Republished from Self Help for Your Nerves, by Doctor Claire Weekes
Waking in the morning deserves special attention. It is the worst time of day to most people with nervous breakdown, not only because it brings another day to face, but because it may also so disappointingly fail to fulfil the expectations of the previous night. There are days when the sufferer feels comparatively well and by evening has convinced himself that he really is getting better at last. He goes to bed cheerful and optimistic only to find, on waking the next morning, that the previous day’s improvement seems but a dream.
It is strange how the morning has this disconcerting habit of apparently paying little regard to the improvement of the day before. People are disappointed and bewildered when, after going to bed fairly cheerful, they wake the next morning to find the same old heart of lead, the same depression, the same churning stomach, the same difficulty in facing the day, the same desire to switch off their engine and pull the blankets over their head.
It is as if the morning lags behind the pace of their recovery. It is not easy to find a satisfactory explanation for this dreaded morning feeling. It may be that consciousness steals upon you before you have time to marshal your defences. If you have had oblivion in sleep, the moment of waking, bringing the return of cold reality, may strike like a blow across the face and your spirits may sink before you have time to save them. Or, it may be that, sleep relaxes an over-tired body to a point beyond normal relaxation and this is as hard to bear as tension. Whatever it is, I do know that when you wake in the morning feeling that the world is not such a bad place you are well on the way to recovery.
The suffering felt on waking must be understood, almost expected, but not magnified. Don’t let it bluff you. A difficult morning need not mean a difficult day.
Rise When You Wake
To cope with this morning feeling, you must rise as soon as you wake. The longer you lie steeped in misery the harder it will be to pull yourself out of it. I fully understand how difficult early rising can be, but it can be done, even though it may mean literally dragging your body out of bed. ‘I leap out of bed,’ said one woman. But very few people with nervous breakdown are prepared to leap out of bed. It is enough if, as soon as you open your eyes, you rise, however slowly, have a shower and then go and make a cup of tea. You will find that cheerful music helps to lift you out of the early-morning doldrums, so have a radio beside your bed. The family may not appreciate an early-morning concert, but when they know it is part of your treatment they usually co-operate.
After music, shower and tea, you can lie more peacefully in bed until the family stirs. You may prefer to go for a walk rather than return to bed. So much the better. The main thing is to make some quick effort as soon as you open your eyes, so that the early-morning depression cannot establish itself. Having done this, you will not so easily slip back into depression again. At least it will not seem so overwhelming as it might have done had you stayed in bed with the blankets over your head. Be prepared to greet the mornings this way until waking becomes easier and you know you can lie in peace without the aid of music, shower or tea.
When I advised one young woman to rise as soon as she woke, she remonstrated, ‘But the bodily functions aren’t working! How could I get out of bed before the bodily functions work? It sometimes takes hours for mine to get going!’ I assured her that her ‘bodily functions’ would work more quickly in response to command than to coaxing, especially when their owner lay in bed engrossed in the coaxing. Admittedly the first half-hour may be deadly, and it is from this that most people shrink. However, after a while the way becomes easier, helped by the prompt rising.
So don’t listen to any excuse you may make yourself to lie a little longer. Leave that bed as soon as you wake.
If possible, place your bed so that you can see out of the window when you wake and are not forced to look at the same spot on the ceiling, or at the same old dressing-gown hanging up behind the door. To see something moving outside, if only the boughs of a tree, is a distraction, and somehow helps you to feel more normal.
A Change of View
You may be surprised how helpful it is to change your bedroom or even the position of your bed or the curtains in your room. To wake each morning and see the same curtains with the same pattern, of which you know every detail, reminds you so vividly of all the other mornings of suffering that you may seem to be dragged back into the quagmire before you can save yourself. Change refreshes – even such small changes as these. As mentioned, change acts like a mild shock which temporarily arrests your attention and draws it away from yourself and so helps you to feel more normal. Even a short respite from suffering is heartening.
So, should you wake with that dreaded morning feeling:
- rise immediately, have a shower, make a hot drink, find some cheerful music on the radio, or, if time permits, go for a walk;
- do not be too impressed by the necessity to lie in bed until your ‘bodily functions get going’; rise and get them going yourself;
- place your bed so that you can see outside on waking;
- change your bedroom if possible; at least occasionally move the furniture in your room to make a change;
- above all, accept and do not be discouraged by the mornings while waiting for them to improve, remembering that a difficult morning need not mean a difficult day.