It’s been three months now since I was hospitalized. I was out of work initially for 2 weeks, then I went back for about a month before being out for another 2 weeks. I started to feel like things were improving – it was starting to be spring, time was on my side, and I would have moments where the crushing depression was lifting.
Then I had a really rough few days last week. I had 2 nights of disturbed sleeping in a row, and that really made the difference in whether I was OK enough or not OK. I called into work one of the days, but that started to not feel like enough. Things at work were starting to really trigger my anxiety, and this just got worse and worse over the weekend.
I had an idea about the trajectory of my recovery, but my brain is not following along. I thought, “OK, I just went through a manic episode with delusional thinking. This was followed by about 2 weeks of hypomania and then some mixed symptoms. I thought I could get away without sinking into depression, but it caught up to me. I should be in this depression for a few weeks and then things will start to lift and I’ll feel like myself again.”
Those few weeks have been stretching into 2 months so far. Like I said, a couple weeks ago, it started to feel like things were improving a little bit, but then I fell again, fast and hard. That wasn’t part of the plan. My therapist suggested going out of work for even longer, to give myself some time to heal. So, I am currently out of work for a month. It feels like defeat/relief. I started taking Celexa in the hopes that it will help.
Some of those nights when I haven’t been sleeping well have been agony. There were nights where I didn’t actually sleep at all – just kind of dozed only to be pulled out of it by some thought attached to an anxiety-reaction, over and over and over again. Does anyone else go through periods of insomnia? I kept trying to go to sleep in the guest bed, then switch to the couch, then back to our bed, then the guest bed, the couch, our bed, the guest bed… The night stretched out to infinity. I started getting agitated. Pacing. Swearing at myself. Punching a soft chair. I could have done worse, so I’m glad it was just that.
I’m at a new low. When I thought recovery was on the horizon, I sunk lower. In my past, I have been more depressed than I am right now, but who’s comparing? This feels pretty fucking bad.
When my feelings were so bad I didn’t think I could even be with myself, my partner helped me arrange to spend the day with her mom. We went to the bank, got coffee, ran an errand at the mall, she brought me to my therapy appointment, and then we had lunch at her house. That helped.
When it wasn’t any better 2 days later, I called a friend and she picked me up on her way to doing a bunch of deliveries for work. We ate lunch at an Indian buffet. That helped.
When I couldn’t imagine being home alone anymore, I went to yoga with my partner. That helped.
When I couldn’t fathom what I would do with these unstructured days, I looked into a place called the Creative Wellness Center. They have a bunch of art workshops and support groups, and it’s all free. I went to a jewelery making workshop just because that was what was being offered when I got there, and I went to a support group. That helped, momentarily, but I would have to say the social element was super taxing, and I’m not sure if I will go back.
When I expressed extreme despondency in therapy today, she suggested a partial hospitalization program. She looked into it and they do currently have openings. It runs weekdays from 9:30-3:15. I think this is what I need right now. She is going to fill out the paperwork and get back to me – I may be able to start next week.
In brighter news, my partner and I adopted 2 cats two weeks ago. Their names are Joan (after Joan Jett) and Jarboe (singer in a band called Swans). Normally, getting new pets would probably be exciting and fun. There are elements that are nice – it’s fun to watch them play together, and I like when they are cuddly. But to be honest, it has been stressful, just because of the state I am in. They are cats, doing their cat things. They get into stuff and knock things over. They eat things they shouldn’t. We’re containing them to the first floor right now, and Joan keeps getting through to go to the upstairs or basement. They are a whirlwind of motion; they are creatures being alive.
I keep hoping that they will save me from what I am feeling, but the best they can do is distract me momentarily. That’s a lot of pressure I’m putting on them!
Last week, we were watching TV, and a commercial about “shift work disorder” came on. A rugged older gentleman in a flannel shirt was explaining about how he hadn’t realized how his job might be affecting his sleep patterns and quality of life, until his doctor asked him what hours he works. I laughed out loud. Then the commercial (which was for Nuvigil – used to improve wakefulness) went on to tell you to talk to your doctor, and then it went through the lengthy list of side effects, you know – the usual drill.
I think it is awesome to have dialogues about what’s going on in people’s lives and what might be improved, whether it’s with a prescription or other changes in lifestyle. And if having an official diagnosis helps more people figure out what’s going on and what they can do about it, more power to them. Just… personally, I find it absurd that this wouldn’t be a natural line of thinking. I think about this kind of stuff all the time.
I don’t work overnights (and am so glad for that), but I do have an “off” shift. Otherwise known as the “B-shift.” (My co-worker pronounces “shift” as “trick,” so I might interchange the two words from here on out – just a heads up.) I work 3pm-11:30pm. It is currently 12:50AM as I write this; I’ll probably go to bed by 2AM. This is what I do, Monday through Friday. It means that I never see my partner during the work week. We have to catch up via telephone, notes, and emails, which is sometimes extremely frustrating. It means that I don’t see much of anyone during the work week. Like, some friends are going out to dinner for someone’s birthday? Sorry, can’t make it. You’re going to the movies? Sounds like fun. I stopped being jealous over the stuff I was missing out on a long time ago. Better to just accept it. And, on special occasions, I can always just call in sick or work a half day or something.
I’ve found that there is often a natural camaraderie amongst people who work strange hours. For example, I’ll sometimes go to the grocery store, still in uniform, around midnight, and the cashier always wants to tell me what time she gets off work. And if I haven’t been in a while, she’ll ask, “Where you been?” Maybe the summer has passed by (I work like normal people during the summer), so I’ll say, “Oh, I was on a different trick.” And she’ll say, “That’s always the reason! Whenever I haven’t seen someone in a while, it’s because their trick changed.”
So, essentially, shift work disorder is a medical condition that can be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. (Phew!) It occurs when your job calls you to duty and you end up fighting against your natural circadian rhythms. It’ll cause insomnia when you’re trying to sleep, and ES (excessive sleepiness – so relieved that there’s a medically coded shortened version for this term!) while you need to work. Shift work disorder was invented in 2011 to help people figure out why they feel tired.
Whoa. Ok, lemme try to go back to the point where I do think this is all positive if it helps people improve their lives. I just worry people will see an ad on TV, or their physician will bring it up with them first, and they’ll just mindlessly pile on more pills to the over-medicated masses.
Like I mentioned, I don’t work overnights, so my experience is not nearly as extreme as many people’s. But I do want to point out that I feel like my work / sleep schedule has actually created MORE room for circadian rhythms to do their thing, according to the seasons. It seems only natural that people would feel the need to sleep more during the winter months, if they could. But I’d imagine most people’s schedules don’t allow for extra sleep. They have to get up with their alarm and get to work. Me? I can sleep as much as I want, apparently. I don’t generally have much going on in the mornings or early afternoons before work, so, often I’d let myself sleep 9-10 hours a night when it really seemed like I naturally tended toward this, roughly November-February. (A luxury, I know.) I was actually starting to feel concerned about all the oversleeping (I was wasting so much time!), but it abruptly righted itself; in February, I could no longer sleep in. As if, my body knew that spring was on the way and I better start getting ready!
Brand new diagnoses coming soon:
– sitting-on-the-couch disorder
– texting-while-driving disorder
– junk-food-for-lunch disorder
– gender identity disorder