When it comes to mental illness, we are constantly bombarded with cures in the form of medication, self help packs, books, therapy and the list goes on. Whilst my little miracle isn’t at all a replacement for professional services, it still is that- a little miracle. I suffered from Depersonalisation Derealisation Disorder for the most part of 2020. This is a dissociative disorder where the brain shuts down in response to a threat in order to protect the individual. This results in a complete loss of the senses, feelings of unreality, the feeling that you are stuck in a dream, numbness of the body and brain, extreme brain fog and bewilderment, memory loss and detachment from reality and oneself- it is considered a disorder when these symptoms become chronic. The experience was extremely disturbing and upon further research I found that there was no real cure and little knowledge on the disorder. In most cases the disorder fades away after a few years or you are stuck with it forever. The world crumbled around me as I failed to accept my reality.

I tried everything for a cure. I spoke to my GP whom assured me this was completely normal and triggered by stress- except I wasn’t stressed and this was anything but normal. I spoke to a therapist who insisted it was a symptom of anxiety, except I had never experienced anxiety in my life. I tried iron tablets, folic acid supplements, B12, vitamin D drips, headstands, grounding activities, cold showers, needle mats- I was desperately searching for anything that would make me feel something, that would bring me back to myself again. I knew that the most disturbing part of this disorder was the physical aspect as opposed to the mental. It was the fact that I couldn’t physically taste or smell what I was eating, the loss of understanding of time, it was the numbness of the hands, the hollowness of the head, the spaced outedness, the detachment from my senses. I began to closely inspect my daily routine and at what times the disorder was heightened and at what times I felt more myself. I came to realise that the disorder would reach its peak when I’d wake up after a lie in or after a nap. By a lie in I mean waking up at 8am and then hitting the snooze button until 1pm. These would make me feel extremely disoriented, depressed and depersonalised. I began to change my routine, I cut out naps which meant the option to wake up depersonalised was no longer there and I began to wake up with the sun, it was here my life began to change for the better.

The circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep–wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the Earth roughly every 24 hours. The most common factor which effects our circadian rhythm is light. For e.g. during the day when it is light and bright, the brain sends signals that generate alertness to keep us active- the opposite is true for the night. “Research shows that Circadian rhythms influence mental health, including the risk of psychiatric illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder as well as the potential for neurodegenerative diseases12 like dementia.” Due to our phones and constant screen time, for most of us, our circadian rhythms have become disrupted. For many young people, we spend our nights awake browsing social media and our days catching up on lost sleep.

How I fixed my Circadian Rhythm:

  • I stopped drawing my blinds. I left my blinds undone so that the sun/morning light could shine through each morning.
  • I stopped using my phone at least an hour before bed. This helps with decreasing stimulation of the brain.
  • I put my phone on aeroplane mode whilst sleeping to prevent radiation being emitted.
  • I slept at around 10pm every night, I stuck to this religiously for the first few months.
  • I meditated for 10 minutes before sleeping.
  • I got out of bed and did some sort of movement as soon as I woke up, no lie ins.
  • I stopped napping during the day.
  • I did things that would tire me out and make me need sleep e.g. working out.
  • I stuck to a routine of waking up at around 8am naturally every morning.
  • I’d let myself wake up naturally, no alarms unless needed for work- listen to your body.

Eventually, I began to rise and fall with the sun and slowly watched my dissociative disorder dissipate. My brain and body were no longer as confused as they once were, I felt more balanced and restored. I now wake up with the sun every morning. As soon as I feel the light hit the corners of my bedroom, I am awake and ready for the day ahead. I have come to realise the huge importance of listening to my body and serving it, of not starving it of sleep and of not excessively indulging in sleep- there is a fine, artistic balance. Waking up early helps me to feel more productive, it gives me more time, it allows more time for my body and brain to soak in the light of the morning sun which is vital for functioning. The mornings are a time for self reflection, for bonding with your Lord, for planning out your day, for getting your positive affirmations in, for sitting in the calm before the storm. From someone who would wake up at midday and use the weekend exclusively for prolonged lie ins, I now value waking up early more than ever. It is a life changing, little miracle.