Sleep Anxiety

anxiety

Sleep is a beautiful thing.  Nothing feels better than sinking into your comfy bed, closing your eyes and getting a good solid nights sleep.  It’s rejuvenating.  It’s blissful.  It’s therapeutic.  So when sleep won’t come,  life can be turned upside down.

Over the past few months my daughter has developed what I can only describe as severe sleep anxiety.  She’s never been a great sleeper but this takes it to a whole different level.

It started out pretty low key.  At some point in October she started to say that she could not go to sleep.  Not just that she wasn’t tired.  But that she could not get to sleep.  She would get out of bed a couple of times every night to tell me.  I’d give her a hug, ask if she needed anything and tuck her back in.  But then it changed.

Slowly over the next few weeks it escalated to all out hysteria at bed time.  And by hysteria, I mean a couple of hours of crying, shaking, yelling, pacing and ultimately, exhaustion.  And that goes for all of us.  Yes, I yelled.  I’m not proud of it but at some point (okay,more than one) I just lost it.  It just seemed so simple.  Get in bed, close your eyes and eventually you will fall asleep.  But yet, she just couldn’t do it.  Not wouldn’t.  Couldn’t.

I remember one night in particular when she refused to get out of the bath.  She said that getting out of the bath would mean that she would have to brush her teeth and put her pjs on.  That would mean that she would need to go to bed.  And that, ultimately, would mean that she would have to try and get to sleep.  And in her mind, THAT was not going to happen.  Thirty minutes later the bath had drained and I was sitting on the floor begging her too just step out of the tub.  Again.  Simple.  But she just couldn’t do.

It got to the point where she would pace around her bedroom saying over and over again.  “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go to sleep.”  I would sit on her bed praying that I could find just the right thing to say that would convince her that she could go to sleep.  I tried positive encouragement, bribery, meditation apps, consequences but nothing would sway her from her stance that she couldn’t go to sleep.

sleeping girl

My husband and I were confused and desperate to understand what was going on.  To see our smart, capable little girl so upset was heart breaking.  So physically agitated that she wouldn’t even let us hold her to try and calm her down.

The emotions that have run through our little family in the past months are difficult to put into words.  We’ve been angry with each other and unsure of why.  We’ve been confused.  Why is this happening?  We’ve been heartbroken and sympathetic.  The need to comfort your child is so strong that when it is of no help, it can be devastating.

The fact that this is, apparently, quite normal in children this age is at once comforting and distressing.  Comforting in that others have solutions that have worked for them and I know that we are not alone.  Distressing in knowing that so many other kids suffer the way that my daughter has suffered.

Recently we have started to give her melatonin at bed time and it seems to have helped calm her down.  She still wakes up a few hours later though and is convinced that she has yet to fall asleep.  What must be going on in her brain to create this anxiety and confusion?

Why, you may ask, am I telling you ( and the world) all of this?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I am hoping that it will help somebody else going through the same thing?  Maybe I am hoping that it will reach somebody who can help me understand it better.

I’m not sure I can end this post with a Best Thing in Life.

 

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Barbed Wire and Untied Shoe Laces

barbed wire

Over a year ago I left my job for a number of great reasons.  You can read about them here.  It’s been an amazing fourteen months but every once in a while I find myself re-reading that original blog post.  What is my thing?  And why is it so damn hard for me to find it?  I feel as if I’ve come to a point where I am no longer making progress on my own.  If I want to move forward I need a new approach.

So I went to see a friend yesterday.  Okay that’s not entirely true.  I went to see my therapist.  Yes, you heard me right.  I went to see my therapist.  Who, over the past ten years, has become a “friend”.  So, partly true.  She has helped me through way worse stuff than this over the years and always seems to zero in on exactly what is tripping me up.

