The one that stands him up and deposits him on a conveyor belt when the alarm clock goes.
It then takes him straight to the shower to be washed (and wake up properly!) before it progresses through an area where he is dried and finally, his clothing put on.
It’s the hardest part of starting any day.
The most impressive thing is that this idea is universal enough to have become a very popular part of the opening theme of a television cartoon series (… at least for all you generation X-ers out there). Everybody could identify with it.
Getting out of bed and preparing to face the day is not easy.
It’s not just George who needs a bit of help. How many shows and movies show people being “encouraged” out of bed in the morning by way of a bucket of water? A swift removal of the covers? Somebody violently shaking them and calling their name?
How often do you see people portrayed stumbling to the shower in the morning, still half asleep?
Sometimes I think that its easy to forget that difficulty in the mornings is not just something that came with the onset of Depression or under the influence of medication.
It was always hard for me – since my teens.
It has always been more appealing to stay in a nice, warm bed than to move and get to the point where I am heading off to work or school, to uni or some appointment somewhere. Especially the things that are compulsory – even the ones I enjoy.
Sure I think it’s sometimes harder than it used to be – but sometimes, when I’m not really depressed, I wonder just how much. I just have another reason to add to the others when it comes down to it. The reason is real … but the issue itself isn’t new.
Sometimes I wonder if I look at the period before I was hit with depression wearing a nice and sparkly pair of rose-coloured glasses. After all, if I have gotten to the point where the idea of “normal” is strange, who’s to say that I’d even recognise what was once “normal” for me if it hit me on the head.
The truth is that despite the fact that this illness does affect my energy levels; despite the fact that my medication can slow my system down and make me drowsy; despite the fact that there are days where I feel really unmotivated (and by the way I, like most people had my share of those before I had Depression); despite the fact that I have less in my day …
I’m not sure that I could say with any confidence that getting up and ready for the day was ever something I greeted with enthusiasm …. beyond perhaps birthdays, Christmas and special events as a kid.
I don’t struggle with mornings because I have depression.
I just struggle with mornings.
… a little like a big chunk of the rest of the population.
I do. Mine haunts me. I can never seem to beat it.
There are the odd occasions when I do really well against it and I win. It feels great. I could walk on air.
Sometimes they last for a short stretch of time – a few days, a week – two if I’m lucky. I could fly.
it all comes
And it’s not just me who is affected.
It’s not a small thing with small consequences.
What happens, you ask?
Okay I’ll ‘fess up.
I don’t wake up. Or if I do – I drop right off back to sleep before I can haul by backside out of bed.
Then I am late for anything that I have on for the day – visits, appointments, ….work.
And we’re talking regularly 30 – 40 mins late during the mid spring and autumn – and every now and then it’s a couple of hours. It affects other people when that happens – workers, patients … if I don’t get my work done it slows down the process of referrals going through, information getting to people in hospital and their treating teams for planning, people going home. It means groups can’t run or other people have to cover me. I nearly lost my last job over it. Even when well I’m often 10 – 20 mins behind my start time. I survive because I start before my boss and I always work back – but I can’t keep it up.
And it doesn’t seem to matter what time I ‘m supposed to start – I’ve adjusted starting times. It’s simply the process of getting out of bed and waking up in the morning.
Once I’m up, my sensory routines are helpful. I’ve started to experiment with some mindfulness exercises when I get time – which help a lot. But actually waking up and getting out of bed is jolly hard work.
The other thing that happens to me is that I lose time in the mornings. I do. Even when I’ve gotten up on time and have been running on time something happens – I space out in the shower or getting myself a drink and meds and time just vanishes.
I started a new experiment earlier this week that I think holds promise for the latter issue – I’ve started using a mindfulness breathing meditation exercise as soon as I get up that goes for about 10 mins to raise my level of alertness. If it keeps working at keeping me focused, I’ll be writing about that in a couple of weeks. But for it to work – I need to get up in time to have time to do it. It doesn’t need to be earlier – because I’ve worked out that I do everything else more efficiently when I do it. But I need to get up.
At present I use two alarm clocks set 5 mins apart – one to arouse my attention if I am in deep sleep so that by the time the second goes off I won’t sleep through it even if I sleep through the first. Part of me wonders whether it’s worth investing in a bed vibrating alarm clock – they make them for deaf people. It might be uncomfortable enough to help me move out of bed more easily. Has anybody ever used one?
