Circadian Setbacks

When I was little, I was up watching cartoons long before my parents were awake.  I made it up until college without needing an alarm clock; I survived until my second stint at graduate school without drinking coffee. Anyone who has ever woken up beside me knows that I start the day chattering and almost obnoxiously energetic.  Last year I wrote the better part of a book manuscript before noon.


Depression rots away little parts of you one by one.  Being a “morning person” never seemed like an important part of my identity until I stopped being one.  Sometime over the course of this summer, my bed started to exert a stronger and stronger gravitational pull on me.  It got to the point where, at the start of the semester, I needed repeated text messages to ensure that I actually got up for the 8 a.m. section I was contractually obligated to teach.  I would get up in fits and starts, getting dressed or putting on coffee and then crawling back under the covers three or four times.


When I arrived home to Arizona three weeks ago, I gave up and simply crashed.  I hid from the day by sleeping for as long as possible. Subsequently, my morning pattern has changed alongside the pharmaceutical soup inside my brain.  Now, I wake up at 4:30 a.m.  I watch the morning light accumulate with a steadily growing sense of terror that, no, I won’t be able to get back to sleep, and that, therefore, the respite of unconsciousness has ended.


Depression is irrational, and there’s nothing more irrational than my morning misery.  After all, as the day goes on, I almost always feel better, and if I know that by 3:00 p.m., why can’t I convince myself of that at six?  Sometimes, by the night time, I am even so optimistic as to tell myself that tomorrow morning will be different.  But it never is.  What seems like progress is always just another cycle.


I’m about to go to bed in a warm bed in a safe house with loving parents.  And I am so, so scared.

5 thoughts on “Circadian Setbacks

  1. Is it possible that you’ve never been clinically depressed before?

    Were you one of those positive people this culture produces? I just finished reading Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America, by Barbara Ehrenreich, and I’ve never had that problem. In fact for most of my life I was berated for having a negative attitude.

    When I first ran into you online in a Freegan forum, I thought you were an arrogant bastard. Well, if I’d had loving parents and a good education, I probably would have been an arrogant bastard myself.

    My own clinical depression lasted three years. I’d been illegally fired from the only good job I’d ever had, a job which my employers admitted under oath I had performed in a manner they described as “flawless and excellent,” and I was fired anyway. Knowing that I couldn’t do any better than “flawless and excellent,” and finding that the various agencies and the federal court refused to enforce my rights, I wanted to die.

    Three years later I still was without any reason to live, but found that I no longer had any reason to want to die. Despite losing the job, I was no longer homeless, and since I had food, clothing, and shelter, and because killing myself would entail some sort of act that I had no energy to perform, I settled for existing instead of living, although I missed being the spirited person I’d been before.

    That was, let’s see, more than 30 years ago. Nothing much has changed. But since I’ve never been positive and I no longer care enough about living to be depressed, I’m just sort of neutral.

    While I may not be doing much good, I’m not doing much harm either, which has something to be said for it these days.

    If you can endure, you will endure. Not much positive reinforcement there, I know, but it’s the best I can do. You somehow escapted the matrix, and it is scary out here. You’d be nuts if you weren’t scared, so that in itself should be reassuring.

    Depression is perfectly rational. It’s a normal reaction to war crimes, Fukushima, inequality, and general stupidity. You’re no longer contractually obligated to be anywhere or do anything, so don’t worry about it.

    Many years ago I was told that the great jazz musician, Charlie Parker, when he wasn’t playing a set, would sometimes just crawl under the bandstand and sleep through the breaks until somebody woke him up to play again. I don’t know if it is a true story, but I figured if it was good enough for Bird, it was good enough for me.

    Unless your loving parents are strict about it, there is no reason I know of to sleep at night and be awake during the day. I live alone and I sleep when I’m sleepy and find things to do, like reading, blogging, or eating, when I’m not sleepy. I’m often awake all night and sleep most of the day. If you’ve always had a busy schedule, it could take some adjustment, but it isn’t the end of the world–merely the end of the world as you’ve known it. You’ve got over 10,000 years of adaptive strategies behind you, so chances are you’ve got the ability to adapt to this too.

