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December 6, 2008 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Tell a person with depression: Is it normal to require a few weekend daytime hours to just lie in bed and be left alone? I don't mean "for people with depression," I mean "for normal people."

I have dysthymia and I am currently on Effexor, which does well for me. I did not know until recently that Effexor caused symptoms of exhaustion in some people.

For a few weekends now I have given myself (almost involuntarily) what I call "fuck-off time" or "go the hell away time" for a full afternoon, where I just lie still with no books or input of any kind and let my mind wander. Maybe I sleep, maybe not. I just have an overwhelming need to be left alone and not move an inch.

I have a demanding job and as a single woman with animals to care for, I have lots of other personal responsibilities. I thought this kind of rest is something anyone would want, especially if they can't afford to do it in a yoga class like normal people. But then I wondered if other busy people really handle their spare time this way. If they don't, maybe I've got issues I need to address.

(Do I get enough sleep on the weekdays? Yes and no. Mostly just enough, 7 1/2 to 8. And of course I shouldn't drink caffeine or alcohol or eat processed sugars or anything else that makes life worth living, but I do, so.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I can't vouch for "normal," but this is an impulse I feel a lot of the time.
posted by puckish at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2008

Well...I'm just one data point, but there are definitely times when I've just needed to lie in and not tax myself with too much input (which I tend to do). Maybe not for hours, but there've definitely been times, usually around high stress periods, where I do just want to lie in bed and daydream, I guess. (Ehm, like this afternoon :) )

I don't have depression, but I'm definitely an introvert, if that helps. I NEED that alone time.
posted by kalimac at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2008

I just got up from spending about an hour laying on my living room floor watching the sunlight move across the ceiling. I think I'd go crazy if I didn't get to do this now and then.
posted by dmd at 3:55 PM on December 6, 2008 [7 favorites]

My time for doing this is in the morning before getting out of bed. On a weekend, when my partner is taking care of the kids, I can happily drift for an hour or more. When I've been alone somewhere, on retreat or some such, I can do it for longer, and at various times of the day. I've always thought I was just a dreamy kind of person who enjoyed this kind of down time.

I have experienced depression, but this is not a depression symptom for me (when I'm depressed, I want to sleep, not noodle happily around in my head while my body enjoys the coziness of my warm bed).
posted by not that girl at 4:03 PM on December 6, 2008

Ok, I can't tell you if it's "normal" or not, but I am not depressed or on any medication, and I give myself this type of--lay in bed with no sensory input--time almost every weekend. I have incredibly busy weeks, full of classes, studying, reading, and social time, and sometimes I really just need my vegetative time.

I also generally sleep enough and drink at least one or two cups of tea a day. I drink maybe a few glasses of wine a week, and eat processed sugards.
posted by harrumph at 4:03 PM on December 6, 2008

I don't think this is a depression thing as much as it is an introversion thing. People are draining, and sometimes you need some alone time to recharge. So yes, it is normal, at least for me.
posted by wsp at 4:10 PM on December 6, 2008

I have a demanding job and as a single woman with animals to care for, I have lots of other personal responsibilities.

But clearly no small children. I don't think anything is wrong with this -- though wonder how many hours is 'a few'? -- but regular hours-long space-outs aren't realistic for a lot of busy people.

Are you lying there thinking oh my god it all sucks, or just pleasantly floating? Bit of a difference between moping and relaxing.
posted by kmennie at 4:11 PM on December 6, 2008

For what it's worth, I struggle with the fact that I *cannot* let myself do this - even though as an artist I NEED to - due to the fact that in my family "doing nothing" was never an acceptable answer. (How I ended up with any imagination at all I have no idea.) If I did this, I would then ruin any benefits by beating myself up for not being productive in that time.

Is this a "this is what I'm doing right now" thing or is it an "I've always been like this" thing?
posted by micawber at 4:17 PM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Need to and can are different things. I need more rest but I have a wife, two little boys and a hyperactive dog.