I know the rules – go to bed early and get up and the same time every day. I’m awfully undisciplined at doing that.
Take your meds at the same time every day. I tend to get lazy and just take them on the way to bed – which admittedly is probably half of the problem. There are some very sleepy meds among my cocktail.
Every day is a new day with no mistakes in it – yet. Thank you, Anne Shirley – but other people remember and I need to work out the best way to deal with their memories and keep myself focused on the present so that I don’t drown in fright.
So here it is. My arch-enemy. The alarm clock. That moment in time that I’m supposed to get up. To get moving. To get started with the day.
Please – anybody with your own ghouls – what helps you haul yourself out of bed every morning?
And if climbing back on aft’ one spill weren’t enough –
Alas – staying on top is an art!
For most of us who have passed though one episode of depression – or other forms of mental illness and come out the other side, a common concern draws us. We don’t want to go back there.
Some have a harder battle ahead of them than others. Some have different forms of depression; different forms of anxiety; different forms of mental illness that are more or less responsive to the things that we do to treat them. Some are more vigilant than others – often this makes a big difference … and sometimes life’s not fair. Some do all the ‘wrong’ things and yet never have another episode – but that’s unusual.
What’s usual is hard work with a need to use a range of strategies to stay well. Things like good sleep, exercise, a nutritious diet, keeping up social support networks and getting out of the house, exposure to sunlight and fresh air, use of medications and talking therapies are just some examples of these.
But how do we know that we’re winning? What can we do at the times when we’re worried about how our mood is going to try to prevent it from tipping over the edge into something we can’t manage? How do we know if that new medication is doing anything to change anything at all?
One of the things that is helpful to do at times is to track your mood. How do you do this? You use a mood diary. Ever done it?
The purpose of a mood diary is essentially to get a profile of what pattern your mood is following on a day-to-day basis. At their most basic level, a mood diary will ask you to rate your mood on a numerical or incremental scale every day while you keep it. Some will additionally ask you to record other information such as your anxiety levels, your irritability levels, how much sleep you had the night before, significant events and triggers throughout the day and/or the medication that you took. The good thing about doing some of these other things is that they provide a much fuller picture of what is going on.
If you don’t already know what they are – this process can help you to work out what your early warning signs are as well as your triggers. If you know your triggers and early warning signs, this can help you to monitor them. For that reason, I recommend choosing a mood diary that records significant events in the day. I would also recommend one that includes the amount of sleep that you had the night before as this tends to be pretty universal and fairly influential.
Talk to someone close and ask for their help if you have trouble working out if you were irritable or if they noticed anything in particular that seemed to set you off if you are having trouble identifying these kinds of things – but the object of the exercise is to make observations about yourself – so do what you can on your own as well.
However, asking someone close to you whom you trust to help monitor your mood and to help you get to know your warning signs and triggers is a good strategy. They sometimes see things that you are not in the right place to see or notice when you’re not well because your self-awareness can get a bit skewed. They also see the ways that you differ from the way that you would normally be – so they can measure you against you and not somebody else. Yes, it might be their perception – but it will still be your behaviour and actions and the things that you say and the responses and facial expressions that they are used to that are part of you. Choose someone who you trust and talk with them and let them tell you about what they noticed changing last time and as you have been working through your recovery.
Do I use a mood diary and self monitoring systems all of the time?
Not on a daily basis. When I am well I keep regular tabs on how I am going by talking about it with a good friend and checking over my early warning signs and triggers list regularly to ensure that my awareness of them is good and that I am alert to high risk periods. I use what is called a WRAP – a Wellness Recovery Action Plan where I have identified what I am like when well, what my triggers are, what things are hints that I’m not as good as I could be, my early warning signs and so on …. I go through this regularly. Some people do monitor their mood daily and find that it works well for them. People with things like rapid cycling Bipolar disorder often find that they need to until it slows down and is brought under control. At first I needed to chart my mood a lot more than I do now.
