Insomnia…urgh

Insomnia is a big battle in my life. It has been for over a year and a half. I can’t remember exactly when it started being an issue, but it’s certainly been a significant problem since last summer – after I got back from the States. What I put down to jetlag at first soon proved to be more; I was having night after night of not getting to sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, feeling absolutely shattered and miserable and a little bit like I was going mad.

I love and need my sleep. My bed is a special place of rest and comfort, and constant nights of tossing and turning were making me hate it, and feel anxious about bedtime for fear that I wouldn’t sleep at all…. so I started making a concerted effort to monitor my sleep around the autumn.

I have struggled with PMS since the beginning of my degree, and it has gotten worse over time, and for the last few years I’ve used an App to track my cycle and my emotional ups and downs. It has been extremely helpful to be able to check the App and note where I am in the cycle, and suddenly have it all make sense why I feel sad for no reason, irrational and snappy, or anxious with none of my triggers happening.

I was already using the App to note my moods, and I started using it to keep a note of whether I’d slept well or had disrupted sleep, if i’d struggled to get to sleep or gone off easily.

I matched my sleep patterns up with my App and recognised that my insomnia was waaaayyyyy worse at certain times of the month. I went to see my GP who said that yes, insomnia is another delightful symptom of PMS and suggested I start taking the pill… so I did.

It helped massively with the emotional rollercoaster, but not so much with the sleeping. Having said that; feeling emotionally well definitely helps with managing sleep deprivation!

Then came a bad period at work which really triggered my PTSD, and along with that a run of nights where I would barely get a few hours’ sleep in the early hours of the morning, having struggled the whole night and driven myself crazy with anxiety and all the yuck that comes with PTSD. I spoke to the pharmacist who suggested Nytol as a short term solution to getting back into a good sleep rhythm.

Woah are those things effective… one tablet and I was out like a light within 20 minutes and slept the whole night through! Proper, restful, But, I didn’t like the concept of having to take a tablet to sleep – so I made sure I only took them a couple of times a week, and only if it got to midnight and I was still not asleep (I go to bed around 10pm on weeknights) That way, I got a few good nights’ sleep each week but was still tired on other days and had a good level of actual tiredness that let me get to sleep!

I managed to get into a relatively normal sleep pattern again, and only taking the tablets on a Sunday night (to make sure I could get a good nights’ sleep for work the next day)

I also did some self-analysis into things that helped me sleep or hindered it. I discovered that I can’t sleep if I’m cold, but I also can’t sleep if I’m too hot! (I have three different bed covers right now and use different combinations of each of them depending on how I’m feeling.) I sometimes like a thinner cover but it also needs to have a bit of weight to it! (I am such a contradiction terms) My hot water bottle is my friend!

I can’t sleep if I’m even the slightest bit hungry or thirsty, but I also can’t sleep too soon after eating or drinking. (About an hour before is the best time)

I can’t sleep if I’ve had too much screen time (so no phone or tablet in the hour before bed if I can help it) I’ve been reading my way through the Narnia books instead of watching Netflix or other shows.

I can’t sleep straight after a shower, or if my hair is wet (so I got a shower cap for the times I don’t want to get my hair wet at all, and a hairdryer for the times when it really needs washing – after the gym or whatever)

Other things that work…

Weirdly, I can’t sleep if my feet are too hot, so I have sometimes had to get up and stick my feet under the shower to cool them off and then I’ve managed to get to sleep almost straight away

Another very strange (but effective) tactic is to switch ends of the bed – move my pillows to the bottom of the bed and switch my quilt round and somehow that helps!

I’ve made a blend of essential oils known to help facilitate sleep/good sleep/restfulness/calm which I apply to my neck, pulse points, and feet. I also have a spray version that I can apply to my pillows/bedding.

A lady from church noticed my Facebook statuses about not being able to sleep and offered to pray for me. She’d been through sleeplessness and insomnia herself so knows the awful effects it can have; she sent me a song that she used to play to help her recognise God’s power over insomnia and to remember that He is in control over everything (putting aside anxiety etc) She really encouraged me to pray over my sleeping and I think it has really helped!!

