Sleeping in the tub……again

I have a long history of sleep problems. I swear it goes back to childhood. I know people will say to a child that they only imagined they were awake for that long, lying in the dark, alone, waiting for sleep. But, I swear that was me. I would listen to how many TV shows my mom went through. I wrote episodes of The Waltons and other childhood shows with me as a character in my head regularly while lying in bed. I would design houses lying there. I used to be able to see a star out the window of my mom’s room across the hall. I named the star Wishing Well and would talk to it for ever, telling it my dreams and wishes. Whenever I saw it, I felt not as alone and like I had a friend in the dark. I’ve since learned that star was probably the planet Venus, which is sort of cool since that’s the “star” for my sign. I’ve read my mom’s diaries, and I laughed at how many times she would say something one day about how good “Janny” was about taking a nap. Then, the next day, there would be the report that I just would NOT go to sleep.

I know biologically speaking, when a child hits adolescence, the circadian rhythms change, and they naturally go to bed later and wake up later. Most people sort of switch back at some point. I never did. I’ve been a night owl all my life. That, plus the sleep problems I seem to have had throughout my life made working a regular job extremely difficult. It was a nightmare when I taught school. Why did it have to start so early? And, why were those little people so LOUD that early? And, worst yet, who thought I should have anything to do with tiny people early in the morning? It was rough. I was lucky because I often had my break early in the day, but I was always in trouble with the bosses for being late or being not quite awake. It was way too stressful.

Now that I work for me, I don’t have to deal with that as much. When depressed, sleep issues, either always asleep or insomnia, were always a factor. And, since I’ve developed fibromyalgia, my sleep issues are even more difficult. I can have horrid insomnia and then have trouble staying awake while I drive. I can feel like I want to fall asleep while listening to patients and then not be able to go to sleep when I lie down. I’ve even gotten to have some fears and anxiety about sleep itself. I was on some meds (Effexor) that supposedly made my dreams “more vivid.” That was not a very good description. They made my dreams extremely detailed. I had tried to teach myself lucid dreaming, but when I got on that med, I was a mess. I remembered all the little details of every dream. I was aware of the backstory. To tell everything about a 5 minute dream, it might take over an hour, because that’s just what all went through my head during the dream. I would wake more exhausted than ever. It was a decent med for the depression, but it really made sleep difficult. I did have a phase where I would wake up with weird bruises and scratches, so I have no idea what I was going through in my sleep.

Sometimes, my dreams were the only place I could feel my feelings. I had to be so in control all day that at night I would feel what I was avoiding. I would feel the pain of losing my mother, and would wake in tears almost. It was as if I could cry in my sleep-or the emotional version of it without the physical release-and when I awoke it was just so painful. Now, I’ll still often wake up sad, distressed, disappointed in myself, hopeless. Not a great way to start the day. I stared to avoid sleep, even though my mind and body both needed it.

When my “adopted” daughter, Maria, lived with me, the insomnia got worse. There were times when she was sleeping out on the couch, and I couldn’t sleep. I did not want to wake her up because I knew she had to go to work, so I’d stay there in my room. I didn’t have a TV in my room or anything. Didn’t believe in them. But, spending nights just waiting for day, with no sleep at all, made me feel nuts and very anxious. It wasn’t long after she moved out that I started sleeping on the couch and now on an air mattress in the living room. Yep. Totally crazy. I don’t even sleep in a real bed in a real bedroom right now, and I have a whole house! (I am working on that, though, but for now……)

In high school, especially the first year, I was so determined to focus on my drama career that I was all about play rehearsals. They were every night. And, they weren’t the only activity I had. Since I was the last person dropped off (I lived closest to the person with the car), I got home late. I’d take my bath and fall asleep in the tub. Drove my mom completely nuts. Later, as an adult, I could never do that anymore. I lost that high schoolers ability to sleep anywhere, anytime. I had been the Queen of the Catnap, but no more.

Then, fibro. Add in some depression and meds for anxiety, and we’re back to falling asleep in the tub! If you know me, you know that being in water at night is one of the things that soothes me the most. I love to float in a pool in the moonlight. It brings me such peace. However, sleeping in my short, shallow tub just doesn’t do the same thing. It’s not like I’m in a soothing bathroom, either. It’s falling apart and needs a lot of work, so it’s not that nice of an environment. I used to turn on the stove timer so I’d wake up, but now I know it could just buzz all night, and I’d sleep through it. I want to have a moment to just relax in the tub before going to bed. I know if I get in the bed, I might lie there forever, so I want to relax. But, inevitably, I go through these phases where I’m sleeping in the tub.