    Of course you may never again be the arrogant bastard you were before, but in my humble opinion that’s not the worst thing that could happen either. 😉

    Every two or three years I venture out if there’s some event I think worth attending. Here’s my account of one I went to a few days ago:

    Confronting Genocide: The New Black Panthers

    Power to the Punx!

  2. Thank you for writing so openly about this. It will get better – slowly, but it will. And make them change your pharmaceuticals until you get a dose that actually helps!

  3. Pharmaceuticals?

    You’re being drugged for not maintaining a fake persona and for having a normal reaction to reality?

    Suggested reading:

    America’s Mental Illness Disability and Dementia Epidemic: It Turns Out That the Drugs Are the Problem – by Gary G. Kohls, MD

    Lessons I have Learned About the Psychopharmaceutical Industry – By Gary G. Kohls, MD

    Lies That My Medical School Professors Taught Me (And Which Were Reinforced by My Drug Reps) – By Gary G. Kohls, MD

    The people who are well adjusted to global warming, genocide, Chernobyl & Fukushima, having a bigger Gulag than Stalin had, and a pharmaceutical industry that is one of the leading causes of death in the developed world (saying that it is due to the “side effects” of the drugs rather than the drugs themselves is a cop out), are medicating you so that you can be well adjusted too?

    Although I subscribe to Kohls’ mailing list, I don’t repost all of his articles to my website. His latest, “Psychiatric Drug-Induced Chronic Brain Impairment: A Major Factor Underlying the American Epidemic of Wounded Brains,” didn’t seem to be of general interest to my readers, most of whom are fully aware of the problems with big pharma and know better than to trust doctors.

    But my best friend was an arrogant bastard who died a couple of years ago because he trusted the top specialists instead of trusting his friends and family, so he was given chemotherapy for liver cancer–a “treatment” so stupid that even the health care industry stopped doing it a few months after he died. I told him that giving poison to someone with reduced liver function was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard, but arrogant bastards only listen to people with the same sort of credentials they have, and are therefore almost totally lacking in common sense.

    In today’s world, anyone who isn’t depressed is either a sociopath who has no empathy, or an automaton maintaining a fake persona for pay and other social rewards.

    “Depression” is nothing more than being in contact with reality and having a healthy, normal, human reaction to it. It is not a disease. It is the opposite of disease, as it prevents people from active participation in perpetuating the cancer of civilization that is destroying our planet.

    There are no medications that can cure people of truth, honesty, and intelligence, but there are many that can take away the pain of reality by destroying the brain and killing the sufferer.

    “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” –Jiddu Krishnamurti

  4. I remember dreading wakefulness a few years ago. I would fall asleep with the a heaviness in my chest, coloring my world with a sense of some great big Bad, and find my companion lingering bedside upon waking. The most vivid part of my consciousness, he would force himself on every moment of existence; I looked to sleep just to make him stop.

    I remember him slowly degenerating my thoughts. I remember being less and less certain whether or not he’ll ever go away but always, constantly begging him to leave. When a bit of relief came, I felt not respite but dread for its end. And when he – as he always seemed to – come back, I felt ever more deflated than before.

    When I was finally released from him, and I hope dearly the same for you and your great big Bad, I felt a combination of renewal and triumph, like Sisyphus when he finds a dimple on the top of the hill. Nietzsche, in this regard, was on to something. The emotional resilience and plasticity that the experience bore is what I hang onto now. It’s made me, among other things, more in touch with others’ pain. Through the distorted lens of retrospection, I’d say that this has made the experience almost worth it.

  5. Alex, thanks for your clear-minded insights into depression. I’m wondering if it’s possible for you right now to remember how lovable you are, in addition to super intelligent and articulate, how many of us love you and value you. And chemical soup can help break the depressive cycle, it’s a valid tool and strategy. I’ve done it twice, for 6 months each time, and both times it jump started a return to “feeling like myself”, although it took a month or even more to kick in.

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