Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Having a bedtime

I know we've talked about my CFS-related insomnia before, but it's tearing off little pieces of my life right now, so I'm going to talk about it again.  Feel free to move along: probably the only thing worse than listening to someone tell you random half-stories about their dreams is listening to someone ranting about how they're not sleeping.  Which is exactly what I'm going to do right now.

For the past few months, I'd thought my insomnia might be improving.  It was tiny steps like closing my eyes and not opening them again every 36 seconds, or fading out during a show and realizing that I'd missed more than one set of commercials that made me start to think "holy shit: I was actually asleep there for a few minutes!", and led me to hope that maybe, just maybe, this cycle of painsomnia was letting up.  I did all the things you're supposed to do to create an 'optimal sleeping environment' (as my sleep specialist likes to call it): gave myself a strict bedtime (midnight: anything earlier than that was too depressing, and made nights seem endless) at which point I shut off all electrical appliances - TV and lights off, computer shut, etc - opened the window a little bit (because your room should be slightly chilly to help you sleep), and increased the number of hot showers I was taking (because there's something about hot showers and your body gradually cooling itself that is supposed to be helpful with sleeping).  All the little tricks I knew that helped me, I put into effect - Initiate Operation SLEEP NOW PLEASE!!

And the thing is, maybe that all seems like common sense to you, but to somebody like me, it's also kind of scary.  Sleep is kind of scary.  Because there was a time (I was going to say 'not too long ago,' but then I counted back and it's close to ten years, so I guess that was a while ago) where sleeping was all I could do.  Sleep was as involuntary then as not sleeping is now and it consumed my whole life.  I had to schedule my classes  around when I could nap; I slept through people's birthday parties and graduations, my own prom and more than one family activity.  I would wake up exhausted (so, basically no difference there), even though I had slept for 8 hours, 10 hours, 14, or 17 hours.  My whole life was sleep based (again, no difference, just now it's based on the fact that sleep won't come), and there was nothing I could do without first balancing it out with hours of sleep in my mental ledger: 2 hours of class, then an hour nap.  1 day of student teaching, a 1/2 hour nap at lunch and then a four hour nap back at the dorms.  Best friend's getting married, stay up till 1:00 (even though everybody else went out afterwards and stayed up till 7), sleep for a day and a half until your mother wakes you up, worried that you've not eaten in 36 hours.

That's how all encompassing sleep was for me, before the switch flipped and insomnia took its place.  So while I long for sleep - long for it with the "I will sell you my immortal soul" type of desperation only other insomniacs can truly appreciate - I'm still pretty afraid that my body will flip the switch in the other direction, and I'll once again transform into some sort of Rip Van Winkle-tte.  So taking steps to improve my sleep is one of those double edged swords you're always hearing about - you know, the only kind that's really useful, but you take a large chance that you'll get stabbed by it in the process.

Unfortunately. those few good signs have all but dried up again, and my commitment to creating a sleep Utopia flew out the window right after them.  Even if I shut everything down at midnight, I've more than likely turned it all back on again by 1 - my patience for tossing and turning is at an all time low, and every wrinkle in the sheet seems mountainous and villainous, and I start debating whether or not I could create enough of a spark with my heating pad to set the whole damn thing on fire, or if the mattress will fit through my window, should I decide to pitch it out there.  Evil NTE comes out at night and dreams up ways to curse the entire sleeping world, or super-empathetic NTE takes over and spends all night watching documentaries about the saddest people who've ever existed in the universe.  (Side note - If I am Youtube surfing at night, no matter how seemingly innocent a search I have started off with, I will -without fail- somehow wind up on a clip that will make me bawl.  I started out watching old songs from Sesame Street (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 Ladybugs, at the ladybug picnic), and ended up watching Big Bird sing at Jim Henson's memorial service, at which point, my eyes were swollen shut, and I decided that was as close to sleep as I was going to get, and closed the computer.)

I saw someone use the term Painsomnia (on the Twitter, I think), and it was like "Hello word: I'm so glad someone has created you because you are exactly what I have been trying to say for ten years, but couldn't."  Painsomnia is exactly right, because if I wasn't all Princess & the Pea because of the stupid fibromyalgia, I might be able to get 15 consecutive minutes of sleep in, and I wouldn't be here, again, ranting about the fact that I didn't sleep last night.  I wouldn't be in complete zombie mode today, after 4 really tough nights, during which I saw every minute of the sunrise, and tried to translate the morning birdsong into English.  (I think the robin who lives in my neighbor's tree is very upset about the 2012 political scene.  Maybe.)  

But I'm re-initiating the bedtime tonight, because it feels like the thing to do.  Maybe it'll help, more likely I will spend 6.5 hours listening to a dead DJ being replayed on the fuzziest AM radio station my radio can reach (that's a story for another time), but at least I'll feel like I'm doing something.

Although, I can't promise I won't be back here all the earlier in the morning, complaining again.  


Anonymous said...

Have you tried any sleeping medication? An Ambien/trazodone combination really helped me.

GirlWithTheCane said...

I wish I had some suggestions for you. My sleep schedule is borked too; I've never found a good way to get it worked out. But I've never been truly unable to sleep for nights at a time...I think it would be absolute hell for me. I hope that you find a way to sleep soon.

Lora said...

yes, yes, yes to all of this. Including the ladybug picnic.

All my old tricks have failed too. Unisom, Benedryl, Melatonin, exercise, white noise, classical music, no screen time after 8pm, camomile tea.

And it's such a vicious cycle. I hurt so I can't sleep. I haven't slept so I hurt.

I also always make the Princess and the Pea joke! I used to have a rheumatism/fm blog that had the tagline "I have reason to believe the Princess and the Pea was no more than a regular girl with an autoimmune disorder"

Love to you. I hope you find some rest soon.

Lora said...

oh, and PS. A few months ago I went to a Reiki class and got my Level 1 certification, and I go back this week for Level 2. I have found some self-Reiki-ing to help me fall asleep. Stay asleep? No. But the falling is nice. So nice that I do it four or five times a night.

Boy I love waking up four or five times a night. Just love it.