Over the winter, all through to March, I gradually got to the stage where I stopped thinking about whether I’d sleep and just went off to bed with no anxiety or worry at all. Still the very occasional night of little sleep but it’s completely manageable when the majority of nights are good sleep.

Then the flippin’ clocks changed!!! I don’t know if there is any real connection but since then I have had far many more insomnia nights. Thanks to knowing what helps and doesn’t, I feel like I’m managing this ok – but I am also taking the herbal version of Nytol maybe twice a week to help. Not a long term solution but sometimes you have to do the thing that helps you right now.

Do you have any ideas or solutions for insomnia?

-x-

 

 

The last seven months…

Hi there,

I’m back (I think).

After several failed attempts at writing this post, I think I am just about ready to enter the blogosphere again. [Is that a real word?]

The observant among you will know it’s been about 7 months since I last wrote…but for a few months before that, my posts were really sporadic. I intentionally took an extended break because life became a little too challenging for me to continue to invest in my blog. There was so much I couldn’t say here, for a number of reasons, and while writing is (and always has been) an outlet, what was going on in life was just too overwhelming to put into print.

Cryptic? Yes. Concerning? Perhaps. It was definitely a tough time, but I am seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel now.

So let’s catch-up, shall we? How have you been?? It’s a bit late coming, but happy 2015. I spent New Year with some great friends, eating a 7 course dinner and drinking sparkling wine when the clock struck 12.

london2

2015 is a New Year in more ways than one, for me. 2015 signalled the start of something new – a new job, a fresh start, and a “rebirth” of sorts [sorry, that’s such a hippy word]

I started January 2015 in a new social work role within a different fostering organisation. I don’t think many decisions I have made in my life could have been better for me, than the decision to quit my previous job. I am truly enjoying my work for the first time in more than a year – I can remember why I wanted to be a social worker in the first place and my new company is brilliant at valuing its employees and I really enjoy being a part of their team.

social work

Having said that, it has taken (is taking) some time to adjust to a new workplace. Not in terms of the practical aspects; that I had nailed within a few days thanks to a very efficient set of systems, brilliant colleagues and above all a wonderful line manager. No, what I am still getting used to is working in an environment that encourages rather than puts down, supports rather than degrades, and values rather than scorns. It was made just barely manageble by some genuinely lovely colleagues – but the leadership and the overall environment that had become so intensely difficult and stressful, and so emotionally gruelling and (let’s just say it) hellish, that actually, in March 2015 I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because the level of stress and anguish I was experiencing daily, hour upon hour, and the horrendous situation that happened when I left (which I might write about at some point, but not now) caused a significant emotional trauma.

I was in that environment, feeling that way, for over a year – and what I have realised is that my traditional way of coping and managing my feelings (i.e. pretending it was fine, except to the people closest to me) was enough to sustain me whilst I was in the midst of it but it wasn’t until I got out of it, and began working in a safe space that I started to slightly unravel. All of the anxiety that I hadn’t let myself feel in that year started to come out, in mostly irrational ways (for example, near panic attacks at big roundabouts, triple-checking emails to see if they could be misinterpreted, intense and terrifying nightmares, and just generally feeling like life and work couldn’t possibly be this good – I began to think that everything my old employer made me feel about myself was true…and it was only a matter of time before my new employers realised this.

Of course…since getting the PTSD “label” and starting to talk a bit more openly about my experience I have realised that a lot of that was the trauma, and not real. I think I knew it at the time but it was hard to accept. There is also the *possibility* that the anti-anxiety medication I am taking is having a therapeutic effect as well, but I think it is a mixture of all things combined and I know there is a significant amount of healing to be done in the next weeks/months.

rainbow

It was a bit scary to type all that, I won’t lie. Admitting vulnerabilities and struggles is not something I am altogether comfortable with…but I had to give it a go. I have found that a big part of working through this is being honest about how my old workplace made me feel, and what it has “done to me” and owning that “label” may not seem like a tremendous thing…but it is.

So … PTSD. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a PTSD or a “recovery” blog (nothing against those, they’re just not me). This blog is still just about little old me and my randomness…but right now little old me has this thing called PTSD, so it’s probably going to feature for a while. I hope that’s ok.