I did, for a moment, think twice about writing this post. That perhaps it was too personal.  That it would leave me a bit too open and exposed.  But then I thought, “Hell, there must be other women in my position?”  I can’t be the only fifty something mom trying to figure out where she fits into this world.  (Or maybe I am)  Also, I’m not one to hide under a rock.  So here I am, baring my sole to you as I did to her.

A few weeks ago I went on a girls weekend.

A weekend away with four friends that I have known for well over ten years.  All with kids and all successful in interesting careers.  An accountant, an engineer, a speech pathologist and a marketing consultant.  Over the course of the weekend I began to feel……directionless.  Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own with this crowd but I just felt like I could be doing more with my life.  As they were.  That I had more to offer than yoga and renovating the bathroom.

The week after that trip I had a very vivid dream.

I was in an art class at a university and the professor had asked us to start work on a project. The project was to represent our life.  He wanted us to make some notes in point form (sometimes my dreams are very precise).  As I worked away on my notes the teacher walked around the class and made comments on what we had done so far.  As he leaned over my shoulder he grunted and said “No, you can’t do that. It’s too boring.”  But it represents my life, I said.  “I know.  It’s boring.  Make it better”.  He said.  What the hell?

So I took these events and laid them out to my “friend” and asked her to help me.  She walked me though some exercises and made some observations and suggestions.  Within minutes she had figured out what she thought was holding me back.  I told you she was good.

And here is what I walked away with……..

We go through life thinking we have handled things from our past. Things that we think are behind us and dealt with.  Sometime they are.  Sometime they aren’t.  Sometime they are lurking in the shadows with a roll of barbed wire, hell-bent on keeping us from being free.  Sometime we think things are unimportant and dismiss them as irrelevant.  Like an untied shoe lace that will eventually trip you up.

I have some work to do in the next few weeks but I am confident that I can, with my “friends” help, figure out what my thing is.  This week the Best Thing in Life is knowing when to ask for help and having a resource to go to for that help.

untied shoe laces

Running. Cheaper Than Therapy.

runners

I can’t remember when I started running. I think I was in my late twenties. Some other ladies I worked with downtown were running at lunch time and I thought it might be fun. Wasn’t everything fun in your twenties?

My first run was, of course, pathetic. I wore heavy tennis shoes, as that was all I had, and made it about a mile before thinking I might throw up. “This is a lot harder than it looks” I thought. I had, of course, had images of myself bounding along the seawall going for miles and miles without a care in the world. Returning to the office glowing from the experience. Refreshed and ready to do it again the next day. Not so much.

Oh right, and the next day I couldn’t move. Or walk downstairs for a week.

My first “race” was the Vancouver Sun Run. This was back in the 1993 when only about 18,000 people ran it instead of the 60,000 that do it now. I had never done a race and had no idea what to expect. I had to pee every 5 minutes for the two hours before the race. What’s that all about anyway? Nerves? Anxiety that I may have to go during the race so just to make sure my bladder is completely empty? Needless to say I did not win or set any records. I did finish it though. And I didn’t have to pee once.

I find running cathartic. There are times when I just put my head down and watch the pavement pass under my feet. It’s my time to think. And not think. So many times I have had something on my mind and running has resolved it. Or I’ve had nothing on my mind and running has brought me inspiration. This blog has relied heavily on my running schedule.

There have been times when I have hated running. Wondered why I ever started. It’s hard, there’s no denying that. And sometime your head just isn’t in it. I’ve gone through times when I have gone running (begrudgingly) and cursed every step of the way. “This sucks” being the very least profane of them. I have been known to scream “just shoot me now” as I push up a hill. But if I leave it too long between runs my husband gives me that look. That “go for a run before you rip somebody’s head off” look.

So why do I do it? Running can be a lot of different things to different people. It can be painful, invigorating, boring, sadistic……the list go on. Some hate it, some love it and some tolerate it. I personally have a few reasons.

