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-

 

 

misdirected emotions

I am a great example of how to display an emotion completely separate from what I m actually feeling. I have written before that I can be an ostrich when it comes to emotions and feelings but I also have a knack for completely dwelling on something minor as a way to distract myself from what I’m really feeling.

Case in point: about 2 hours ago I said goodbye to my wonderful American friends. I just about held the tears back as the kids all got emotional and as they prayed for me and told me their favourite things about my visit. I felt so sad to be leaving that I wanted to tell Rachel to turn the car around and I would just stay forever!

(But of course I didn’t and I said goodbye at the bus stop with a huge knot in my tummy and a lump in my throat from trying so hard not to lose it)

So then I spent an hour on the bus trying not to cry, reading my Bible and praying and looking at pictures. By the time I got to the airport I still felt sad but I was thankful for my time with the Libbys.

Then I checked in and my bag was too heavy and I had to pay the excess fee and instead of being my usual practical self and rearranging items between my carry-ons to make my check-in lighter I just went ahead and paid the whole charge! Which left me kicking myself all through Security for not making a wise decision.

Of course, I got so frustrated with myself over it because I didn’t want to think about what I was missing with Rachel and the kids.

I really had to fight to let go of that frustration and not let it take away from the joyful time I’ve had. Seriously, I’ve just had 2 wonderful weeks with some of my favourite people and I’m going to dwell on an insignificant thing like paying a baggage charge?!

How could my heart and head be so ungrateful so suddenly. It honestly took a lot of prayer and thanking God for all blessings of the last two weeks to make me see that while yes, maybe I made a silly split second decision, but it was even sillier to let it spoil my heart.

In the end I was thanking God that he provided me with enough spending money in my purse that I could pay the charge in cash and still have enough for a Starbucks while I wait for my boarding time. He didn’t have to provide that, but He did, because He loves me.

One thing I am taking away from this experience is to always have a thankful heart even when you feel silly or frustrated with your situation, because there are too many blessings to count if you look for them.

The other thing I am taking away from this is to be more wware of what I am feeling and why. This has always been a thing for me, and I have to constantly examine myself: what am I feeling, why am I feeling that way? But now I also need to challenge myself to change my attitude if it is not right and focused on God.

Such deep thoughts whilst sat at Gate D11. I have another hour or so until my flight starts boarding so I think I will head around the concourse in search of that Starbucks!

-x-

Day 3/5 of Ofsted – or – I am BLESSED

I have been a social worker for 3 years now. I was with the Agency where I am now employed as a student for a year before I qualified. So that makes 4 years of fostering experience. There have been many times in those four years where I thought “surely this [incident/event/situation] is as stressful as it’s going to get. Once I’ve got through this, it’ll be a piece of cake…”

And then Ofsted came.

Having every teeny part of my work – our Agency’s work – scrutinised, is exhausting. I think I’ve spent about 15 hours with the inspector over the past 3 days.

Last night on the way home I prayed for today’s meetings with the inspector, that God would give me wisdom and peace in it all, that our staff morale would boost (scrutiny is stressful) …and then I remembered something…

My salvation is not affected by this inspection

Jesus died for me. His opinion of me is never going to change.

Irrespective of what this inspector says about the agency I work for, or even about me specifically (good or bad) I am saved. This is what God says about me:

I am a child of God.
But to all who have received him–those who believe in his name–he has given the right to become God’s children … (John 1:12).

I am a friend of Jesus.
But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John 15:15).

I have been justified and redeemed
But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

The Holy Spirit dwells in me…
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 6:19)?

…and helps me.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my [Jesus] name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

I am BLESSED
…our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

And so, in conclusion – for now…

Yes, Ofsted is very scary and intimidating and exhausting and time-consuming and emotional and I don’t really like it…

I know that I am blessed…and it will be okay.

 

I.S.F.J … or, my 200th post

This evening, I read a blog update by one of my favourite bloggers: Renee at FIMBY

You should visit that blog. It’s great. Sometimes I just look at her amazing photography and go back to read the post later. I am inspired (and at times jealous) of her family’s lifestyle.

Renee writes a lot about being an ESTJ personality (according to the Myers Briggs personality test) and in the latest FIMBY post she mentions it again. I’ve often wondered what I would come out as…and today, at the end of a long-long month, and feeling rather fragile after a not-so-good day at work I thought I would see if my personality type explains why I feel things how I do. So, I found a version of the test on line.

My result is ISFJ – which is Introverted – Sensing – Feeling – Judging

(As opposed to: Extroverted/iNtuition/Thinking/Perceiving)

This is what the website says about ISJF personalities…

Introverted Sensing personality types are dependable, reliable and trustworthy. They like to belong to solid organisations that are reasonable in their ambitions and loyal to their employees. They feel useful when their roles and responsibilities are clearly established and they can monitor their activities and productivity in tangible ways. They tend to be rather modest, traditional and conventional, to like sensible clothing, to be thrifty, careful and wise with both money and possessions

Once they accept a project, they will see it to the end. They manage their time well and are realistic about how much time and resources will be needed.

