The Shade Tree Choir
Insomnia and Depression
“ Get up and come with me!” Dad said as he jabbed his index finger into the left side of my chest.
He pulled the covers off, and I was startled when I realized it was morning. I also was embarrassed because of my erection. It’s perfectly normal for little boys to wake with an erection when they have to pee. I tried covering myself with my hands the best I could when he shoved me down the steps to the living room and past Ma who was sitting smoking. She had heard it all but neither said nor did anything to save me.
“Get down those God damn steps right now!”
“Please not another beating, please,” I thought to myself.
He shoved me to the second room of the 150-year-old basement lined with limestone. His right arm flung in the darkness and he found the chain for the 40-watt light bulb that provided more shadows than illumination. There, at the far end of the cellar, was the doorway hiding the steps that once led up to the backyard and was now entombed with the new patio cement.
“Get your ass in there and do not come out until I tell you to. Do you understand me?”
I nodded my head and entered the cramped space. The metal latch locked me in and quickly the shadows were replaced with total darkness. It was 7:30 in the morning.”
“The Shade Tree Choir”
I was eight years old when that event happened to me. I was locked in the space until 10 p.m. and then forced to return to my bed in the upstairs hallway. I had not eaten nor had any water in over thirty-six hours. Six decades later, I can close my eyes and feel his finger in my chest.
My entire life I have had difficulty sleeping. I don’t know if the psychiatrist who treated me a long time ago for PTSD and clinical depression was correct. Her theory was that maybe I have a deep fear of being awakened by something that might harm me. I don’t know if there is a genetic factor or other physiological cause of my insomnia. Scientists and behavioral clinicians have differing viewpoints about depression. Truth is, nobody knows for certain.
Another truth is that I have clinical depression, sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome. According to the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation, 40% of people with Restless Leg Syndrome suffer from depression. Nobody knows for certain if sleep deprivation can spark episodes of depression or the other way around. I can only tell you about my experiences with sleep loss and the relationship with my other diagnoses.
Exercise is an excellent method to combat depression. When I wake exhausted because of two to three hours sleep, the last thing I want to do is go to the gym. I force myself to work out three or four times a week. My sleep pattern dictates the intensity level of the workout. I no longer snore and I enjoy those infrequent nights of eight hours sleep, thanks to my C-PAP machine. I had a sleep study years ago and have used my machine ever since. I control my restless leg syndrome with medications and no longer jump, hop and kick while sleeping. I try not to take naps during the day. I know that caffeine in the afternoon can hinder my sleep pattern, as does alcohol in the evening.
My physician treating me for sleep apnea refuses to give me sedating, anti-depressant medications. He says research shows there is potential to suppress breathing and worsen my condition. I did attempt medications for depression and stopped them. I gained some forty pounds and my personality changed where I experienced no emotion at all. I likened it to being flat-lined. I have lost twenty-two pounds on my way back to “recovery.”
I no longer go to the car wash in the middle of the night and then wax my truck under the floodlights in the driveway. I no longer take three-hour drives while the rest of the world sleeps. I smile to think I might be getting better. I know better. Instead, I work in my office. I experience some of the best creative moments writing or drawing between 1 a.m. and sunrise. I have always been that way and suspect it shall remain such.
Symptoms of depression vary from person to person. The following is a list of the most common symptoms. Some depression patients have only one of these, while others may have some, most or all:
· Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and sadness
· Thoughts of death or suicide
· Loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable
· Concentration problems
· Loss of libido
· Changes in weight and appetite
· Daytime sleepiness
· Loss of energy
It’s one thing to read a list of symptoms. Here is a real account of what life can be like for someone with depression. I received this from a friend two days ago. He is a high-functioning member of society and successful. Depression knows no boundaries.
“Nothing feels good, nothing sounds fun, nothing tastes good and I can't sleep but I never want to get out of bed. My teeth hurt from grinding them, my joints ache, it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have randomly started crying about 7 times today. All I can think about is my failures, my losses and how any effort I've put into life has been for naught. My brain races through every disaster in my life and tells me that it's all my fault. It tells me I've failed my friends and family; I failed my mother; I've failed as an artist and musician. I've become the very thing I promised my youthful self I would never be. This is depression. I hide it well, but this is what consumes me and millions of others behind closed doors in the darkness of our imagination. When people ask me how I am, I usually lie and say I'm great, or good, or not bad. When really I'm thinking about horrible ways to end it. I didn't choose to be this way, but I will choose to fight it. Just remember, not everyone has the support system I do, or the education I have received. If you know someone with depression, bipolar or anxiety, please reach out to them today and join their fight. Much love to those who fight with me.”
Suggestions for your consideration:
· If you experience ideations of suicide immediately call 911. You are not a weak person. You are someone who needs immediate medical help.
· Demand a complete physical including a cardiac stress test. There is a correlation between heart disease, insomnia and depression.
· If you snore or kick your legs while sleeping demand a referral for a sleep study. You too may have sleep apnea and/or restless leg syndrome that can be treated.
· No caffeine past noon.
· Limit alcohol to one ounce for women and two ounces for men before bedtime.
· Hobbies that require deep concentration may help you sleep better. For many years, I created stained glass artwork and now have a new hobby. I am teaching myself to draw. When I get into the “creative zone”, I have no time for the pity-pot attitude that can hinder my sleep.
· No matter how tired you are during the day try to get some exercise. Gretchen Reynolds with the NY Times reported on a study from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario about the benefit of a one-minute all-out exercise. The article was written in the NY Times on 4-27-16. The study found a one-minute routine that is as effective as a forty-five minute workout of moderate exertion.
· Try purging negative thoughts before going to bed. For me, writing stories, poems or lists sometimes helps. Communicating with your spouse can be another method of release.
· Write down all the positive things you did today. Try writing all the positive characteristics about yourself. Learn to love yourself. One of my other Blogs covers this topic. (4-23-16)
· Try to manage stressors in your life. I have written other blogs on that topic that you can read. (5-19-13)
· I mentioned in previous blogs about trying visualization, deep breathing exercises and playing CDs with sounds of nature or music you find relaxing to help you get to sleep.
· Lastly, buy any of my books and read for a few minutes before going to sleep. I had to throw that in there and sit here with a smile. It’s good to find humor in life.
Be sure to visit my web page at www.davidnelsonauthor.com
Watch the one- minute book trailer about The Shade Tree Choir. http://youtu.be/y3EWghb6qnU
My Blog Location: http://www.davidnelsonauthor.com/shadetreechoir/