I love to eat good food…..and wine
I tend to get to far into my own head
It’s cheap (after your pay for the $200 runners twice a year)
I can do it anywhere

What will I do when I can no longer run? It has happened a few times for short periods of time. A few weeks. But I’ve known there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A time out there when I will get to run again and I’ve found reassurance in that. But to never ever run again? That’s a scary thought for me and my family.

I still don’t consider myself a “runner”. I’ve always thought that runners were people who trained and actually come close to placing in the top ten of races. People who wear those cute little shorts and use glide to avoid chafing. Chafing? Pretty sure I’m not going fast enough to chafe anything. Why can’t I be a runner. I run. Don’t I? So that makes me a runner right? I should go for a run and think about this some more.

The Best Thing in Life is that I can, just like that, go for a run.

MY DARKEST TIME

dark and scary

Life is pretty good these days. No, actually it’s great. It wasn’t always that way though. There was a time, about thirteen years ago, when my life was a complete mess. Wait, that’s not true. My life wasn’t a mess. I was a mess. A complete disaster actually. My life was complicated and things hadn’t been going my way. Not small things either. Major life things.

Having bounced back from an ugly divorce, I had remarried a wonderful man, my son was in his first year of school and I had a great job. All was good. Then the other shoe dropped. The day after we got married in Hawaii, the company that my husband worked for relocated to Memphis, Tennessee. A great opportunity to move ahead in his career,this wasn’t something he could turn down. We made the decision that he would go ahead and take the relocation and I would approach my ex-husband on the subject of me taking my son to live there as well. Unfortunately, he didn’t agree, neither did a judge….or an appeal judge for that matter. In hindsight they were right, but at the time I was devastated. I just wanted to put the past behind me and start a new life.

So there I was, living in a rental home and sharing custody of my son with a man who not only resented me for trying to take his son away but was bound and determined to share all of that information with my son. As much as we hated being apart, the company had offered my husband an amazing position and even though it did have a finite time frame attached to it (four years) we were newlyweds who only saw each other once a month if we were lucky. I hated being alone and it wasn’t any easier for him. We had sold our townhouse in hopes of being able to make a quick move so half of our belongings were in storage. It was a nice enough place but it wasn’t home. On the outside I had it all under control. Taking my son to school, going through the motions of life but underneath I was floundering in depression, sleep deprivation and anxiety over my relationship with my son and my new husband.

dark and scary 2

At the worst of it I would lie in bed at night in the empty house and imagine that gang members were creeping down the dark driveway to break into the house and attack me. It was so dark, so specific, so violent.  Yet so real to me. I would open my eyes and tell myself how ridiculous it was. I would go downstairs and turn on all the lights, look out the window and re-assure myself that everything was okay. The coast was clear. Back up to bed I would go. Close my eyes and the exact same thoughts would invade my mind. Just as I got close to sleep I would hear a tiny creak and my eyes would fly open and my mind would be all in a whirl again. It didn’t seem to matter how tired I was, I couldn’t get the images out of my head.

I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep or the depression but my decision-making abilities were all but gone. One day I needed to go to the grocery store for dinner. I wandered around for almost an hour trying to decide if we should have burgers or pasta. Did I want something healthy or tasty and quick. I didn’t want to have to cook so maybe should just get something frozen.

I left the store with a loaf of bread.

Half way to the car I thought this is stupid and I should go back and just buy something. I turned around and headed back to the store. Half way to the store I turned around again and headed back to the car. Sitting in the car I silently cried. It’s just dinner. Why is this so hard?

Believe it or not I didn’t go to the doctor for what was really bothering me. I can’t even remember why I was there but it must have been pretty obvious that I was a mess. After writing me a prescription for sleeping pills and an anti-depressant he suggested I go and talk to somebody. What? No, I’m fine. I just needed some sleep and everything will be good.

At that point I was still in denial.

I couldn’t even tell a man I had known for years what was going on. He was great. He said okay well just go see this friend of mine and if she says your okay then you can come back and tell me I was wrong.

