This post was originally posted on The Mighty.
On any given day when my family and friends try to get ahold of me, they often are not concerned with the fact that I don’t answer the phone after three or four calls. They don’t wonder where I am at 6 p.m. when I should be at dinner, and they certainly don’t question my whereabouts at 6 a.m. during a beautiful sunrise. I’m sleeping.
I laugh when people make fun of how much I sleep. I joke with them. Sure, it can seem comical — a 20-year-old who needs 13 hours of sleep a night… plus a nap in the middle of the day? It sounds like someone who’s bored. Lazy. But for me, sleep has been a vital aspect of masking my anxiety and depression for many years. Of course, I don’t exactly mention that when someone says “You can’t possibly still be in bed!” when I haven’t woken up by noon.
When I was battling a relentless war with depression during my mid-teen years, I couldn’t find any escape. There was nothing that was able to shut out the negative thoughts, suicidal desires or overwhelming anxiety clouding my mind. So I slept. And soon enough, without even realizing it, I had discovered my best means of escape: under the covers within four silent walls.
Since then, my need for sleep has become somewhat of a problem in my daily life. Four-hour naps have replaced many moments I could have spent with family and friends. Remaining unconscious until mid-day has stolen countless peaceful mornings from me. These are things I will never get back… time that cannot be returned. Yet, I can’t say I regret burying my face into a pillow and closing my eyes each one of those times. In a world where I often cannot find my bearings, it is all I have.
I am addicted to the feeling of silence and darkness that encompasses me the moment I drift off into a peaceful slumber. I can’t see. I can’t hear. I can’t think. Breathing is no longer a job; it becomes a function my mind and body take responsibility for during the time being. Everything becomes nothing as I slip into the dark abyss.
I used to think something physical must be wrong with me. Yet, my blood has been tested for anything and everything that doctors have been concerned about. Still, nothing. Each time I simply get the classic “Everything looks good.” Eventually I came to accept that sleeping is my way of coping, not a side effect of my thyroid levels.
Oversleeping can have negative health implications long-term. However, due to my struggles with trichotillomania, dermatillomania and panic, being awake sometimes just isn’t the healthy option for me. It can mean sacrificing my hair, my skin, and my mental health over something that just isn’t worth it. And I’ve recognized that.
So the next time you call someone “lazy” due to their habit of frequently oversleeping, instead think about why they may want to stay in bed so badly.
Sera is a 20-year-old college student residing in the Boston area, originally from Upstate New York. She is a certified ambassador for the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. Sera hopes to bring awareness to mental health issues by sharing stories of her own battles with anxiety, depression, and BFRBs.