I've been trying to get around to writing this post since yesterday but ironically I've been too tired! One of the most pervasive symptoms of depression is the constant tiredness. Way more than just feeling sleepy, this tiredness is all-consuming, getting in the way of all aspects of daily life. When you are always tired, finding the motivation to do anything is difficult and finding the motivation to do those things that we all have to do, but hate to do, is almost impossible. So many things get left until the last minute, or until too late; missing birthdays seems to be my speciality this year.
Sometimes the tiredness takes over at a time when it's impossible to give in to it and those days are passed in a fog of disconnectedness. I walk along the street without being able to focus on where I'm going and the very business of putting one foot in front of the other is a struggle. I regularly stumble and walking in a straight line is not really an option. Walking is difficult enough but real life doesn't just stop on the difficult days, so often I also have to drive in this state. Clearly driving without paying attention just can't happen so I have to work extremely hard to keep focused, resulting in a major (mental) crash later, and I try to keep such trips to a minimum on the worst days.
Conventional wisdom says that exercise is good for relieving the symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Certainly on better days walking with a purpose can lift my mood but unfortunately it doesn't seem to have a corresponding effect on my exhaustion levels and so I find exercise very problematic. Exercise for exercise sake is particularly difficult when even the everyday necessities like getting showered and dressed leave me feeling exhausted. I need to conserve my energy for the things that simply cannot be allowed to give, such as caring for my children's needs and making sure my youngest gets to and from school safely and on time.
One of the mose pernicious effects of the exhaustion is that, on the days when it's at its worst, other symptoms of my depression are amplified. I am at my most paranoid when I'm at my most exhausted and on days like these I find going out almost cripplingly impossible. I cannot stand people looking at me and the thought that anyone might speak to me is intolerable. After managing to secure some short-term therapy (now finished even though I'm not actually better ... ), I am managing to control the paranoia a bit better, even when I'm most exhausted, but it does keep threatening to come back.
You'd think that being so exhausted would mean that I could sleep at night but, no, depression won't let you away with that! Sleep disturbance is both a symptom and a cause of depressive episodes and the associated exhaustion. My ex-therapist was very keen for me to try out a theory she was interested in, which was to get up when I am unable to sleep and do something extremely boring and non-productive until I felt able to sleep and then return to bed. The theory being that the brain then gets no "reward" for not sleeping and so, over time, is trained to give up and go to sleep! Actually, I can see the logic in the theory but in the middle of the night, feeling exhausted beyond belief but unable to sleep, and with the usual self-critical monologue circling in my brain, the last thing I ever feel like is doing something I wouldn't feel like doing during the day! Maybe someone reading this blog will feel strong enough to try her theory and let me know if it works for them. As for me, I'll stick to my own theory that if I'm lying down at least my body is resting a bit and stay in bed until sleep claims me, unless it becomes intolerable to do so. And if I do get up? Well, I'm afraid it's a warm drink and/or something quiet and non-gripping on the television for me every time.