The Why's of Graveyard Shift Depression

I'm on house arrest today and having a headache. So terrible that it feels like pointy fingers are trying to crush my skull.

Maybe my body hasn't really adjusted yet to my shift again though it's been 2 weeks, or I am shift sick (missing the morning light). It's not the first time. Since April last year, I've had mild to severe headaches, tonsilitis and fever, and flu - most of the time when my shift has just changed. Aside from the headache, my wisdom tooth (both left and right) is making my gums scream. And I think I'm on "shift depression" again and the only way I know to calm myself is to write about it.

In my vocabulary. . .
Shift depression (n.)  - a state of deep meditation on the adverse effects of graveyard shift; a melancholic state where one repeatedly day dreams about the "should have's" and "could have's" if working on morning / regular shift; another term for mood swings; causes binge eating and emotional eating; intensifies PMS; a turning point that often occurs before getting back on track; unleashes strength and peace once felt, realized, and surrendered to God.

Shift depression could be a lengthy topic but I'll do my best to compress my raging thoughts. I wrote long paragraphs earlier but I myself would be bored reading it, so I simplified it after several attempts!

What Sturdy IT Professionals Do (while saving the other side of the world one system at a time) : 
Be a traditional vampire fed by work blood on weekdays (or should I say, weeknights?); try to be human on weekends for family time, me-time and adventure with friends; get a serious headache on a Monday for transitioning into a vampire again.

1. Family Time
Everything else below isn't listed in order, but this always number 1 for me. It's a lot different on graveyard because of the factors below. It's as simple as - you're at home, and they're not; they go ahead and eat dinner 'cause you're still asleep or rushing your way to work; breakfast might be too early if they're still asleep or too late if you feel sleepy already; weekends would require extra, extra effort to be human just to have a normal Saturday and Sunday, and Monday morning. But sometimes your head crashes you, or your eyes get too heavy you want to take a nap - JUST A NAP - and yet you find yourself missing out on 5-7 hrs hours of their Saturday and/or Sunday already. When you're awake, they're about to sleep!

2. Sleep / Rest
There's usually a problem with sleeping right away when you get home. Some people on graveyard are lucky if they still get to sleep for 6-8 hours straight. I bet most people like me have only 4-6hrs, or chopped hours of sleep like 3-2-2. It's hotter, it's brighter, when sleeping during day time unless there's a cool coffin made up of dark curtains to hide the sun and aircon on frost mode.

3. Expenses
If mom and dad's still paying the bills at home, it's a concern when it seems like the aircon's running 24/7 (theirs at night and yours at day). If you're paying the bills, you might not even want to use a fan. But it's summer and you don't want a heat stroke. It's day time, and you want to sleep peacefully. Moving on...expenses are higher on weeknights because of limited food choices and there are always tendencies to eat out. Unless you have packed lunch made by mom or a house help, or have it prepared by yourself - yes, expenses go up.

4. Caffeine
To stay alive, caffeine is like blood. Having daily doses of caffeine are huge add-ons to expenses if Starbucks is your home or if you just want good coffee, but a neat trick would be brewing coffee in the office or simply getting free instant coffee from the pantry. Okay, it's not the point. Caffeine for people like me, sets my metabolism on fire. Even after eating, I go hungry in the next 20-45 minutes! I must mention how tempting pastries are especially if you usually go for Americano, brewed / pressed coffee like me. Calories from sugar and white carbohydrates and oil - *sighs.

5. Food / Diet
As I've said, there are limited food choices at night. It's either fast food, cooked meals in the pantry, a restaurant outside, or packed lunch. There's a huge tendency to overeat at night, and overspend. Health is quite compromised too, because of fast food choices that are high in sodium / sugar / carbohydrates = calories. Plus, if you don't eat, you'll starve. If you starve, energy levels are low.

6. Time and Energy
Activities are limited on weekdays. You're either too tired after shift to go elsewhere (and enjoy it), too lazy to do chores, or too drained to even do something all pumped up. Sometimes in the morning you think you're sleepy and just stay in bed, only realizing that it's been 4 hours already, when you could've done something else. In the evening, you could cut off sleep if there's a really important activity but energy levels are not as high and time is limited since work begins at 9. Talk about time constraint - preparing packed lunch is impossible with limited time, low energy levels, or both.

7. Brain & Mood
There are lapses in memory...sometimes. Who the heck forgets putting the last piece of egg there is in the ref to make awesomely delicious french toast, in a laundry basket and then outrageously ranting about it "disappearing"? *hands raised to face palm. Ah, sleep, food, time & energy - it all builds up to unbelievable mood swings. I have to mention that the phase of PMS is thrice as hell and mid-month crisis can sometimes be as agonizing. Cravings are magnified just as senses are heightened, and there are tendencies to be as hungry as a pack of wolves. Nasty fangs and red eyes - you get the whole picture.

8. Fitness & Health
This pretty much is affected by everything above, which is why I wrote them in the first place. There are long-term health effects of working on graveyard shift where diet and exercise play a great role.

Aside from family time, this is why shift depression usually occurs (for me). If only my shift were normal - I could have lost more weight; my eating pattern would be normal; there are lesser tendencies to overeat at night or indulge in pastries because of caffeine needs; eating clean comes effortless; I could last for 30-45 minutes doing HIIT and another 30-45 doing body weight training OR lift weights at the gym OR simply live happily ever in pain & joy doing Crossfit. But no, my shift isn't normal. Until it is, I must work with whatever challenges it gives me.

The things I've mentioned above sets the difficulty level higher, hence the need to work harder to level up and accomplish missions. It's not easy, especially when you are battling with physical conditions which you cannot control sometimes (like headaches or fever). It's tough, when you are battling with yourself when it comes to discipline and self-control. I know. (Didn't Damon Salvatorre say that things are magnified when you're a vampire?)

But we just have to keep going. Keep fighting. Keep moving. Keep pushing. Harvest time will come. The dream has been planted. Now while waiting and working for it to grow, there will be pests; storms; drought or too much rain. But it's okay. Everything is made beautiful in it's time.

"Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy."
(Psalm 126:5)

The pounds come and go, measurements shrink and grow. I tried, I worked hard, I failed. I try again, I work harder, I failed again. Tomorrow I will try again. . . Let's try again?

"I can do all things through Christ
who strengthens me"

"...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint. "
 (Isaiah 40:31)


PS: I end this post feeling better having expressed my sentiments about "Shift Depression" that is most probably common to fellow super heroes out there. At the same time, writing about how it affects my Fitness & Health journey (aka Lifestyle Change) brings me joy because I finally have my first post about my journey- starting with the challenges I have to conquer. Ah, it's not success or results all at once after all. I'm so happy!! :)