Thursday, January 5, 2017

Chronic Depression Fatigue.

A friend sent me What It Feels Like to Have 'Chronic Depression Fatigue' by Olivia James.

I've really been struggling with exhaustion and hypersomnia this past year. I mean, it's been ongoing, it's not new, but this year I was trying to change my eating and sleeping and found that no matter what 8 hours of sleep was not enough, and that there were some days where I could easily nap twice on top of a full night of sleep. 

James mirrors my experiences:
This is what I like to call “chronic depression fatigue.” In my experience, it’s the longest lasting of all my depressive symptoms, and unfortunately it’s one that affects my ability to do the things I want and need to do in a pretty serious way. No matter how much distance I put between myself and the more obvious symptoms of depression (anhedonia, listlessness, negative self talk, black and white thinking, isolation), I find that my energy remains low, and my body just can’t keep up with other people.

I’m a relatively young, physically healthy person. There is no reason I should wake up every morning feeling miserably tired. There is no reason I should regularly find myself so tired at work that I’m fighting my eyelids closing. There is no reason I should have to down cups of coffee to stay aware enough to make it through the day.
For me, work has been an issue. Every afternoon I need a nap. I get slow. My eyes close. I feel as though I'm fighting the urge to sleep and thus feel blinky and impaired. I don't want to drink too much caffeine though because that aggravates my anxiety.
It’s frustrating to realize there may be no end to struggling with energy and sleep. I feel less intelligent than I used to be because I always feel as if I’m barely awake. Am I going to be stuck as a subpar version of myself forever? Especially as someone with a history of an eating disorder, exhaustion can really screw up my self-care routines, as it makes exercise and balanced food difficult. Exercise is a good preventative measure for me, and having to skip out on the gym to go take a nap feels awful, even when it’s necessary. 
I'm still navigating this reality. Eating disorder, exercise, exhaustion. Right now exercise is getting no time or space, I can't even fathom it. I walk when I can. I cook to try and eat in alignment with my values and budget, but it takes so much time and energy. On the Sunday's I volunteer I can't always batch-cook afterward. It becomes about choices. I completely understand that exercise will benefit my mood and my energy, but if I'm running on empty the thought of exercising is inconceivable.
I’ve heard from others that they have this long-lasting fatigue, even when the depression is in remission. And yet I’ve never heard a therapist or doctor mention it or potential solutions other than treating it like any other exhaustion. I feel bad even bringing it up because I know compared to being in the midst of depression, this is a cake walk. But even in recovery, I think we can advocate for improved quality of life, and helping those with mental illness manage energy is huge to keeping us on our feet and fighting our brain demons.
I think my depression is more of a constant. It's cyclical but on a monthly cycle - not over a period of years, now that I understand right now anyway. Exhaustion and managing my energy is a major part of trying to figure out how to live my life.

That's where I'm at now. Still trying to figure it out. How (increasingly) exhausting.

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