I don't know what normal is but I don't really ever get time to just lay in bed and do nothing, not even when I'm sick.
posted by fenriq at 4:18 PM on December 6, 2008

This is a need many people feel. I call it "my time". It manifests in many ways for different people. For me it's mostly hiking alone or sitting on a lake alone ice fishing or sitting in the other room reading. Some people need alone time, I know I do, you might be one of them.
posted by sanka at 4:21 PM on December 6, 2008

I'm not a health care provider, but I think it depends on how disruptive the inactivity is. Does it interfere with with your job to the point where you use up your sick days or your absence is making your employer upset. Do you obsessive about it to the point where you can't enjoy the downtime or it gives you anxiety that interferes with other things? If these sorts of questions are not an issue, then I would say that it isn't abnormal.

As far as eating junk food goes, it's the same thing. If you think it's becoming a problem, try cutting back a little and see if you notice improvement in your mood.
posted by sswiller at 4:24 PM on December 6, 2008

Does it make you feel better after you've done it? If so, I shouldn't worry. As long as it's not causing more problems than it's solving, don't worry.

Maybe mention it to your doctor, but I too get urges like this, where I just have to be alone. I usually read, but sometimes sleep, fwiw.
posted by Solomon at 4:29 PM on December 6, 2008

"Alone time" seems different than "do-nothing time." I am an introvert in that I recharge when I'm alone. If I didn't have any time to myself -- to fool around online, read, knit, watch a TV show, play a video game, nap, clean/organize, make dinner, do projects, whatever -- I couldn't cope.

However, hours spent in bed staring at the ceiling seems to fulfill a different need, one that I (a non-depressed person) don't think I have.
posted by booksandlibretti at 4:41 PM on December 6, 2008

I do this, except it's in the form of long hot baths. I am more or less normal.
posted by Maisie Jay at 4:43 PM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nothing wrong with a little down time. Sometimes I like to sit and just space out.
posted by god particle at 4:53 PM on December 6, 2008

I have some level of depression (and on Effexor as well) but with 2 small kids, 2 hyper dogs and a DH as a surgeon who is often on-call....I don't really have the opportunity to just space out - even if I felt that I "needed" it. You may benefit from meditation (read a couple Buddhism related books on the subjest) and Kundalini Yoga (especially the DVDs by Ravi Singh). If you could give yourself some time to do these things every day, you would likely wake up feeling refreshed without having the need to spend hours a day "spacing out". And the more you do it, the more you can tap into that *zone* during stressful times.
posted by texas_blissful at 5:05 PM on December 6, 2008

Chiming in with an "I do this and I'm...normalish." I'm definitely quite strongly introverted and I often need some time after loud crowded parties to collect my thoughts and recenter. I don't think it's particularly bad or dangerous unless, as sswiller says, it's disruptive to other things you need to do. I also sometimes skip social events because I don't have the emotional wherewithal to handle them - and that's okay too as long as I don't let myself become a total shut-in.

Lying in bed/reading/hiking alone/watching movies by yourself when you have the time to do it: totally okay.

Lying in bed/reading/hiking alone/watching movies by yourself when you NEED to accomplish other things and they don't get done: not so okay.
posted by fuzzbean at 5:07 PM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

A lot of people seem to be chiming in with "don't worry, I do this too," and maybe it's more common than I think, but I wonder if they're taking full account of your description: "a few weekend daytime hours to just lie in bed and be left alone." An hour on occasion when one needs recharging? Sure, perfectly normal. A few hours straight, on a regular basis? I don't think that's normal; at least, I don't know anyone who does it. I'm certainly not condemning it, and if it works for you, that's great, but I get the impression that you asked this question not to get a pat on the head but to find out about how non-depressed people act, and I'm pretty sure the answer is "not like that."
posted by languagehat at 5:15 PM on December 6, 2008

If after the cocooning sessions you feel revitalized, then you're probably heeding a mind/body need to "detox" from daily stressors and sensory overstimulation. Such timeouts are likely therapeutic.

But if you find yourself requiring increasingly longer cocooning sessions and you are experiencing discomforting mood swings (e.g., anxiety, depression, sadness, fatigue), then the timeouts may be symptomatic of an underlying physical or psychological problem.

