Please don’t wake me…

Today kicks off Sleep Awareness Week, which aims to highlight the importance of good sleep. As a chronic insomniac I am of course acutely aware of how important sleep is. I’m writing this at 4am, so I haven’t found the cure for sleepless nights. I do though have some semi successful strategies.

My relationship with sleep has flipped from one extreme to the other. In my youth I could drop off anytime, anyplace. I loved to snooze and had zero issues dropping off. I was the queen of the long lie. Sleep became a problem when I first experienced mental health problems aged 19. Unfortunately, I have never managed to regain my easy breezy relationship with slumber. Almost twenty years on I have become accustomed to functioning on a few hours a night. Chronic pain has done little to aid a peaceful night, but an inability to calmly shut down is still a major obstacle in my quest for rest.

A decent night’s repose can affect everything from heart health to sex drive. It goes without saying that exhaustion also has a massive impact on mental health. The NHS advises that most of us need around 8hrs sleep to function properly. In fact, lack of sleep can so massively impair cognitive faculties that experts suggest driving after only 5 hours sleep is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Everyone should be mightily relieved that I cannot drive.

The long-term effect of insufficient sleep is grim. The anxiety of going to bed each night knowing achieving sleep will be a battle is wearing. The more you worry about not sleeping the less likely it becomes. Constant fatigue makes getting through daily tasks difficult, which adds to one’s stress levels. This in turn pushes that magical 8 hours even further out of reach. Long sleepless nights are lonely. There’s rarely anyone else awake leaving a busy mind way too much room to mull over worries. Throw pain into mix and you have a recipe for despair. Moving through the world in a worn-out shuffle will grind you down, which is why I offer my extensively tested tips on getting some god damned sleep.
I’m not going to waste your time with milky drinks and lavender under your pillow. Everyone knows the basics and they aren’t going to cure hardcore insomnia. I don’t have a failsafe solution, if I did, I’d snoring now. However, these are the things that I have had some success with over years.

Bedroom Tips

Keep your bedroom cool. Lowering your body temperature helps the body prepare for sleep.

In theory that’s why a hot bath should aid sleep, but I find any sleepiness gained from the temp drop is lost during the process of getting dry and organised for bed. If you do less faffing post bathing it might work better for you.

No tv in the bedroom. This is a definite for me. I find a television to be the opposite of relaxing. I need my bed and bedroom to be a completely chilled out zone. Which sits nicely with my next point.

Try to make your bedroom as pleasant as possible to be in. Obviously, that means different things for different people. For me it’s nice sheets, subtle scents, comfortable mattress.

Black out blinds are your friend. I could not live without mine.

Invest in one of those huge maternity pillows. They give so much support if you have back or joint pain. Plus they’re just super comfortable.

Sound Effects

Rain on window

I use sounds machine apps. I like heavy rain/ thunderstorm type sounds, but experiment and see what works for you. Something about being safe & protected from the elements I’m hearing sometimes helps me drift off.

Soothing music (whatever that means to you) at a low volume can also help. I like to mouth the lyrics and focus on words I enjoy rather than my own thoughts. Getting the volume just right is key for me, so again, you might need to experiment. Select specific songs and make a playlist beforehand. You don’t want anything that unexpectedly bring unpleasant or stimulating associations to mind.

Preparation

I should probably have started here, but lack of sleep melts your brain. So, you’ll have deal with my disjointed thinking.

These are all evident. I’m going over them because sometimes you miss the obvious when you’re knackered.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime.

Don’t watch, read or listen to anything that will bring up stimulating emotions (nothing scary, disturbing, sad, triggering etc).

Avoid arguing or deep conversations right before you hit the hay.

Smoking, caffeine, some meds (check with gp/pharmacist) are no goes before you attempt sleep.

Against Accepted Wisdoms

Sleeping cat

I’ve consulted many Drs, Psych’s and other practitioners over the years and some of the oft repeated advice they’ve given me has turned out to be just plain wrong for me. If you find something that really does or doesn’t help, even if everyone is telling you the opposite, do you. For me this includes:

Looking at my phone in bed. Putting it on night shift mode to alter the light tone to yellowish rather than blue is a must. Otherwise I find aimlessly scrolling can be very helpful in getting me sleepy.

Reading in bed also works for me. I can’t fall asleep without reading. I find that if I just keep going until I literally can’t keep my eyes open, I have a good chance of getting into a proper sleep. I think it’s because my mind is occupied with the content of the book rather than whatever mess is in my head. Clearly, it’s important to choose the reading material with reference to my previous points.

Sharing the bed with pets. So many people have cautioned me against this. I find my petting my cat and hearing his purrs excessively relaxing. Thus, I ignore such warnings.

Hippie Dippie

Constellation lamp

I hate to be that person, but occasionally the esoteric route gets you there.