Equally, little old me is starting to rediscover past passions – like colouring (yes it’s therapeutic, but it’s also just good fun) and dress-making, and I am really enjoying having the physical time and the emotional ‘head-space’ to enjoy these things again. So those endeavours might make an appearance here too. I’m excited about that!

Anyway…that’s all from me for now. Hopefully I will be back again soon 🙂

-x-

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

With one month to go…I am SO ready for Christmas! I’ve spent the afternoon listening to Christmas music, wearing Christmas socks – and decorating my flat!!

(yes, I know the pictures are awful and blurry…I’ve got the shakes at the moment for some reason)

Hooray for Christmas movies!!  The book is my favourite Christmas book of all time, it’s so lovely. It’s about a family who have loads of guests (expected and unexpected) on Christmas eve, so they have to have people sleeping in the bath and on mantlepieces … they put the baby in the sink and the five skinny aunts in china dresser. We read it every Christmas, and it always reminds me of when my Mum first read it to be when I was only 9.

I feel like I’ve been getting ready for Christmas since October, because my church is holding a Ladies’ Shopping Event this Thursday (the 5th Annual!) and I have a stall selling little stocking fillers & other crafty gifts. I’ve made cards, cinnamon ornaments, bath bombs, tea-cup candles and glass votives…it all looks very pretty – but I won’t post a picture until after the event.

I’m really looking forward to it – I’ve done stalls twice previously,  and I don’t know whether I prefer being a seller or just a buyer. It’s a lovely atmosphere and it really gets me in the mood for all things Christmas.

Just look at some of the things from my pinterest Christmas board:

Trying to organise family Christmas on the other hand, well – that’s been a little tricky.

I’ve probably said before, but I’m one of 4 children [plus two younger siblings from my dad’s second marriage] Add to that, two of my siblings have partners so we also have to factor in their plans with in-laws etc, and the added fun-fact that my Dad is currently working in Afghanistan so only gets a certain amount of leave and isn’t coming home until 28th December … that makes a LOT of different schedules and priorities to figure out so that we can all spend time together.

Since Christmas 2010, there has only been one weekend where we were all together; Abigail’s 18th Birthday weekend in June this year. I see my sisters more often, but my brother comes home less regularly and he and his girlfriend spent last Christmas in Canterbury, just the two of them.

I think I’ve given up on trying to ensure we are all together – because everyone seems to do what they want anyway! I don’t mean that in a grumpy way [well, maybe a bit] … I just mean that, my brother and sister are both in serious relationships, and my younger sister’s job has fairly anti-social days/hours (she works in the pub across the road and they have a fully-booked restaurant for Christmas day).

I sometimes think I need to loosen my grip on my Ideal Christmas…but at the same time I think, why should I?

It’s a hard compromise, because I really value the time when we are all together and love all our weird little Christmas quirks and traditions – even when all of us together means that you can’t move without tripping over someone, and having to wait over an hour for your turn to shower!

I think I’m a little autistic in the way that I would love to keep our little routines at every Christmas – but at the same time I have to accept that my siblings are in different phases of life, and value different things to me.

I guess I’m just going to try not to stress about it – the more I try to organise things and get a plan together, the less organised and less planned everyone else seems to be… I think they do it on purpose! So it doesn’t help me anyway – I just get very anxious and worried that it will all fall apart because no-one else seems to think that planning is necessary.

Sometimes I wonder how my very “anti-planning”, hippie-fied, “what will be, will be” mother ended up with a stressy type-A daughter like me…

But, for now, I have my Christmas tree, I have my pile of presents and my list of things to buy, and I have a great idea for how to decorate my presents (thank you Pinterest!) and that is enough for me!

{via}

-x-

Just a little bit…meh

Where has my lovely, happy, chirpy mood gone? I was ever so contented last week…there was so much to enjoy!

I kicked off the week with a whole day of Disney movies & crafts with my friend Karen, which was great…then on Tuesday and Wednesday I had free evenings so after work I went to the gym (which was actually a bit of a mistake on the Wednesday evening because I had physio that morning and I think I undid some of the work…) and then chilled out at home, doing more crafty things and watching The Paradise on iPlayer (I have to say, The Paradise is the most gorgeous progamme I have seen in a long time…I’ve loved it and watched all 7 episodes over the space of a few days)

Anyway…where was I? On Thursday we had our Small Group Firework Night social – I headed to Jonnie and Kate’s straight after work and we had hot dogs and a bonfire and FIREWORKS!! Which I loved 🙂 And then on Friday I went to the gym again after work and came home to chill out and had a proper early night…

and then Saturday came along and punched me in the face 😦

Who knows what happened between going to bed (perfectly fine) on Friday night, and waking up (as Grumpy McGrumperson) on Saturday…but I did.

