A few nights ago, I didn’t sleep well. Despite going to bed early, I was up at 1:30 due to a nightmare; one of those dreams where nothing terrible actually happened, but the anticipation of something awful had my eyes wide and shoulders tight with adrenaline. I was awake until just before 6. That shitty sleep was another drop in the bucket of my depression, which had been filling for months as the days grew shorter and the sky turned gray.
I’ve had bad dreams my entire life. I remember being scared awake in a cold house and making my way downstairs to watch TV, allowing reruns of Star Trek to lull me back to sleep. It didn’t occur to me that the not-sleeping-at-night-thing was connected to my mental health until it came up during in-patient treatment in 2016. There I learned it was an actual condition and not simply a quirk, with a silly name hyphenated name: “middle-of-the-night insomnia”.
Despite getting a few more hours of sleep, the isolated exhaustion combined with feelings of uselessness signature to my MDD had me sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing. A creeping lethargy took hold. Sprawled on my bed, I was unable to focus on the pages of my book, or the DVDs from the library, or the new Dolly Parton podcast.
My inaction magnified my apathy.
Looking around the room made it worse. Not considering the web of laundry stretched out over the hardwood or the spire of dishware amassed on my desk, I was surrounded by shit to do. Numerous projects all paused somewhere between the beginning and the middle, tucked into corners or stacked on the shelf. Had Marie Kondo swung by at that moment, every work in progress would’ve found itself stapled into clear plastic bags and hung on a wall at Value Village. In this arid state, nothing could spark joy.
I laid on my bed until it was time to work out, and then I laid on my bed some more. I spent the next day horizontal, too.
When Monday rolled around, I sat on the couch and it dawned on me that I had two things to be grateful for:
One - this was not my first rodeo. I knew I had depression, an official diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder with Psychotic Features. I lived as a mentally ill person. Even in those moments when I was sobbing into a pillow asking “Is this the rest of my life?”, I had experienced the highs and lows enough that a part of me could answer, “Nope, it just feels like it.” In retrospect, my depressive episodes were never as bad as they felt at the time. But while in their midst, they consumed me.
Second - I could appreciate that the habits I had formed while things were sunnier were still supporting me. I maintained my daily journaling practice. I was prepping and eating healthy meals. I worked out several times a week. My ability to do these things stemmed not from a secret source of energy hidden within my sad girl self, but from the routine, I had developed over time. These things had taken place so often that even though I wanted to sleep away every moment I found myself going through the motions, without needing to think of them.