It was just what I thought it would be. A couple of comfortable chairs, books on self-help and lots of candles. Close your eyes and calm your mind she said. I closed my eyes but all I saw was movement. Grey moving shapes flashed in front of me. My mind wouldn’t, couldn’t, stop moving. Try again she suggested. I closed my eyes again. No, still can’t get the world to stop spinning. Opening my eyes again I choked back tears and everything poured out. I explained the last year of my life and how I seemed to have lost any control over what was going on. I wish I could say that after spending an hour with her I had a better grasp on things but that would be a lie. It took us months to get me back on track. The sleeping pills helped. Along with antidepressants and a lot more appointments in the room with comfy chairs.

So why, when things are so good do I go back to that time?  It was dark and scary and out of control. I go back because it’s important for me to remember that all of the Best Things in My Life were with me through all of it.  And they still are.  I just couldn’t see them through all the grey swirling movement in my head.

Michele

whistlerbiking26sep0808-0[1]

A few years back I was part of a group of women who would head out onto the cross county biking trails of the North Shore mountains as often as we could. We were all moms of varying cycling and fitness abilities but we enjoyed each other’s company, the exercise and the time away from our angelic children. Typically Sunday morning we would meet at about 8:00am and ride for a couple of hours or until the need for coffee kicked in. It was on one of these Sunday morning rides that I met Michele. Michele is a police officer.

Recently Michele and I got together for a drink with the purpose of talking about divorce for a piece I’m writing. We did talk about divorce, but we also talked a lot about her career, relationships and parenting teenage boys. What I took away from our conversation are some great additions to my piece on divorce, some excellent parenting tips, but more importantly, I learnt about the life of a female police officer and how her career has been instrumental in her personal growth.

When Michele and I first met, she had just recently moved to the Vancouver area and was looking to get hired by a local police force . She was going through a separation (potential divorce) but totally seemed to have it together. Having been through a divorce, I admired how rational she seemed to be when it came to talking about her soon to be ex and their relationship. Was I assuming that as a police officer she was probably pretty tough and could handle herself in any situation? I guess I was, because I know now that in her own words she was a mess. Living in a new city, no job and a failing marriage. Yipee!

Things did turn around pretty quickly for her career though. She was hired by the Vancouver Police Department and started to settle in. When I asked her about harassment on the job she said that it has never been an issue, mostly because of the way she has handled it. She told me a story about how, as a new member of the VPD, a fellow officer had made a sexual comment to her after a drunken Christmas party. The next day when she figured out who had said what, she didn’t get mad, she got even. She walked into the morning briefing with a sealed envelope in her hand. Looked the guilty culprit in the eye and told him that she didn’t take these things lightly. She put the envelope down in front of him and said. “You’ve been served” implying that she would sue him. Inside the envelope was a picture of a huge set of hooters with the caption “Next time you want to look at a set of boobs, look at these.” Classic.

Dealing with the end of her marriage proved to be more difficult. She was seeing a therapist but still struggled with feelings of failure and self-doubt. At this time Michele was working with the domestic abuse unit of the VPD. While on a follow up call to a battered woman’s home she suddenly realized that she was saying all the same things to this woman, that her therapist was saying to her. It’s not your fault, you are a strong person who can do anything and do it on your own. The lightbulb not only went on for her, but it made her realize what these women were dealing with and how best she could help them. I’m pretty sure that this is what Oprah refers to as an “ah ha” moment. As she continued her work, not only did she get stronger herself but her ability to empathize and help the women she worked with grew immensely.

After a few years Michele moved out of the domestic abuse unit and into homicide. How cool is that? She is confident and knows that whatever life has to throw at her she can deal with it. Her sons are in university now and she is venturing into a new relationship. She is grateful for the time she spent with the domestic abuse team and knows how much it taught her about life and handling adversity.

I truly have a new respect for police officers and how they approach their work. Michele became a police officer to help people and ended up helping herself. How is that not one of The Best Things in Life?