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The 'Bad' Habit My Depression Created

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As a person with depression, it is only natural that when I find something that helps me feel good, I will continually be pulled towards it. We all do it, and whether it’s a habit, compulsion or addiction, there is a reason behind these coping mechanisms. Let me tell you about the habit depression has created for me, and what I believe are the reasons behind it. I expect many others experience this too. 

I am a night owl. I can’t get myself to quit even despite the consequences.

It is common for me to stay up until 2 a.m., and on some nights, as late as 4 a.m. The consequence of this? Daytime grogginess, difficulty doing anything before noon, increased depression and guilt, all wrapped up in a vicious cycle. If this behavior has so many detriments then why do I do it?  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I realized something about my love of the nighttime.

 It is at night I feel the happiest, safest and creative.

The hours I keep have impacted my circadian rhythm. It is then not a surprise that at night is when I feel most alert and happy. As I stay up late, I’m bound to be tired and unhappy during the day. As the evening comes, I begin to feel more alert and happy.  Therefore as night falls, I don’t want to “throw away” this energy or happiness, and so I stay up to enjoy it. Whether or not, if my system was reset, I could have more daytime energy and happiness, remains unseen. There are additional factors though that keep me up.

At night I am all alone, and with that comes no expectation from society, including myself. No one will ask anything of me in these hours, and I can do as I see fit. During the day there are appointments, social interactions, things that either must or should get done. I might have to make a phone call, cook, drive and so on. All of which is draining when you have low motivation. At 2 a.m. there are none of these expectations. I am free to sit on the couch and not worry about what needs to get done. I don’t have to feel bad about not doing something, as it will have to wait until tomorrow. It feels good to feel as though you are fully in control, and to not be saddened by the limitations of depression. 

Lastly, it is during this time I feel I am most creative and productive. I have always enjoyed writing, painting and other forms of art. The fact is the majority of it is done at night. Here I think both of my previous points come in to play. This is the time I am most alert and unburdened. I feel the most free to pursue my hobbies.

For the longest time I had difficulty understanding why I couldn’t break this habit. Having spent some time thinking it over has helped me understand my pull towards the night.  I now understand that although I at times want to change my habit, I currently feel the benefits outweigh the cost, and at least for now it’s still working for me. I’m convinced there is a whole league of us depressed night owls, and while some of us are here due to insomnia, the rest of us, like me, are here by circumstance and choice. Hello, and good night.

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Unsplash photo via Rakicevic Nenad

Originally published: February 16, 2018
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