A constellation lamp in a dark room can offer something uncomplicated to focus your attention on long enough to get to sleep.

Gentle yoga – clears the mind & stretches everything in a pleasing manner.

Desperate Measures

When you’ve been attempting shut eye for hours and are reaching the point of hopelessness; get up. By that point you aren’t going to sleep. Every toss & turn just raises anxiety levels. I find it much more productive to get out of bed and stop forcing it. Do whatever you can manage and if you get drowsy try again.

Medication – You need sleep to operate. There comes a point when discussing medication options with your Gp is the sensible thing to do. I have tried several sleeping pills over the years. Most didn’t work for me. Most are not a suitable for prolonged use due to addictive and/or tolerance building properties. There are some drugs that can be used for longer periods. I have been prescribed one such medication. It doesn’t have a 100% strike rate, but when it does work it knocks me out all night.

Sleep when you can in extreme cases. Often napping is counterproductive when fighting insomnia. However, when you haven’t had more than a couple of consecutive hours sleep in weeks that goes out the window. When my sleeplessness is at its worst, I will get so completely exhausted that my body will crash. That doesn’t always happen at bed time. Take that sleep. You need it. Sleep all day if you must.

Last but Not Least

Oxytocin

Sex and orgasms in general are brilliant for sleep. Sex works on so many fronts. You can tire yourself out, all those feel good hormones chill you out and of course it’s the perfect distraction from any negative bullshit you have going on. Flying solo releases all that lovely oxytocin and melatonin too, so don’t be shy about giving it a try.

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Make it easy on yourself…

2019 has barely gotten going & it’s been rough already. In a matter of weeks I have lost my baby & my boyfriend, which is less than an auspicious beginning. If I sound flippant, I’m not, I’m just trying very hard to put one foot in front of the other.

The demise of my pregnancy is devastating. My relationship’s end is sad, but the right decision and that’s about all I have to say on the topic. I find myself approaching the year (and my life) alone again. Being single hasn’t ever worried me all that much. I’m definitely not scared to be that kind of alone. Childlessness on the other hand, terrifies me. What do you when you’re facing your biggest fear? I haven’t a fucking a clue.

#projectpostit

For the time being I have taken the clichéd approach of one day at a time. I’m trying not to spend every day at home in my jammies (there is however a lot of crying on the sofa). Functioning is a struggle for a multitude of reasons. Primarily, I am exhausted. I’m always tired. Add even less sleep, the effort it takes to contain my anger at life itself, the fact that I will not stop bleeding, so despite the blood transfusion my haemoglobin level continues to flag and you get extreme fatigue. Having a different emotion every 5 seconds is tiring. Battling (& often failing) to contain the tears is wearing. Breathing & washing & conversing & not screaming is all taking gargantuan effort. The truth is I’m not managing very much. I’m practising being ok with that.

Blood transfusion, Rose wine, snuggling cat, reading baby

I recommend spending time with people who don’t expect too much of you. I’m giving priority to anything that give me comfort; my little people & potatoes pretty much have that covered. Hot baths have featured heavily as has ‘fake it ’til you make it’ make up. There was one afternoon of day drinking with a lovely friend that actually helped a lot, but not something it would be wise to make a habit of. My purring cat is a godsend. I’m reading, sleeping whenever I can and endeavouring to be gentle with myself.

ly h Kerr

I have no clue how to tackle the overwhelming sense of guilt. Chipping away at how ‘not fair’ this is may well take the rest of my life. I’m focusing on the small stuff. Giving myself a pass on the growing mountain of washing, the ideas that go unpitched and being awfully rude to the person who called about my non-existent road traffic accident. I find it harder than you’d imagine to let that stuff go. Being hard on myself comes easy. i have learned that when life gets you on the ground it’s worth tackling the instinct to kick oneself whilst already down.

Sunset

With logs on the fire & gifts by the tree…

We made it. The big day is almost upon us. Take my advice, if you don’t have it by now, forget it. I did the last of my Pre Xmas visiting today, so that I don’t have to run around tomorrow. In my opinion Christmas Eve is for resting up before you get your jolly on.

I dropped presents off at Dad’s today as I will be with the Toyboy’s family for Xmas and it’s too far to go back and forth. I took the opportunity of a festive encounter to get my velvet out. Even a wee bit of velvet really puts a xmassy spin on a outfit.

ly h Kerr ootd

Camisole – Boohoo

Skirt – Lindy Bop

Cardi – Primark

I suspect I’ll be pairing this camisole with any number of items over the holiday period. My face and hair unexpectedly decided to behave today. I’m sure this means they will refuse to play ball for Christmas Day, but oh well.

ly h Kerr

I actually have spectacularly dark circles under my eyes and some impressive spots, but I somehow managed to cover both. If only I could remember which combination of products I used (& in which order I applied them). Never mind, if I look like hell on Tuesday I’ll just slap a filter on; it’s what the baby Jesus would have wanted.