When I am in a high risk period I watch things more closely and have recently resolved to keep a mood diary through high risk periods because I still find myself at sea sometimes and feeling like I’m losing my grip. I am particularly vigilant about my warning signs and triggers as well as their corresponding action plans during periods of high risk. I have to be. Recently I let things go at home and let the dishes and the housework pile up around me – a sign that things are getting away from me and didn’t act and it triggered me (it becomes a cycle). I couldn’t face getting up to look at the house. I didn’t want to go into the kitchen to prepare a decent meal because it was a mess and I didn’t feel up to cleaning it up – so of course my nutrition level went down, my budget blew out and thus the cycle continued. In the end it took a cleaning weekend to put me back on track, followed by a week of very early nights and a lot of discipline. It’s too easy. So I have decided that I need to do something to catch myself more quickly before it gets away from me. Not simply cleaning, just lots of little things. This time of year I need to be very careful about relapse prevention. It sounds minor when I talk about dishes – but when it snowballs, I just keep sleeping and if I sleep through work or go in late consistently and am still going around in circles while I’m at work and don’t have energy or concentration to work – I could lose my job.
I’ve attached today some links to some self monitoring resources and different mood diary sites. I know there’s a lot, but different things suit different people and I think these are important tools. Most mood diaries have room for the full spectrum of mood disorders – both mania and depression.
Warning signs and triggers are important. Monitoring your mood is tedious sometimes – but there are times when it is necessary.
And I’m not talking ATM.
Have you ever felt yourself to be up against that dragon that you were never destined to slay? That worm you’ll never be early enough to get? The one that leaves you feeling like the Emperor in all his glory when he set out in grand style to show off his ‘new clothes’ just when you think you’ve gotten a hold on it.
My nemesis is time. Not just any time – although we have a slippery time keeping pace with each other continually. No, the ultimate battle is drawn around the time of sleep and waking. Here I am repeatedly mauled by my dragon, eaten by the worm and left with nothing but the Emperor’s new clothes to show for all the effort that I have made to conquer the struggle. I feel as though I am beating my head against a brick wall.
What happens you ask?
I set an alarm clock. Actually I set two alarm clocks ten minutes apart. I do not trust myself with one. I have been known to turn one off in my sleep! I set one to raise my level of consciousness and the other to wake me. For most of the year this is adequate. But then comes the changing of the guard – it starts to get light earlier or later in the spring or autumn and for several weeks my dog hides the alarm clocks. He must. Some nights anyway – because they sure as hell don’t wake me. But then I also have trouble in getting to sleep – so maybe it’s not all the dog’s fault. At times I sleep no more than an hour or two a night. Others I may get to sleep and then wake up at two in the afternoon – ON A WORK DAY! This year I thought that I was winning at work until the seasonal sleep monster set in.
Right now I feel like I am beating my head against a brick clock. In getting to sleep. In waking up. In getting to work. My psychiatrist has given me something to try for the short-term (ie 4-6 weeks) as it’s a regular pattern and struggle and part of a bigger picture of short-term seasonal change in my mood. It’s not a relapse – just a dip. But oh so disappointing because its been so stable for so long. In lots of ways I think I could handle it if the sleep didn’t go out the window. It’s started to affect my work though, so I’m taking the medical option this time. Maybe next time I’ll be able to have the personal strategies down strongly enough to manage it without boosting my meds for a few weeks – but I need to prioritise keeping my job over my pride for this time. I may have to wake up and phone in to work in the Emperor’s new clothes. I do not have to parade through the streets in them.
So for now I get my sleep under control. I keep my mood stable with a little extra help than usual until the season settles. At least I will be able to keep the dog in his place. At least I will stop messing things up so badly in getting to work. It will only be for a few weeks and then its back to the normal cocktail that I’ve accepted will be a part of everyday. Back to using my ‘personal medicine’ or lifestyle strategies to manage life and its stressors. Then I get summer to strengthen my other skills and to be ready for autumn when it comes. Perhaps I will plan a short increase in meds again. Perhaps I will plan time off work. Perhaps I will be enough on top of my sleep to manage it with flying colours.
My Dog loves the twilight of the seasons. He thinks its play time. He loves the dawn. He dances while I wake.
Oh to be able to open one eye and say in my firmest voice.
“Sit. Dog. Sit!”
And have confidence that he’d obey.
One day. One day he will. One day I am determined to slay that dragon.
Some people are Summer people. Some people, spring people. Some are winter people. Some love autumn.