That said, many people hibernate as you do, but are reluctant to disclose this because of our society's pervasive (unhealthy) taboo against idleness.
posted by terranova at 5:33 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Let's remember that entire *countries* have this instituted as a social norm - it's called a siesta. A few hours of sleeping in the middle of the day - every day!! - then work/life resumes. I've seen it in Italy, Spain, South American countries. Completely normal.

As for needing a few hours on the weekend to catch up, thanks to a busy lifestyle, completely normal!!

And yes, I've been known to nap or zone a few hours on a given weekend day - and think of myself as normal. Weekend is downtime, use it as you wish.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:40 PM on December 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Dysthymia on Paxil here. I think this is worth discussing with your doctor. I know I want to zone out/sleep often too on the weekend and it can be detrimental to, well, getting anything done some weekends. Depends on how long "a few" hours usually is and what you're thinking when you're zoning out. I hate to say 'normal' people don't know how it feels, but vegging out for the average person and avoidance due to depression. I'd be happy to talk further over MeFi mail.
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:05 PM on December 6, 2008

The real question isn't whether a "normal" person does this, it's whether this would be normal for YOU prior to the depression.

If not, definitely talk to your doctor. Lots of people try several antidepressants before finding the right one. I tried Cymbalta, which is similar to Effexor, and couldn't believe what a zombie it made me. This is a pretty common side effect and if it's getting in the way of getting things done, you might want to get a different med.

Oh, and remember - the only normal people are the ones you don't know very well. ;-)
posted by selfmedicating at 6:38 PM on December 6, 2008

I have been diagnosed with depression although it's not currently affecting my daily life. This behavior sounds like what I would have done when I WAS depressed though, and is definitely not something I do now. I tend to sleep a little bit more on the weekends, but not in the middle of the day.

I am with those who think it's not a big deal if it's not affecting your life in a negative way. "Normal" be damned.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:55 PM on December 6, 2008

Utterly within the normal range. Some people don't, some people do. So?
As pointed out, it's normed in some cultures. In ours, it's often known as the Sunday lie-in (reading optional).
People put different mental labels on it.

Currently, all of my flatmates do it - on the weekend, they just go lie on couches/etc on the roof, and 'sun bathe', occasionally with books.
I mean, what's sunbathing, after all? Lying, doing nothing.

Some people do it while walking - they'll go for a walk in the park, but they don't have to do anything other than walk. No talking to people, just daydreaming, & zoning out.

Some people fish. Again, sitting somewhere, holding a stick, just zoning out.

Some people take particularly long baths in the evening...

Think of 'activities' that people frequently do while reading a book, then consider how often they are done without reading the book.

Possibly someone could make an argument that we're so conditioned against laziness and just 'idling', that we don't recognise the need for, and the number of ways that people do just that.
posted by Elysum at 6:57 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

This sort of seems like the kind of thing you will have to make the call on - or your doctor or people around you. Depression is a judgment call to start with; it's a series of symptoms which are familiar to anyone in mild terms but debilitating in severe form, so it's always up to the person suffering or those involved to work out what is really happening. Lazing around is only human, but if you think perhaps it's crossing a line or you know at some level you could do better, then don't let yourself be convinced it's nothing.

If nothing else, maybe you could make the time feel more positive somehow? Get a sun lamp, download a nature sound and try some basic yoga-for-dummies type poses?
posted by mdn at 7:14 PM on December 6, 2008

I'd not call it depression unless it disrupts your life. If you feel it's what makes you able to function better than anything else at your disposal, then it is frankly a need, but probably something you should discuss next psychiatry appointment, especially if it came about after you started the medication.

I sometimes feel the need to surf the internet during the day, or just lie in bed right after I get up, especially when I feel I have more work than I can keep up with expected of me. It's not healthy, but it's how I metabolize hopelessness so I can get back to life. Plus, I try to fit in at least one semi-productive thing so I'm not totally wasting the time and have something I can pick up from as soon as I recover from the funk, such as writing an email to a professor or at least putting together the headings for a paper.

From what I hear, a lot of busy people actually do miss this kind of down time, and those who indulge it then don't get to indulge other aspects of their lives, such as hobbies, family, etc, and feel they lead a less rich life for it. Some of them feel regret for spending their downtime on what feels pointless, although it may be essential for their emotional state/sanity.