Poor Lilith has taken to sleeping in the doorway of the bathroom. I think she’s afraid I’ll sleep through feeding her in the morning. I don’t get to cuddle with my pups when I sleep in the tub. And, it’s not a great way to sleep. I wake up on and off all night. I get a bit chilled, and I turn back on the warm water. I fall back asleep. On and off all night. When I finally pull myself out of the tub, the sun is up. (And, I don’t like showers that often. Especially at my house. OK sometimes, but not most of the time.)

So, today I woke up. In the tub. With the sun up. And, it wasn’t like 6AM where I could go back to bed justifiably. It was 10AM. I fed me. I fed the dogs. But, I so wanted to lie down. Just for a little while. And, there went the morning and early afternoon. No time for paperwork. I have so much to do. Increase the stress just a bit more. It seems to ratchet up daily. I did get dressed and made it to the home where I was doing therapy. I did play therapy, which with these two includes me getting to be a “horsey” a bit too often. Got to watch “Yo Gaba Gaba” with them, and the fact that that excites me a bit is scary. If you don’t have small children and aren’t around them much, you have no clue how completely weird this show is. From both an educational and a psychological/developmental point of view, it’s a great show. But, it’s completely nuts. I’m fascinated. I keep wondering what kind of crazy thing I could come up with for kids. Do you realize how much money the housewife who created Barney raked in in just one year? That’s where the money is, my friends. Truly. But, I’m also weirdly fascinated with this show. More on that another time.

Then, a few errands, problems with my debit card….again, and home. A bite to eat. A SMALL amount of paperwork, but nothing like what I need to do. Now, if I don’t hurry and get in the tub and GET OUT of the tub, I’ll start the whole crazy cycle again.

Sorry entry two is not that exciting. But, it is a bit of my experience. I think I have the temperament of someone who likes night. I have a history of sleep problems. But, with fibro, depression, and anxiety, I really am overwhelmed with sleep problems. It’s so hard to explain to anyone what it’s like. I can ACT energetic. I can push it and seem to have lots of energy, but the moment I quit doing that, I’m way down energy-wise. I can dance like a demon, but only because I push myself. I make myself be “normal.” I make myself be more like the old me when it comes to energy. But, I haven’t felt rested in years. I did have some odd moments in the hospital a few years ago, on morphine I think, when I felt energized. I know. Backwards. But, most of the time, I’m exhausted. I try sleeping more or sleeping less so I’ll sleep more the next night. I try adjusting when I go to sleep. I try…….you name it. But, one of the main features of fibromyalgia is the chronic fatigue. I feel like I’m just getting over the flu ALL THE TIME! I’ve tried meds that were for narcolepsy even, but I could sleep right after taking them. I didn’t sleep well. I never do. And, this makes the depression worse of course. The depression sneaks in, and I feel it more when I’m asleep very often. The fact that I can’t function much of the time makes me more depressed. It’s a weird and horrible cycle. I get lots of advice, and even when I try it, nothing changes.

I hope someday to have insurance and maybe be able to do some sleep study or something. But, until that time, I just try to exist with it. It’s made work harder, but getting the help I need requires me to work more so I make more. Again. The vicious cycle. Friends and family want to help and offer advice or say things to try to help. But, unless they can magically make me not tired ALL THE TIME, they can’t help. They can try to understand. They can realize why I rarely commit to things. I never know if I’ll be able to summon the energy. I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep. It’s hard enough trying to have the energy for work.

And, then there’s the therapist part of it all. I have to stay awake for patients when they talk, even the one who rambles on about all her family’s birthdays and ages. She’s OCD and MR. I have to be the one to be understanding because that’s what she is expecting me to do. It’s what she needs. I have to have energy even in the houses where it’s too hot because they need to save money on a/c. I need to have energy to PLAY when it comes to my little kid patients. It’s really hard when they want me to be the baby and lie down or when we play like we’re going to sleep. I’m afraid I really will fall asleep! I have to pay attention to their emotions. I have to be empathetic and FEEL what’s going on. I have to try to think of something to say or do to help them grow and manage their own illness. Their emotions drain me even though I love what I do. Meanwhile, I’m falling asleep inside.

So, sometimes being a therapist means just wishing I could do better. It means trying my best and yet knowing I’m not all that I can be. That would be true of any therapist, but for me, my failings are often so vivid before my own eyes.

This is not that interesting, but I hope it helps you understand how someone with both depression and fibro can feel. And, maybe to realize that therapists are all too human. It’s probably made your eyes droop, and now you have a glimpse of what I feel like all the time.

So, as you drift off to sleep, I’m off to the tub. Here’s hoping I end up sleeping in the bed. I can’t afford the water bill anymore!

Night.

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~ by Janice Holladay on August 17, 2011.

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