No, I’m not talking about people’s colouring or the things that they like to wear (that is something that I, in fact know very little about). I am simply talking about peoples’ favourite times of year. Some people like to soak up the sunshine in summery garb out in the garden, down at the beach or over at the local pool. Others love to curl up by the fire in their favourite jumper under a rug with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate – or put a movie on. Some love the colours of autumn and the beginnings of that lick of ice in the early evening. And some the radiant brightness of spring, its scents, the new life, the slow steady warmth, the magpies diving at you from overhead…
I never settled to a favourite time of year. I really do enjoy almost all of all seasons – and by the time one ends I am ready for the next. I am not fond of the days that exceed 40 degrees celsius with no cool breeze for long stretches at a time. Hot winds are their own breed of evil in Australia for reasons far beyond temperature tolerance. I’m not a great fan of temperatures at the other end of the spectrum either – especially if they come with a wind. Actually – wind bugs me more than temperature. But seasons – apart from the odd bits like getting up in the dark to go to work in winter – seasons are a delight. Full of life. At least, I always used to think so.
My dog pays attention to the seasons too.
Unlike me, the dog has clear preferences for different times of the year. It took me a while to work this out, but its consistent. The dog is stubborn in winter. He moves slow. He needs more time. He takes more time and holds me up whether I plan it or not and he wears me out more easily than he does during the warmer months. I think he’s arthritic. He gives me no trouble if I allow for the arthritis though. A bit more sleep – 1/2 hr or so more than I need in summer and I’m fine. I just need to be patient.
Summer is usually the dog’s best time of year. He still needs discipline, but he’s more content to walk at heel and doesn’t drag and tug away at the lead. Spring and Autumn are strange. Most of the seasons fall in with the winter and summer behaviour for Dog according to temperature and what the light is doing. In each of these season there comes a point where the light changes – and over these few weeks the dog goes nuts. He is unpredictable. I can not afford to let my guard down for more than a few moments at a time. My sleep gets poor – this starts the ball rolling. My energy levels become low, my motivation to maintain routine relapse prevention strategies gets sloppy and I soooo don’t feel like doing anything about it. It at these times that I have frequently relapsed (almost without exception). I made it through autumn this year. So far I have struggled this far through the last few weeks. Another 3 – 4 should see me through the worst of it.
Until then, its keep on keeping on and stick to the programme. Watch for warning signs – the very time of year in and of itself is a trigger – even without the presence of other factors. Light does funny things to my health in other areas too. It’s like the dog becomes delirious. Here is a time when I need my friends and family – my supports more than any other time of the year. I’m struggling to get to work on time at the moment, but so far my boss has let me cover with time in lieu. Still, I’m determined to conquer that one too. I get there on time more often than not – just not as often as I should. Just now – when I least feel like it – discipline becomes oh so important.
I had my last review with my Psychiatrist this week. We agreed that it would also be possibly a beneficial thing to increase one of my medications for 1-2 months during the peak risk zone while I’m wrestling risk factors and wavering – just for that short-term – and then go back to my current dose afterwards as the weather and season stabilises a bit more.
Hopefully the combination of ‘personal medicine’ or monitoring of triggers and early warning signs with the kind of action plans that are outlined in my post “Better Medicine” with the temporary medication adjustment will prove to be a good protective measure. I’ve had a good year. I’d hate to mess it up now. I’m hoping to get to at least a whole year without a relapse this year!
So roll on to the latter end of Spring. Because despite all of this, I really do love spring. There’s a certain level of hope and promise in the air in Spring that’s unique to this time of year.
Are you old enough to know The Jetsons, I wonder? Most are, surely.
I’m not after the groovy little space-sedan.
I’m not even in it so much for the robot house keeper – although I would certainly NOT turn her away …
I want the bed that tips you out when you need to get up, stands you up and puts you on a conveyor belt to the shower and gets you started for the day.
I swear, that has got to be the hardest part of the day! I’m okay once I’m showered and dressed for the day – but until that point it is all up hill.
On work days I don’t trust myself with less than two alarm clocks. I’ve been known to turn alarm clocks off in my sleep. I figure that one will at least bring me out of deep sleep and the second can wake me if the first doesn’t. I don’t keep at least one near my bed. I make sure that I need to touch floor to turn it off. I also make sure it’s a really noxious sound so that I don’t just let it keep going.