My unprofessional and uneducated suggestion would be to find something you find relaxing to do during that time, either a hobby or something work or productivity related, or maybe with a friend or someone important to you. It's not easy to find, but it gives you something to look fondly on for the time you spent, so you'll feel better for it and get to recharge. It doesn't have to be the biggest thing. It could be something like writing a journal, practicing some yoga, or doing a crossword puzzle. I'm just throwing ideas out there, I imagine a few, if not all, sound impossible for you to pull off while in that state, but there is probably something you like to do with yourself which occupies a part of your mind. When I'm feeling despair, I tend to like puzzles, like Sudoku or crosswords, or even a game of solitaire, and when I feel plain unmotivated, blogging, twitter, or an old fashioned paper journal helps, oddly enough.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:21 PM on December 6, 2008

At our place it's called "the flops" as in: "I've got the flops. I'm going to go flop now." It is as vital a bodily function as eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom.
posted by wobh at 9:37 PM on December 6, 2008 [4 favorites]

I nap every day on the weekends. I think it is the relaxation being away from the work week and the exhaustion from the work week. I am normal. Hehe.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:39 PM on December 6, 2008

This is very normal.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:46 PM on December 6, 2008

Most people spend many hours a day watching television. I'd argue that being alone with your thoughts is healthier than zoning out while watching endless episodes of Deal or No Deal.

Unless it's interrupting your life or distressing you (and it sounds as though, on the contrary, it's helping you to feel more calm and centered), I'd keep it up. Call it "meditation" or "personal reflection" or something if that makes you feel better about it or helps you to justify it to others who may question your need for it.
posted by decathecting at 9:55 PM on December 6, 2008

Sure, it's normal if you feel better afterwards and if it doesn't interfere with things you actually need to get done that day.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 10:00 PM on December 6, 2008

Some people are at their best when they're running for sixteen hours a day. Some are at their best when they nap all afternoon every afternoon. Most of us are in the middle somewhere.

But screw normal — the question is, where are you on that spectrum? If a few hours of flop time every weekend is what puts you at your best, then do it. If not, don't.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:46 PM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm completely not depressed, and very much an introvert. I do things like this all the time. Nearly daily, even.

And, oh man. Sometimes I go to bed early, just to get a few hours of that in before I fall asleep. It rules.
posted by Nattie at 10:57 PM on December 6, 2008

I don't think that's normal; at least, I don't know anyone who does it.

I'm not sure how you would know if someone does it? I do it all the time and my husband does it maybe weekly, and the only way anyone would know is if we mentioned it. It's an odd thing to just bring up out of nowhere, and unless people directly ask questions like this, I can't think of any reason I'd spontaneously volunteer the information. You're not doing anything, nothing of interest to anyone else comes up during it, so there's nothing to talk about, yanno?

It'd be like saying, "So the other day I read the packaging on my box of garbage bags." They'd just look at you and say, "And?" Then you'd have to say, "Oh, nothing else. That's it."
posted by Nattie at 11:04 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would like some quiet time. But it's been months since I had an undisturbed w/e afternoon. Four kids, lots of DIY, not much time for laying about. I find my down time is reading or Internet rather than nothing time. My one exception is going for a walk (or walking to work) when I don't listen to music etc. just think/reflect.
posted by bystander at 3:03 AM on December 7, 2008

I did not know until recently that Effexor caused symptoms of exhaustion in some people.

Could you elaborate, please? I haven't heard that, and I've asked doctors about this.
posted by lukemeister at 6:33 AM on December 7, 2008

I'm not sure how you would know if someone does it?

Excellent point. I withdraw that portion of my comment.
posted by languagehat at 7:07 AM on December 7, 2008

I could spend three hours in the bathtub. refilling the hot water as necessary. When I get out, I feel warm and sleepy and happy and maybe a little dehydrated, but I always feel better. I think I'm pretty normal. Chilling out alone is a totally normal and fine thing to do, as long as it is relaxing and makes you feel better rather than worse.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:59 AM on December 7, 2008

Between sleeping in on weekends and regular hot baths during the week, I've got to add my voice to the chorus of "yes, I do this, but I call it something else."
posted by desuetude at 8:10 PM on December 7, 2008

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