling bout of sadness is how mentally weak I feel. I have seldom had the depressive symptoms overpower me to the degree where the simplest tasks seemed daunting. No doubt the sleep deprivation played a role.
Working its way from the inside out, depression knew exactly what it was doing. It systematically robbed me of my confidence, my compassion and my ability to write. Simply put, I didn’t care. Missing out on some normally enjoyable obligations is something I rarely do, however, this time, it really didn’t matter. It was as though my emotional centre was stricken with sickness and then flatlined. I was incapable of feeling guilty for staying home, guilt is my typical response to missing out on things; I wasn’t able to feel anything, to be honest.
I’m quickly learning that major depressive disorder and the absence of sleep have devastating consequences. Its as though a mental anesthesiologist injected me with the inability to feel any emotion whatsoever, well, except extreme sadness.
The importance of sleep was not lost upon me, nor was my resolve to get through this depressive episode. Despite the significant lack of sleep, I have tried to keep my cognitive wits about me, I know that none of the mental illness episodes I experience consume me forever, so I was confident that I would weather this storm. I would put earphones in my ears and play some relaxing music, try the couch and even read. All proved helpful to a minimal degree but some sleep is better than none.
So, If you are going through something similar, know that it will pass and that there are things you can do to minimize the impact of a depressive episode and lack of sleep. Mindfulness usually works for me; reading and gentle music, rain or ocean sounds may also be very helpful. I think it’s important to keep in mind that long bouts of any mental health condition will pass. Just ride the wave, try these techniques and you will emerge victoriously!