I tried staying in bed a couple hours longer, and actually managed so sleep in until 10am…but when I got up I just could not shake the grumps, and then came the anxiety because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and I don’t like that feeling. I could feel that I was just working myself up into a tizzy so I went out for a few hours – pottered around The Range, picked up a parcel and did a few other errands…but the whole day I just felt like crawling into bed and sleeping it off.

I didn’t though…I stuck it out til 5 and then went to our Work Bonfire & Firework Party which actually turned out to be alright and I perked up a bit, but then it finished around 7 and I came home to the flat and just felt so rubbish for the rest of the evening that I went to bed as soon as I could.

Sunday, fortunately, was better than Saturday but I still felt pretty miserable. Which was horrible because I was going for lunch with some friends from church – they were lovely, and it was lovely, and I perked up again but just …

Yes. It’s just been a little bit rough…but for no real reason. It just is. Hopefully this week will be better – today has been so/so…I went to a Safeguarding (training) Conference today instead of my usual day off and while it was a little bit boring, I think it was actually good timing because I probably couldn’t have managed another day dominated by my own company.

I have some good things in the next week – Rosie and I are going to see Chicago which will be super because I haven’t seen her in a while, and then on Friday I’m driving home to see my family for a long weekend. I’ve got Friday-Tuesday off, and my middle sister & her fiance are coming home as well to do wedding stuff. I get to try on bridesmaids dresses!

So in summary…I just don’t know what happened on Saturday but I’m trying not to let it drag into this week and spoil the nice stuff I’ve got planned.

-x-

 

 

Life is full of bumps and bruises

The last two weeks or so have been quite turbulent for me. Many “ups” – my sisters’ birthdays, my birthday, time with family and a rest from work… but also many “downs” – my birthday, hard family times, and a job rejection.

So what’s been happening?

As a family we took full advantage of the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend – we had my sister’s 18th birthday party on the 1st, so my brother and I drove home late on the 31st to join in the fun. We both took Friday off, so had a super long bank holiday weekend to celebrate and it’s the first time in over two years that all four of us siblings have been in the same place! (Crazy I know, but one of us always has to work or is away or doing something when we get together) It was lovely to be together, and we got some great family photos on party night – I plan to get some of them blown up to frame. All four of us, all together for four days, and no arguments – definitely a thing to be celebrated!

So that was an “up”…but the day after Abigail’s party came my birthday, my 23rd.  It’s always a difficult day for me. I think the right word is “bittersweet”. It’s the first birthday I’ve been home for, in the past four years, so that was lovely – waking up to Mum wishing me Happy Birthday and giving me a big hug and kiss, and having everyone around to watch me open presents and cards. Mum and I went out for tea, and a walk, and we had a barbecue in the evening (despite the torrential rain…it was an indoor barbecue!) and from that perspective I had a great day and felt very loved.

The downside is that my birthday is always a reminder of how broken my family relationships are. I got a card from my dad and stepmum, signed by my brother and sister, but no phone call or present. I didn’t even get a card from my paternal grandparents. I missed my Nana a lot; she died two years ago, but she always used to call me in the morning and sing “Happy Birthday” down the phone. It was cringeworthy at the time, especially when I reached Uni and she still did it, but now that she’s gone I miss it so much.

It’s hard not to dwell on who I miss, and how much it hurts that half of my extended family – grandparents, aunts and uncles, completely ignored the day. It’s hard not to be sad and bitter about the fact that my Dad didn’t even call.

But, I survived, because God is good and He is the best Father I could hope for. I try to be satisfied in him.

And what else went on while I was away – well, my mum and sister are moving house this weekend; downsizing to a two bedroom cottage from our 3-4 bedroom house. We’ve been doing a lot of packing, organising, donating and throwing out. I’ve found it therapeutic but my mum and sisters have found it very hard. So while it was difficult, I was pleased to be there and able to take charge of things and spur them on. I’m excited for Mum’s move, as I think it is a really positive step.