One thing that I don’t do that a lot of people say works well for them is put out my clothes the night before. I have tried it a few times, but tend to finish up thinking that I don’t feel like wearing what I put out and finish up dithering over what I do want to wear. That said – it would probably work fine on work days if I kept it up – so I should try it again.
I also tend to waste a lot of time putting off getting to the shower (especially in winter) puttering around the house. Alas! This just makes me late.
Oh for an alarm clock that tipped the mattress 45 degrees and dumped me on the floor with a bang if I reached for a snooze button!
Drat the need for motivation, will power, decent routine & bedtimes, discipline in lights out and organisation in the morning.
But then again, if I have been eating well, doing exercise, working, and going to bed at a decent hour I am likely to have been refreshed by sleep and find it easier (note that the word here is “easier” and NOT necessarily “easy”) to wake and rise. Perhaps key to my struggle with rising in the mornings is my lack of discipline in other areas – most obviously in getting to bed at a decent hour reliably, but also exercising regularly. I would also have more energy if my diet included more fruit and vegetables.
I’ve got a headache that I’ve had on and off for a few days now. I’m so tired so much of the time. I’m disorganised. My house is a mess and getting less clean than I’d like it to be – it’s not grotty, but without action it could get there without a lot of effort … I’ve spent the last couple of days off loafing in my ever comfy PJs and while I’ve gotten up and done stuff, I’m sure I said ages ago that I was going to stop doing that…
Hang on. These things are all among my early warning signs. I’m off my game. Nothing serious yet – but now is the time to act. I’ve been going really well for ages. It’s not even my Depression that’s knocked me off my game – it’s the damn cold that I’ve been fighting. Yet this I do know. In the past relapse has often followed physical illness. The dog acts when he knows I’m not at my best. He takes advantage of weakness.
So what do I do now? Give in? Panic? Book an extra doctor’s appointment? Nope. Now is the time to reach for my WRAP – my Wellness Recovery Action Plan – something that I should probably be going over more regularly to remind myself of the daily and weekly/regular things that keep me well. In my WRAP I found that I’ve been neglecting a lot of these over the last couple of weeks and that I have gotten sloppy with a couple of my routine maintenance markers over the past couple of months. My work WRAP (my own experiment) shows me that I’ve not been sticking to my wellness goals about leaving on time and planning my day either – no wonder I’ve been feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck.
Now is the time to restart the action plans. I need to tell someone that I’ve noticed that I’m off my game and that I’m acting on it – that way they can ask me how I am going with my action plan in a couple of days to see if I need some help to get things moving again or if I’ve been able to self-start again solo (often harder than I think it’s going to be). I’ll wait to see how things progress and talk it over with my friend before I rush into moving any appointments forward. I think I’m okay if I get reorganised at this point.
So its back to setting alarms and keeping them for going to bed and lights out at night. I’ve been letting the sleep run thin.
I need to plan my meals rather than look in the fridge and hope that there’s something I feel like eating in there. And I probably need to start putting more attention towards the balance of what I eat because I don’t think I’m eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables (that’s a new strand to the plan for me).
I need to put away the things that are lying around and creating clutter.
I need to clean the house. When that goes to my list though it will read room by room and the floors will be separate. That way I can do it in parts and feel like I’m making headway when I cross things off on my list.
I need to set up a routine for maintaining my housework.
I need to set aside time for doing things that I like to do.
I need to work out how I want to prioritise a couple of things that I have going at the moment so that I can put away what I am not going to finish in the immediate future and finish off what I am doing in my ‘projects’ department.
I need to set aside time for some meditation and prayer.
I need to make sure I leave work on time.
I need to make better use of my diary and go back to keeping a list of things that I need to do to mark off and prioritise – this works well for me
I also really need to put some effort into starting to exercise and to spending more time outdoors.
If I need help with anything, I can and will ask.
I’ve been good with most of my other stuff but things involving routine, and doing things that I’m not instinctively motivated by (like exercise and cooking for anything other than guests) are difficult. It may get easier. Who knows? My goal is to find something that I enjoy in the things that I find difficult to do at some point – but not now. Now the need is to just do it.
I live with a black dog. It follows me everywhere. My philosophy now is that I need to plan for its needs when I plan for my own. I also need time out and restful places to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on my shoulders.