They tend to like to stay in one neighbourhood, often choosing to live close to where they were themselves raised. They are often involved with volunteer organisations and have a developed sense of citizenship and accountability. When they purchase something, it is after careful consideration; rarely will they buy something without having a known need or use for it. They may keep possessions for a lifetime and treasure those that were given to them.

They tend to have a good memory for specific facts that are necessary in their day-to-day life at work and at home. They accumulate facts and details to orient themselves, relying on repeated experiences that have been proven trustworthy. A fact once experienced may be the product of circumstance and happenstance; it is not in and of itself reliable. When an introverted sensing type hears an idea, they rummage through reams of archived facts to find an experience that provides information for the relevance and realism of an idea. When an introverted sensing type utters, “It’s never been done!” they are saying that no information about the relevance or usefulness of the idea is available to them. They tend to shy away from surprises and what is perceived as unnecessary change.

Apart from the bit about sensible clothing – which is true, but a little bit rude – I can totally see how that is my personality.

Want to see what Google Images says about ISFJ personalities?!

isfj1

isfj2

isfj-personality

Apparently I’m a cross between Sam from LOTR, Marge Simpson, and a super-over-achieving Mum. Great!

More seriously, though – ISFJ…that’s totally me!! The bits about work… that’s me!!

I appreciate reasonable expectations and loyalty – not being expected to keep a hundred-thousand balls in the air, and then be criticised publicly when I drop the hundred-and-first ball rather than praised for managing to keep the first hundred up there.

Can you tell I had a bad day?

Actually, let’s get some perspective. It wasn’t that bad. I prayed on the way to work this morning that God would:
… give me peace – because I have been feeling very anxious recently and in particular last week at work
… help me to stand firm in His promises – because I have been feeling like I am on very shaky ground
… help me to guard my tongue and speak wisely, not letting frustrations get the better of me – because I have been such a snarky, gossipy girl over the last month, saying the first thing that comes to mind and not being the example of Christ that I could be in my workplace

And, thanks be to God – I felt less anxious and more assured: trusting that my worth does not come from my colleagues’ opinion of me but from God’s opinion of me. I held it together: despite being criticised unjustly in front of my colleagues and a carer, and trusted that God has a purpose for this time – even though it is uncomfortable for me.

Tonight I am signing off tonight with a few verses that I need to learn…absorb…take hold of. I particularly love Exodus 4:14 which was a key verse in our sermon at church this week.

James 1:2-4
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”(NKJV)

2 Corinthians 10:3
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.” (NIV)

Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (NKJV)

1 Peter 3:9
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (NLT)

1 Peter 3:9
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (ESV)

Psalm 46:10a
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (KJV)

-x-

Priorities

pri·or·i·ty
[prahy-awr-i-tee, -or-]

1. the state or quality of being earlier in time, occurrence, etc.

2. the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc.; precedence.

3. the right to take precedence in obtaining certain supplies, services, facilities, etc., especially during a shortage.

4. something given special attention.

adjective
5. highest or higher in importance, rank, privilege, etc.: a priority task.

Lately, I have been questioning my priorities and what I give my time to. The things we prioritise say a lot about us, don’t they?

Over the last fortnight I have been really challenged by a situation at work. It has been so difficult and actually quite distressing. We have been dealing with foster carers who are prioritising their own wish to go on a holiday over the needs of the little boy they look after – they’ve only had him for a few weeks and want to go off and leave him with other carers when he’s barely settled with them. It has become clear that their priority is not the child they are caring for.

It was so clear to me that this is not ok, but then since being confronted with this whole thing I have thought about my own priorities. My mind has strange connections – I think about one thing, which prompts something else, and then another thing which seems unconnected but actually makes sense in my mind.

(Example: this evening I drove past a town-house that I liked and thought “I’d like to live in a town-house”. Then I wondered, why are they called town-houses. Then I wondered why the New York versions are called “brown-stones”. Then I wondered how much houses cost in Manhattan. And then I had the song “Manhattan” by Ella Fitzgerald in my head!)

But anyway, let’s not get too off track.

Back in June I came close to quitting my gym membership, since I figured that £30 a month is expensive when I only went once or twice a week – and that worked out at around £5 a session which itself seemed like a lot of money. But I like going to the gym and getting fit, and I think it’s healthy for me – so I decided to prioritise going to the gym regularly and actually making the most of my membership – somehow it’s crept up to 5 times a week, but it feels so good to be active. I do classes and I have a weights routine with an instructor and everything.

I also prioritised eating healthier – I have such an addiction to chocolate and sweet things! Give me a pudding over a savoury any day of the week. I challenged myself to not eat biscuits at work for an entire month – and I did it. I felt so much better during my work day; less energy crashes in the middle of the afternoon.

It seems that if I put my mind to something, and make it a priority, it is not that hard. As my first discipler once said: “you make time for what you care about”

So why then, is it so hard for me to prioritise God in my life? I love God and I want my life to honour him and bring him glory, but I forget him SO often.

