In a sleepy haze, and I don't know what to do about it.
posted by stoneandstar to human relations (18 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
My question is pretty typical in terms of questions about depression, but I still find myself not knowing where to go from here. I'm sorry for the length, but I can't really pinpoint what the problem is.
I'm in the last year of an undergraduate program, and I've completed all my coursework. I'm working on my senior project currently and plan to graduate in June. Ever since my second year of college, I've had trouble staying on the ball, but I've managed to come through with pretty good grades regardless, since I'm in a (more permissive) humanities program and feel I'm good at what I do, when I actually do it.
The problem is that now that my life is somewhat shapeless, I don't have the guilt I did before from failing my responsibilities, but I have a new listlessness that seems impossible to conquer. My main problem is that my depression takes the form of exhaustion. (I'm quite sure it's depression based on family history and clinical screenings.) I find myself unable to operate on a schedule that doesn't start at noon and end at about 5:00 AM. While I was in classes, this would result in me missing sometimes two or three days of classes at a time (missing one would send me into a spiral), and missing morning classes pretty consistently.
I work almost full-time at the university. My job is very boring, but I don't mind it because we are allowed to listen to music and surf the internet while we work. My hours are flexible. Last quarter when I was still in classes, I arranged it so my first class would be around noon, and I still managed to sleep in too much and miss class out of anxiety. Now my work hours are more around 11-ish, but I find it extremely difficult to make it on time. I've tried many things: I've set multiple alarms, all over my room, but I turn them off and go back to bed like a zombie. My boyfriend offered to give me wake-up calls, but I started to feel guilty about it and sometimes afterward I would still go back to bed. I downloaded the iPhone Sleep Alarm app, which wakes you up naturally based on REM patterns (and seems to work really well!), but if I'm tired I just go back to sleep anyway. I don't think it's health related, since I've had a variety of screenings in the last year (check-ups, surgery work-ups, &c.) that haven't turned up anything abnormal.
I've seen various mental health care professionals in the last few years on my student insurance. I'm currently starting to take Wellbutrin again, after trying two or three times but getting freaked out by the idea of being medicated. It's given me a little more energy when I'm awake but I'm waiting for it to kick in (it's only been a few days, and I've never taken it for more than a week).
I've tried therapy, but my first therapist wasn't a good match, and I don't have the extra funds to pay the co-pay if I go outside the university. Also, I have an extremely difficult time making appointments (which is the reason I make appointments in the first place). I've been blacklisted by their therapy branch because I've skipped so many times (the director has emailed me directly to give other options when I make a request for intake). My psychiatrist still sees me, which I'm glad for, because she's kind of a lifeline. I feel honestly so helpless, like I can't make it to appointments without my mom or dad driving me there-- I'm living alone in the city for school.
This is starting to boil over because I'm looking at graduation in a few months, and I'd like to stay in the city for another year or so, but the effort involved in finding a new, sufficiently-paying job seems Herculean. All I can see myself doing is going home and living with my parents until I can find a small stream of income (and someone to babysit me) so I can pay student loans and all. Trying to write a cover letter is like trying to write a poem in a foreign language. I think the real problem is that thinking about starting a new job, training, taking a bus to work, all seems like a recipe for disaster. (Though, in the past, starting a new job has given me the bump I needed to get back on a reasonable schedule.)
Last winter break I went home and it was terrible. I couldn't sleep at night and slept in until 2 or 3 in the afternoon every day. It made me feel awful, because my dad likes to spend time with me in the day and I couldn't will myself out of bed. I felt like an overgrown teenager: I was blunt and awkward with everyone, and my grandfather remarked to my mom after I visited him that I was "getting shyer and shyer." I felt anxious and withdrawn and mostly because I was exhausted. I've never felt so deep in the grip of sleep-- depression, but in the form of perpetual struggle with sleep.
Last night I was up until 5 tossing and turning, which is probably because of the Wellbutrin. Even when I get to bed earlier, it seems waking up at a normal time (8 or 9 in the morning) is literally impossible, or something that on miraculous occasions might happen but will result in me feeling groggy all day and not being able to work on my school project at night. I feel like I'm torn between being productive (which happens in the late hours when I'm energized) and leading a responsible adult life (going to work at a respectable hour, &c.)
I'm mainly looking for ways that I can get myself on a normal schedule without feeling awful. I'm hoping the Wellbutrin will work for me, and am ready to make big changes. I currently smoke once or twice a day (I was self-medicating before Wellbutrin, and it worked surprisingly well, but obviously isn't a good solution), but I think it makes me more deeply tired. I sometimes drink coffee. My eating schedule isn't the best because I'm often too exhausted to grocery shop or cook, and I try not to spend a lot of money on pre-prepared foods. I think I need some kind of compromise. I remember in the past when this problem was less pronounced that cutting out all stimulants and having a strict eating/sleeping schedule helped but that seems so distant, it would really be nice to hear some concrete suggestions, about anything really.
The weirdest thing is that I'm not really accountable to anyone. Most of my friends have graduated and moved, and my parents don't really ask me about the specifics of my life, so I mostly hang out with my boyfriend at the moment. Telling him about what I've done (or haven't done) during the day usually makes me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, because I can't be proud of what I accomplish. In the past, peer pressure has really helped me stay on task and live a "normal" student life. I feel scared about being depressed, since in the past that's when I've treated people the worst. Nothing I do makes me very happy except working on my senior project, because I feel like it's something creative and interesting that I'm responsible for. When I get really down I can't even open a book, but I've found that the boost from smoking and now Wellbutrin has helped me get out of mental ruts and I'm much better at applying what I know about catastrophizing and positive self-talk. I'm pretty cool with my attitude and mood lately (though advice is welcome), I just want to function during the daylight hours.
This is ridiculously long! Thank you!