We also booked a holiday – just Mum and I, to Majorca in July. I am beyond excited about a week in the sun, just her and me. We’ve never done anything like this but I just know it will be great, and it’s nice to have something to look forward to when the days are tough.

I’m trying to accept that life is full of stops and starts, ups and downs, closed doors and heartaches. I’m also trying to remember that God is in control and has my best interests at heart. I often forget, but He is so gracious in accepting me back each time I turn to Him.

There hasn’t been much of a purpose to this post, other than for me to offload what’s on my mind. I hope you didn’t mind reading my ramble! At some point this week I want to do a 6 month update of my goals for 2012, but now it’s late and I need to get to sleep!

-x-

Day 16: Crazy things

The topic for today is either:

who do you do the most crazy things with
or
what is the most crazy thing you’ve done

But, see…here’s the thing. (In my head I just said thang in a corny American accent. I’m cool)

Here’s the thing.

I am a cowardy coward. I do not do crazy.

I don’t dance around my room like no-one’s watching

I don’t sing like no-one’s listening

I have never gotten a tattoo just because it seems like fun

The last time I got drunk was when I was 18, on a holiday to Newquay with a bunch of friends. I have never regretted anything more than that holiday.

I am Tame. Sedate. Reserved. Introverted. Bashful. Shy.

No crazy stuff for me.

-x-

BTW…a while ago there was an article on the news suggesting that shyness is a form of personality disorder. As a shy person, I wholeheartedly disagree. It’s a personality trait, that’s all. I may have an anxiety disorder, but big deal, so do 9.2% of the population. Shyness is not a symptom. Just because the world seems to place a higher value on people who shout their own worth from the rooftops and bounce around like Tigger on a sugar high…doesn’t mean that those of us who aren’t like that are disordered.

(And yes, I realise I just completely scandalously generalised extroverted people. Sorry if that applies to you. I really like Tigger)

Let’s just say it clearly. I hate confrontation.

I don’t like yelling, nasty comments, or being in trouble. I don’t like dealing with trouble, or awkward situations where “things need to be said”. Wherever possible I completely avoid confrontation. There’s nothing worse than getting caught up in a shouting match. The thought of getting into confrontation over things is enough to seriously freak me out. I’ll do pretty much anything to avoid a conflict.

It wasn’t always like this, don’t get me wrong. I had my fair share of shouting matches with my siblings when I was growing up, and could really yell at my mum when I wanted to. I probably had several people’s share of arguments, actually!

But since being at Uni and “becoming an adult” I’ve developed an actual phobia of confrontation! Even when it’s nothing to do with me, I feel responsible and involved, and it makes me really anxious. Let’s not even go into how horrible I feel when I actually am involved – it’s the worst.

The thing is, avoiding confrontation is difficult when a large part of my job is working with teenagers, who do stupid or nasty things and need to be told off.

I diskike telling people off almost as much as I dislike being told off.

It makes me feel like a horrible person! I have discovered that, while I don’t yell, my “social worker” voice is just as effective at getting the point across. Believe me, if it gets so bad that I use *that* voice, you are in trouble.

What the kids don’t see, is that while I’m being stern Ms Social Worker I’m actually trying very hard not to let my voice shake, or my hands shake. Because I really really hate confrontation!

I’m learning, because dealing with confrontation is a skill that I have to develop. Not only in my professional life, although that is really important, but in my “real life” too – for years I’ve run and hid from controntation, trying to do anything and everything to avoid it but all this does is make the underlying situation worse and then *that conversation* is that much harder.

This also goes for confronting issues in my relationship with God. God is always consistent, and whatever happens in my life is in His control. Sometimes He wants to challenge me, and confronts me with things in myself that He wants to change or deal with. How many times have I hidden my head in the sand? Lots.

The answer must be down here somewhere

I’m trying not to do it anymore, because God knows my heart and only works for my good. It’s a hard learning curve, but it will be worth it in the end. Ostriches never prosper, and have to pull their heads out of the sand eventually.

-x-

(yes, the other day I was an tree and today I’m an ostrich…I like metaphors, they work for me!)