Yesterday we had a worship evening at Small Group and it was a great, peaceful, praising time.

But in my own life, when it relies on my own motivation, I really struggle to seek God. I am completely involved in my Church, but when I am serving and don’t get to listen to the service, I very rarely listen to the preach online – although I always say I will … but then I can find time to watch Emmerdale or Coronation Street on itvplayer (hey, you already knew I was middle-aged inside)

Yes, I listen to worship music – but only when I’m cooking dinner… Yes, I read my Bible – whilst I’m eating breakfast. Sometimes I pray at times other than when I just want something – but usually in the car when I get sick of what’s playing on the radio.

When did my time with God become something I tried to multi-task?

I have always struggled in prayer, because talking to a Holy, Infinite, Ever-Loving Father is just not a concept I could understand – to trust that what you ask for will be given, and that he is always there. Actually it was a pretty alien concept.

It’s different now, though…I truly know God as my Father…but how come I can’t prioritise Him. I struggle so much.

I know that everyone struggles, really I do – but I forget him so often.

How can I remedy this issue?

I don’t want some “5-steps to a closer relationship with your Saviour” type spiel. I want a deeper, more honest, more reliant relationship with God.

But how?!

At work I split my tasks into groups: 1) URGENT AND IMPORTANT, 2) NOT URGENT BUT IMPORTAND, 3) NOT IMPORTANT OR URGENT. This really helps me figure out what I need to first, and what can wait until later. (Some of my “not important and not urgent” tasks have been sitting in that pile since April though…should fix that)

God should be URGENT AND IMPORTANT, shouldn’t he?

More thoughts to come on this, I’m sure.

-x-

Flying away

Today I’m leaving to go back home to the UK. In total I’m travelling for about 28 hours…on three planes.

Flight one: Portland to Phoenix, arriving at 10.30pm
Flight two: Phoenix to Charlotte, leaving at 630am (yes I will be in Phoenix airport overnight) arriving at 130pm
Flight three: Charlotte to London, leaving at 630pm and arriving at 620am on SATURDAY morning.

I am going to be so tired and jetlagged and its worse because I just don’t want to leave. I feel like it takes me a week to settle in and then the next week goes too quickly 😦 this is the hardest it has been to leave. It makes me so sad to think about not hearing the kids when I wake up in the morning, not having late night talks with Rachel…it all just makes me super sad and miserable.

I know I have people who love me back home in Canterbury and when I’m there it will be great but for now, I’m just sad to leave. Sad.

-x-

The sweetest thing

One of the foster carers I work with told me an incredibly sweet story yesterday, and I want to share it with you. I think it teaches a very good lesson. I’ve changed the names for confidentiality. The foster child is a 12 year old boy, let’s call him James. He is on the Autistic spectrum and has global developmental delay. We’ll call the carer Julianne. James has lived with her for 2 years.

Julianne had been trying to find some social/leisure activities for James, for a long time. But due to his autism, and developmental delay, a lot of youth clubs or sports groups would not be appropriate for him. When he was 10, he was asked to stop coming to the local football club because everytime someone tackled him to get the ball he would punch, kick or even bite them. James doesn’t understand social interaction – he can’t understand sarcasm or teasing, and will get very upset and angry if he this happens – but he really craves friendships like those that his older foster siblings have. Julianne had been looking for the right fit for him when a friend recommended a youth club for children and teenagers with learning difficulties.

Julianne decided to take James along, and see if it might be a good match.

The first evening that they went, James was a little nervous. But when they got to the youth club, Julianne quickly realised this was James’ place. There were a number of other young people there, and some were displaying quite “classic autistic” behaviours. James joined in playing a game of Pool with some boys, none of them knew the rules but it didn’t matter. One boy was running around the room, shouting his head off and banging on any metal surface to get a tinny sound. He not only had learning difficulties, he was also different physically – he had water on the brain which meant that his head was not the ‘normal’ shape.

James caught sight of him and immediately shouted over to Julianne “hey Julianne, look at that boy!”, pointing at him. Julianne groaned inwardly, hoping that whatever James said would not be too inappropriate. She motioned to James not to point at the other boy, but he shouted again “no Julianne, look at that boy!” Julianne then told James to shh and carry on his game, but James was adamant. He left the Pool table and went over to the boy, taking him by the arm and leading him over to Julianne.

Julianne was mortified and could feel the eyes of the other carers and the youth club leaders watching her to see what kind of inappropriate comment James would come up with. But when he and the other boy got to her –

“Hey look Julianne, he has the same t-shirt as me!”

James didn’t see the other boys’ disabilities, he didn’t recognise that there was anything ‘different’ about him – or the other people in the club. He only saw that they had the same t-shirt. When Julianne told me this story, I have to admit that I teared up. What a lot we have to to learn from children like James, who focus on the smallest similarity rather than discriminate against anyone who is different.

-x-