I’m blaming my mind for the lack of sleep problem I’ve been having for the last few weeks.
I’ve been going to bed at a reasonable time in the hopes that my mind will get the message. So far my mind is either ignoring me or it doesn’t care.
Lack of sleep is a real problem for me. Not just because I’ll be tired and need to get rest, also because when I don’t get enough rest my anxiety levels skyrocket. If I was only mildly anxious before then without proper rest it will be high anxiety now. If I was high anxiety before then without proper rest I will be thisclose to panic attacks, if not full-blown, hours-long panic attacks now. It’s a brutal, brutal day when I don’t get proper rest.
My anxiety is why I’ve made a concerted effort to get to bed at a decent hour and get proper rest. No matter how many hours I need. If it’s six hours I need, then I get it. If it’s nine hours I need, then I get it. I pay the price dearly otherwise.
I try to avoid sleeping meds if I can because I know they can become a crutch and also their residual effects-feeling dopey or dizzy-the next day are not always worth it. Especially if I want to go out or have things to do. I’ll take them if the insomnia persists for a while and I really need to get some sleep. They are usually a last resort for me.
Until I get to that point I try other things first. I try to do some self-care, maybe some mindfulness or meditation. I try instrumental music or a podcast. When it seems like the external stuff isn’t working, and before I turn to the meds, I will try to just lay there and wait it out. And I gotta say, the waiting it out is torturous. Staring at the ceiling for hours on end is awful. I don’t know how else to describe it besides long and awful.
I think of hundreds of topics; from the mundane like a grocery shopping list, to global affairs like recent conflict in the Middle East. And absolutely everything else in between. A lot of these thoughts tempt me to go online and google the answer. I don’t because I know that’s a slippery slope that will only keep me awake even longer. And will probably lead to more thinking and more questions and more googling. I try to persevere.
And so my mind goes…
…will I be able to fix my TV? Or will I have to buy a new one? Where will I get the money for a new TV? I’ll have to wait to get it and hope for a good sale. What’s a good sale though? I haven’t had to buy a new TV in a long time, what’s a good price? Should I get the same size? Should I go for a bigger model? I guess it will depend on the price. I’ve read about TVs that have updates as if they have an OS. Do TVs now have OS? What in hell is that for? What do they need an OS for? What difference does it make? Do all TVs have them now? Can I get a TV without an OS? I don’t want one. I just want a regular TV. I guess I’ll have to decide when that time comes. Hopefully that won’t be soon. It’s hanging in there so it could last for months. Or it could crash tomorrow. Oh no. What if the TV totally breaks down? And I don’t have the money for it. What will I do then? What will I do with the time? That scares me. I have no idea what to do with my time now. How in hell will I figure out what to do with additional time? I already have some bills that are behind, how will I catch up now? I am so bad with money. I wish I were better with money. I wish someone had taught me how to handle money. I wish I had been taught to properly handle money. I wish I could win the lottery. The lottery would be great. It would solve a lot of problems. It wouldn’t solve everything. It would help though. I could travel. Oh I miss traveling. Like going back to Paris would be great. I loved Paris. So beautiful. I’d go for a whole week or two and just visit The Louvre every day. Just to see it proper. Bring a lunch every day and see the beautiful Louvre, at my leisure, as much as I want. Oh, how I would love to do that! Although I would eat at the cafes too because their cafes are so comfortable and great for people-watching. I like people watching when I travel. Of course I should probably play the lottery in order to win it. That would probably help…
…I’m gonna stop there because it goes on. And on. And on. And on. And on. For. Hours.
That little blurb there was about two minutes worth of thinking, if that. So imagine between two and five hours of rambling thoughts just like it. At least thankfully the thoughts mostly stay fairly neutral. When it gets really tricky is if the thoughts are disordered and start triggering me. Then the rambling thinking goes dark. Really dark. And as the minutes tick by, they get darker and darker and darker.
With every dark thought my body responds in kind. I start to feel afraid and my body follows suit with my heart racing, my stomach churning, my limbs tingling, and my head spinning. It comes very close to causing a panic attack. Very close. And if it doesn’t cause a panic attack, it causes my body to become fully tense and on edge as if it could, at any minute. So now my night is not only dealing with my rambling thoughts, it’s now having to deal with dark, rambling thoughts, and a body that’s now so tense it makes my muscles ache.
If I wasn’t tired before, which I was, I am definitely tired now. Holding panic and tension is exhausting. I hold it all day and now I’m holding it all night too. It feels like I can’t catch a break.
The good news though, I’m getting better at intervening and stopping the thinking from getting too dark. Some of the time. It’s hard though because it still takes me a while before I become aware enough to intervene. Considering that I used to intervene in zero of my thinking pursuits, I think any intervention above zero is a win. The hope is that one day I’ll have more interventions than I don’t. Until then I’m going with whatever I can get.
But I digress…
When I am able to intervene and change the script, or at least stop the script from running, I usually start with focusing on my breathing. I do a body scan and see what’s going on. If I’m having trouble focusing to do a body scan, I use a guided meditation of a body scan to help. I might do this once or twice, or a couple different guided meditations, if I find the first time I listen to it sort of helping, I listen for a second, or even a third time, to help even more. I use as many as I need. This is usually enough to switch my thinking to more neutral topics. At least until I can fall asleep.
Even with these efforts, the last few nights, I am still having a hard time falling asleep. Some nights it’s a three-hour mind tour and some nights it’s longer. For now, it has yet to be less than a two-hour tour. I’m not giving up though. I’ll get my cycle back. I just have to keep trying. That’s the thing that as really sunk in for me of late, that I have to work at it.
I have to make the effort and work at it for it to happen. If I wait for it to just happen organically then it probably won’t ever happen. At least that’s what the past decades have taught me. And now I’m listening.
Here’s hoping for a good nights rest. At some point.