The sun is shining. The blackbird is singing, gloriously. Here comes my little black and white cat, paying her morning visit to greet me in bed, which often involves her creeping under the duvet and lying across my legs. But she goes and I have no more excuses. I have to get up. But I lie there inertly like a dish of cold custard, perhaps with Radio 4 on quietly, willing myself to get out of bed, summon up some enthusiasm and get going. It’s my worst time of day.
Why am I like this? Think biological – psychological – social, as mental health workers do when they try to work out why something happened. It’s not difficult to reach the conclusion that, biologically, I’m an owl not a lark. I’ve always enjoyed evenings, not got tired, got things done which some other people would leave until the next morning – edit a report for my husband, read that article, finish the last bit of ironing, fold all the clothes to put away when husband (a morning person) is not asleep.
The other biological aspect is that feeling dreadful in the morning is a symptom of (bipolar) depression. This is diurnal variation, which means the day starts dire and gradually lightens up. I’ve had this on and off for my whole adult life. I used to find around 3pm was my watershed when things were bad. It often goes with early morning waking. However, I can remember being decidedly unenthusiastic about getting up as a girl, prior to depressive illnesses. Going back to school was always difficult and I can attach a fair bit of psychology to that, thanks to my parents.
For social factors look no further than lockdown, where life seems to have been put on hold and so many former activities are curtailed. In fact, I can tolerate lockdown reasonably well. As a long retired person with a comfortable home and lovely garden I’m used to being here all the time and I’m not gregarious. But I’m beginning to feel aimless and useless.
Despite everything, I have never actually ‘given in’ (as it seems to me) and stayed in bed. First of all, I have a routine. I think that’s helpful, although sometimes it seems having to go through all those steps adds to the effort required to get out of bed. There are all the self maintenance things: bath (my husband has gone to work and left me the bath water) application of unguents and jewellery, deciding what to wear and dressing. Then make bed and tidy bedroom. Next, mindfulness meditation if there are no distractions, and then breakfast, during which I read the paper and linger over it for ages until after 10am and I force myself to act.
The other ingredient is willpower. I’ve practised exerting this for many decades and it serves me well. ‘Do it – NOW!’ cuts out a lot of introspection and rumination. It helps to be organised and know what the priorities are. Of course, it’s much more difficult to use in depression.
Yes, mornings are worse than usual for me at the moment, but that’s lockdown for you. Isn’t it?
A Moodscope member.
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