It’s very hard for someone to really tell the difference between a “tired” you and a “depressed” you, especially if the person observing is yourself. You may think that if you just sleep on it, you’ll feel better and you’ll be able to carry on like it was nothing. And by conventional wisdom from psychologists and other health specialists, that can hold true in most cases.
But just because it works for some clinically “un-depressed” people doesn’t mean it will work for the clinically depressed. Sure, if you have a rough day, a sleep can return your hormones to an equilibrium. But to the clinically depressed, existing hormonal changes can prevent you from correcting your bad sleep cycle, or sleep might not even affect your depression at all.
Take me, for example. I have slept from 9pm (occasionally 10pm) to 6am (or 7am respectively) ever since Grade 1 and I know most of my friends who aren’t clinically depressed sleep from 1am to 5am (long-distance travel struggles). But I’m sure if you just keep on that good sleeping schedule for long enough then you’ll see some improvements.
From my basic level of biology and human physiology, the human body has two systems which are used for internal communication with organs and other systems: endocrine and nervous. The nervous system…well, let’s just say it’s used for quick and voluntary responses, aimed to keep the human alive in an ever-changing environment.
The endocrine system, on the other hand, is used to help the body adjust to more gradual changes, and the effects of your hormones can last significantly longer than nervous responses. A popular, if not well-known, example is…brace yourself…female periods. Oestrogen, progesterone, and luteinising hormone (LH) are all hormones which affect the several stages involved in the menstrual cycle. Their combined effect lasts around 28 days (give or take a few depending on the female in question) and it’s really hard to interrupt the cycle quickly without feeling some pretty heavy repercussions (e.g.: using the combined oral contraceptive pill). Not that I know that from personal experience, but it’s what I’ve learnt in Year 10 Health Education.
So it’s logical that hormones related to sleep and mood are going to be just as tough to control with just changing your sleep pattern and psychiatric medicines like sleeping pills and whatnot (if you’re expecting quick improvement times). Though I haven’t tried any psychiatric medicines, I would suspect there would be some initial issues with using them for some people, but they hopefully should work for most people.
So just as a cautionary word of advice: if you see a friend who seems tired or depressed, it’s best to ask them if they’re okay because they don’t seem lively. If they snap at you like a piranha, then let them be. If they open up to you, please take the chance to listen to them about their issues, and be sincere about it. Let them finish and then ask them what they want to do.
And for those who are clinically depressed, there will be days where you will realise that the people who ask if you’re okay are trying to help you. Instead of beating yourself down about passing that opportunity, go and talk to them about your worries, fears, troubles or whatever it is you are feeling depressed about. Even if it means talking to them every day, you gotta tell them.
But choosing who to talk to can be difficult. I might touch base on that – and how to talk to people about depression – in another blog post.
Until then… D.F.T.B.A.!
2018 update: Now that I’ve been on clinical placement, I’ve recently had experiences which have caused much stress due to machines having electrical failures, doing things alone when you’ve previously always had someone to cover your back, the clinic becoming suddenly inundated due to doctors coming back from a meeting they were having…
I can tell you…if you’re trying to learn by doing but then your supervisor pushes you to the passenger seat, YOU BETTER GET YOUR BUTT INTO GEAR CUZ IT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL BUSY.
*ahem* Sorry… Let’s just say, I’m tired… and it’s probably making me depressed due to how much I still feel like I’m fresh out of high school.
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