A woman on ProjectBeyondBlue.com, my depression community, recently asked me this: “You exercise daily and eat the right things. You research and write this stuff for a living. But what about those of us who can’t get out of bed in the morning? What about when you are too depressed to exercise, eat right, or work. How do you simply get out of bed?”
The honest answer is that I don’t know.
My bed has never been a sanctuary not because I’m disciplined but because I have very painful memories of my mother’s severe depression–her living in her bed—that I experienced as a grade-schooler. When I was much younger than my kids, I woke myself up for school, made my breakfast and lunch, and walked to school. When I returned to the house, around 3 pm or so, sometimes she was still in bed, often times crying. I don’t fault her for her depression—I have cried hours and hours in front of the kids and wish I could take back those memories. However, I promised myself somewhere in that pain that I would never use my bed as an escape, especially when I had young children. The thought of a pajama day even today makes me ill.
Therefore, I posed the question to my community and to an expert. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Be depressed upright (or prepare for the voices).
Robert Wicks, psychologist and author of the bestselling book, Riding the Dragon, has debriefed professionals in Cambodia following years of torture and was responsible for the psychological debriefing of relief workers evacuated from Rwanda during the country’s bloody civil war. I figured he would be a good one to ask about the bed debacle.
“A depressed person did say to me, ‘I couldn’t do anything you asked in our last session. I was too depressed to get out of bed,’” Wicks told me. “I said, ‘Ah, that is my fault. I should have cautioned you that those voices would be there and to respond by saying: Yes, I am depressed but I am going to be depressed outside. Activity and depression don’t like to live together.”
When I really don’t want to do something, I try my best to stop the cerebral activity known as thinking, put myself in automatic mode, and “just show up,” as a running coach once told me. Preparing in advance for these thoughts is also helpful, like Wicks said, so you won’t be taken off guard when they try to manipulate you to stay under the covers. And once your body is in motion, it is much easier to keep it in motion.