A Depression Nap…or Just a Nap?

Is there such a thing as a “Depression Nap”? I’ve certainly heard the term through my advocacy. I never really knew what it was. I do know that when I was going through my second major bout of depression in 2013, my psychologist had shared with me that I needed to rest…I needed to take naps. He explained it as a brain injury and shared with me that the brain needed its down time.

Oh boy did I run with that one with my wife. I’d slowly, emotionlessly drag myself off of the couch, where I had been sitting, not knowing what to do or what to say and share with my wife, “I’m just going to go upstairs for a nap…my therapist said I need to rest”. There, behind the safety of my bedroom, door closed to my wife and four small children…and to the world really, I would lie down. I’d close my eyes and I’d roll around for about three hours, wishing so desperately that I could sleep.

I’d finally drag myself back downstairs, trying to convince myself that somehow, even without getting a wink of sleep, I must be rested from laying down for so long. I’d slowly make my way back to the couch. That or I’d follow my wife around at her hip, not knowing what to do with myself. Having taken time off from work, I’d try to create a very short to-do list. Maybe I could clean one bathroom or do a load of laundry. But I couldn’t. So, I spiraled down further into self negativity, beating myself up.

I’d even lay down next to my oldest kid (seven at the time) when it was her bedtime, as I had done when I was healthy. Only, when I was healthy, my wife would wake me up fifteen minutes later, we’d chuckle that I had fallen asleep and I’d go on with my routine for the evening before bed. Not this time. Not these days, these months of a deep, dark depression. I’d lay down by my daughter, she’d fall asleep, and I didn’t want to move. I knew that if I stayed there long enough, perhaps it would be late enough by the time I got up from her bed that I would be able to retreat back to the safety and security of my own room and go to bed (not to sleep, that just wasn’t happening).

It actually got to the point that I would literally feel angst and anxiety just walking past my bed, looking at it, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep next time I’d try. I was actually angry at my bed, as if it was my bed’s fault that I couldn’t sleep. I think at my worst I was getting about ten hours of sleep…for the week.

What’s funny is, I really love naps. I mean, when I’m healthy. As an educator, I typically get summers off. I LOVE lying down on the couch, a warm, fuzzy blanket on my legs and the breeze from the overhead fan on me. Catching a thirty-minute nap or so would feel so comforting to me and I’d wake up rejuvenated. I have no problem admitting that my love of naps could certainly do with me recently entering my fifties.

At any rate, at the current time we’re living in, it’s easy to fall into a depression and I so desperately do not want that to happen. I’ve only had two bouts of major depression and would never wish it upon my worst enemy…no joke. Seriously. So while I don’t live in fear of the possibility of another major depression, I’m surely conscious of the possibility. So…I’m recognizing some of my current stressors. Last December my father passed away. Last February our school district went on strike (I wasn’t on strike, as I’m an administrator), the teachers came back for one day (really in order to be able to receive health benefits, as they could see what was about to happen), we then went quickly into distance learning. Very soon thereafter, George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the police. I live, with my wife and four kids, in Minneapolis only three blocks south of Lake Street and less than a mile from the 3rd precinct (both locations that I would imagine most people in the US have heard of now due to the riots). We’re now starting a new school year, welcoming new staff and students virtually. So…it makes sense to me if I’m feeling down.

And this is where we get back to naps. Just the other day after dinner, my four kids went on their way to do their own things until it was bedtime. I’ve been reading to my youngest daughter and, ever since I once dozed and made up some nonsensical words (not to be funny, but because I was practically dreaming while reading), she’ll let me know I could take a short power nap after dinner so that I don’t fall asleep reading to her. And I’ve done that on a really tired night or two. And it’s felt good and I get right up and read and then continue my evening doing some work (or podcasting). The other night, however, it was different. I know I was feeling down, feeling overwhelmed. I wanted desperately to lay down on that comfy couch and take a snooze. But it wasn’t about getting rejuvenated to read with my daughter. It felt different. I could tell I felt that I needed to escape. To shut myself off from the world and to not think of anything that was causing me stress. I pushed back very hard on the nap that evening. Normally I wouldn’t. But again, this was different. I knew that the feeling of needing to shut myself off from the world was a sign that I could be slowly entering a depression. I could NOT let that happen. Having gone through two bouts of depression and advocating around mental health for four or five years now has given me many strategies. That night, I decided there was no way I was going to lay down. I’m not sure that I would have woken up to read with my daughter. I pushed against my desire to nap and instead took our dog out for a walk. I walked for a good hour, felt rejuvenated and proud that I had resisted the temptation to nap. I knew that had I napped, I would have beat myself up about the nap, especially if I hadn’t been able to get up to read to my daughter.

So…is there such a thing as a “Depression Nap”? Is it different from a typical nap? I now say a resounding, “Yes!” I believe there’s quite a difference. How about you?

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. As with all of my posts, questions and comments are welcomed and encouraged.

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