Family pic

Do I wear you out?…

I’ve had another really bad week pain wise. It feels like I’m been having a lot of bad weeks recently and I’m tired. So very tired.

Life goes on, though. Nothing stops because I’m in pain. So, I try to keep on going too. It’s exhausting. Pain wears you out. Even before you attempt to do anything, just being in pain is tiring. I’m not sure that many people know that. You start the day fatigued. Every single task you perform from that point takes enormous effort. You’re fighting the pain and the growing exhaustion.

Drs will tell you to rest, but complete rest isn’t feasible for very many people. I can’t rely on or expect other people to take care of my life for me. My house will stay dirty if I don’t clean it, my fridge will stay empty if I don’t fill it, my bills won’t pay themselves, medical treatment doesn’t come to my house, my cat needs fed and my teeth, hair, body won’t clean themselves. Those are just the very basics of life, but they can be overwhelming when every move you make is agony. It’s a no win situation. If I neglect these basics my quality of life is seriously impacted. My stress levels soar & mood plummets. Trying to keep up with daily life saps all my energy. Pain is exhausting & exhaustion lowers your ability to cope with pain. It’s a vicious circle with no obvious escape.

Plus living is more than one’s basic responsibilities. There has to be human contact & stimulation. Unfortunately those can be just as tiring as the daily dirge. I love writing. I love swimming. Both are good for me, body & mind. Doing either involves a string of wearying steps. I have to wear myself down in the hope of benefits that are never guaranteed. I have a wonderful friends & family. Excellent relationships I don’t want to lose or neglect. However, just making myself fit to be in company is sometimes a mammoth task. I don’t even mean appearance wise. My people will accept me with no make up & greasy hair. They can handle the days that I can’t walk very far or do very much. For which I am grateful. What I can’t ask of them is to soak up my ill temper. Pain makes you snappy & negative & frankly unpleasant. No one wants to be around that. Also, no one wants to treat the people they love that way.

What do I do? I monitor myself. I constantly keep a tight grip on that grump. Take a deep breath & swallow it down. Let me tell you, maintaining that front, is exhausting. Also, essential. I don’t want to be a nasty bitch. I want to treat people with respect. Of course I gain from this; my life is immeasurably better for having date nights & sister time & lunch with my bestie & joyous mini people in it. Pain is absolutely not an excuse for being a fuckwit. It’s right that I censor myself into being nice. It’s just that it’s incredibly draining. It is the same catch 22, don’t push myself to do these things and my life would be empty. Do them & I pay the price.

None of this is anyone’s fault. There isn’t really anything anyone can do to change these things. This is just my life. Oh & a lot of other people’s too. I have this idea that maybe if we understand each other’s experience we might understand each other a little better. I think that would probably be a good thing. Further more, I’ve been trying to hold in all my grump & I am very tired.

** Apologies. I know this is not my best writing. I’m really sore & really tired.

Oxford town…

I keep thinking the weather is changing, dress really hopefully & then just freeze. This outfit was an example of that. It was really bright & fresh when I got dressed, but by the time I took these pics it felt icy. Taking my coat off to snap them did not feel good, but at least I look cute.

I love this swing skirt, but it’s too big & I keep forgetting until I put it on. I really need to have it taken in. Nevertheless, it looks good with this shell top & my fabulous new oxfords.

Oxfords – V Shoes

Skirt – Lindy Bop

Top – New Look

Blue eyeliner & space buns helped perk up my fatigued head. A pop of pink lippie & awesome nails never do any harm either.

And so it is the colder water…

It’s been around 8 weeks since I miscarried. I think all things considered, I am doing ok. I mean, I’ve not completely fallen apart. I haven’t turned to scalpels for comfort or absented myself from the world. I’m getting up & painting my face & taking part in life. I wish I could say it was easy, but on days like today, it feels like drowning. 

I am attending the recurrent miscarriage clinic to see if there are any issues I am not already aware of & the midwife I see has been wonderful. She had given me info on a ‘support group’, which I’m considering. I’m on some new meds to help with PCOS & tracking my periods etc to keep on eye on things from that side. I’m socialising & blogging & getting more politically active. I’m doing everything i can think of to keep moving forward. So why do I feel like I’m wedged in wet sand?

I think about what might have been every day. Not all day long, but it’s never far away. There are so many reminders. So many painful things that can’t be avoided. From appointments at the maternity hospital & other people’s babies to just the scent of something that made me nauseous when I was pregnant & doesn’t anymore. I don’t want the world to stop. I don’t want to rob anyone of their joyous moments; it’s just so hard. The happiness I feel for others comes with a stab of sorrow. It’s been this way for so long, but my recent loss has given that sadness renewed potency. I let all my hopes out of a place I kept tied up tight. Blueprints for a life that I hadn’t dared to examine sprang to life & folding up those plans is proving difficult. 
I have my period again & I know that impacts on my mood. All of the sensations of menstruating mirror miscarriage symptoms. The cramps & sensitive nipples are reminders I don’t want. The blood remains wrapped up in my trauma. Forever a trigger. And yet, I’m glad to have the period. Not so long ago I had practically none. It’s a relief to have this increasingly reliable sign that my ovaries are doing something. Like so many other things the positive is marred.


I think from the outside I probably look fine. I want to look well. No, I want to BE well. I’m really fighting not to let my life slide. The truth is I’m struggling. My creative output is vastly decreased. I lack the motivation & clarity to write. Not writing is not good for me. I process my experiences through words on the paper. The less I write the more anxious I become. Of course the more I stress about it, the less I am able to curate my thoughts. It’s a predictable cycle. There are obviously more practical concerns; my words keep a roof over my head. 


My physical health hasn’t been good. My sleep is appalling. I know that takes it’s toll. I attempt to rationalise myself out of days like this. My exhausted, pained, grieving & traumatised self will obviously have lows. I know this is to be expected. That knowledge doesn’t change the dread. It does nothing to chase away the fear when I awake to a complete inability to function. When nothing shifts the weight crushing me or the desire to disappear. 24 hours isn’t a long time except when your swamped in depression. I can get through the bad days. I’m just terrified of the days multiplying. 
That’s the crux of it. Mental illness feels a bit like being an alcoholic. I will never completely recover. The lows will always come. Life will always have ways to trip me up. The fear of everything unravelling sits quietly on my shoulder. It’s a bad day. I’m still grieving. I hope for better. 

When the bee stings…

It’s been a dick of a week. Debilitating fatigue followed by intolerable pain & some vomming to top it off added up to a big NO. However, antibiotics, oramorph & a good night’s sleep have made a big dent in my misery. So, excuse me if I get a wee bit Julie Andrews on you, but I wanted to talk about the random things that get me through. 

Whiskers on kittens…

So, starting by just lifting straight out of the song. The whiskers & everything else in one specific feline are definitely one of my favourite things. Some folk think I’m daft, but Bronan really does take care of me when I’m struggling. He’ll stay snuggled up beside me for days. He will wait for me to wake on my own rather giving me his usual breakfast call at 6am. He sits on my feet whilst I’m throwing up in the toilet & gently paws my face when I cry.  He’s a darling. Call me crazy cat lady if you like; I believe my cat has my back. 



Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings…

We don’t get a lot of wild geese around my way, but the moon can lift my spirits. Be it a dazzling full moon, spooky cloud shrouded moon or rare coloured one; I love the moon. It can be so striking & yet peaceful. Don’t get me wrong, the moon isn’t curing anything. It’s just nice to have something beautiful to gaze on whilst I feel like shit. 


Sunsets fall into a similar spot. A sky alive with colour can be momentarily distracting. Pink skys are always my favourite as they remind me of my muffin. When in Australia I spent most evenings on the deck with my niece watching the sun go down. Every night we frolicked whilst pink hues faded into darkness. It was magical.


Bright copper kettles..
.

Alas I don’t own a shiny copper kettle, but I do love a steaming cup of tea. Mint tea is my drink. It’s a great digestion aid & can help settle reflux. It’s basically an extra med in delicious form. Besides that nothing beats the comforting warmth of sipping a big mug of tea. 

From here I drift away from the sound of music & onto a few more fav things that don’t have Sister Maria’s seal of approval. 

A good book…

I’m a reader. A good book relaxes, distracts, thrills, comforts & engages me. Curling up in my big comfy bed with some quality literature is one of best things in the world. 



A bath that goes with a bang…

Of course I am referring to bath bombs. Sylvia Plath said 

‘there must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know any of them’

Whilst both she & I know that’s not true, a hot bath can be a wonderful thing. Add a bright fizzy bath bomb & you can’t lose. Baths serve so many purposes for me. Hot water eases muscles pain, they relax me, help clear my head & leave me feeling fresh & clean. If you can do all that plus be left with sparkly skin, why wouldn’t you??

Nail (works of) Art…

I don’t know why, but I feel better when my nails are on fire. Maybe it’s because my mum always had glamorous nails. Or maybe it’s because it makes my stubby fingers look more elegant. Regardless, I find it easier to face the world when my nails are a work of art. 


Flower power…

I love to buy myself flowers. I love the scent & how pretty the make any room. Most of all I love the feeling of treating myself. It’s great to know I don’t have to wait for someone else to buy me flowers. Giving yourself something beautiful just because is an excellent feeling. Try it.