Archives for category: Sleepless Nights

So far…, so… I’m not perfect. Not even close. If “perfection” were the measure of human success, I would be an abject failure. Just saying, there’s something to appreciate that a. the bar is way lower than that and b. we even get to “set the bar” for most values of “success” in life ourselves and then also score the results. “It’s not that bad.” describes a lot of things. Pro-tip: there’s real value in pausing to reflect on how good it is and how bad it isn’t now and then. The results may surprise you.

“Good enough” has to be good enough, sometimes. 🙂

Are you wondering why I linked that track in paragraph 1? Here it is again with the lyrics. 😉

Last weekend I was ill. Like, dragging myself to the bathroom for multiple episodes of all manner of biological disaster through the night on Friday, and running a bit of a fever all day Saturday after my guts were utterly emptied from both ends. Yick. Horrible. My fever finally broke in the early evening on Saturday. Yesterday I was exhausted (in spite of drifting in and out of a restless sleep most of Saturday), and a bit faint and dizzy feeling. I managed to push a couple loads of laundry through the machines, and even put away most of that, but anything more was honestly beyond me. My Traveling Partner was super helpful and supportive and kind, and the only moment of discord between us was a bit of frustration with me over my relative incompetence in that state that made it super difficult to do the one “thinking task” (and it was a way easy ask) that he called upon me to do late in the afternoon. Thankfully, he saved me from possibly bricking an expensive laptop by being more aware than I was that I had “gone down the wrong path” on that task. My own frustration with the situation resulted comically in being mad enough to “storm off” to take a walk… which amounted to going to check the mail because I did not even have the strength to take a real walk of any distance. Hilarious. Had to come home and fucking behave myself and work on making things right with my partner like a grown-up.

Today feels like “just another work day”, but with a helping of “why did I think I would actually be fully up to this already?”. I didn’t sleep well, either. I had slept so much (I suspect) in the prior days (without drinking much coffee) that I ended up “over slept”, and since yesterday I did have coffee… I couldn’t sleep. Since I didn’t have quite half my usual amount of coffee, I also ended yesterday with a wicked headache (or was still sick…?), and the medication I took for that tends to result in not being able to sleep deeply. The result was a restless night. Funny… I’m okay though. There are things that matter more. Life? Love? Beauty? This quiet contented moment of reflection? The grocery list I don’t want to forget to shop for later. lol

I yawn and rub my eyes. I pause and write my Traveling Partner a love note. I fucking love that guy. I also appreciate him. I take a sip of coffee and a big drink of water and get ready to begin again.

I’m drinking water and counting myself grateful to have indoor plumbing, hot and cold running potable water from a tap in the house, and additional filtration that ensures the water is clean, and free of weird tastes or sediment. It’s nice. I’m drinking water because I’ve already had my coffee and frankly I do need to be drinking more water. Recent longevity-associated articles reporting on the value of being well-hydrated did not go unnoticed. I started paying attention to the differences on days when I am not well-hydrated vs days when I am – and nights. Yes, drinking more water definitely results in getting up to pee more often during the night, but that doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with whether I sleep well and deeply, or how easily I return to sleep, so… small price to pay? Well, I guess I hadn’t previously thought so, until I noticed that being well-hydrated seemed to also reduce my snoring (noticeably), as well as improving my ability to lubricate naturally (still a pretty big deal for me, personally, in spite of being post-menopause I really enjoy sex), like, a lot. So I’m pretty committed to drinking more water.

Keep practicing.

…I learned quite recently, and yes “the hard way”, that one bad spell with my mental health can wreck that progress in mere hours. Friday evening I went through some shit and had a nasty flare up of my PTSD on this whole other difficult to describe level. It was bad. I put my Traveling Partner through some bullshit over it (always regrettable and complicated). It got bad enough that I actually had a flashback, and those have gotten to be very rare. The ridiculous level of hysteria I ultimately reached (calling it a “panic attack” doesn’t do the chaos justice at all) caused me to cry a quantity of tears that finally resulted in a loss of moisture that definitely resulted in me more than a little dehydrated by dawn. I woke Saturday morning with a stuffy head, swollen eyes, and feeling like “everything had come crashing down”. It passed, but… it wasn’t good. The low point was the painful awareness that even medicated, I am at risk. I am grateful to have the partner I do. The chaos and damage don’t reliably “take no for an answer” once shit skitters sideways. The self-directed shame and disappointment immediately add an additional gut-punch that makes bouncing back hard. On top of all of that? Damn few people actually “get” what flashbacks are actually like, and they aren’t portrayed in the movies or in media very skillfully (how could they be?).

It’s important to take care of myself. Regardless of the chaos and damage, regardless of my personal starting point on life’s journey, or where I am standing when I begin again. Problematically, this is true for everyone; self-care matters. I don’t “get a head-start” when I practice good self-care – I don’t even get to start at the same starting point as “everyone else”. I’ve started this journey where my starting point happened to be. Self-care is a thing that it is very helpful to do – for everyone. I’m still me. Still have the issues I have. Still have to work on those issues. Still have to trust that incremental change over time will improve things. Still have to recognize that my results are going to vary. My demons got the better of me on Friday night in a big way. I’m fortunate to have a loving partner willing to support my long-term wellness and growth. I’m grateful that I can understand that there is no implicit promise that having a loving partner will actually make this shit any “easier”. I’ve still got to walk my own hard mile. I’ve still got to do the work. I’m still going to fall down now and then, and have to pick myself up and start over. Begin again.

Some practices are more critical than others. Some practices are more emotionally nourishing than others. Some are more or less effective for me as an individual. I did not imagine the simple act of drinking enough water would be one of those very simple very big deals among all my practices, but here we are.

Selecting good practices is a bit like building a healthy diet… fruit is delicious. Sooo tasty. Filled with nutrients we need. Yum. The thing is, though, it’s also full of sugar. Like a lot of sugar. For many of us, building our diet around tasty fruits is not notably healthier than building it around any other tasty sweets. [Note: I am not a nutritionist or dietician, nothing I say in this blog should be construed as medical or dietary advice. I am using “diet” and nutrition metaphorically here.] Veggies may not be as sweetly delicious and tempting in the way luscious ripe fruits can be, but they do make a far better foundation for my diet. So… it matters to choose with care. Whether we’re talking about a healthy diet, the practices we choose for our emotional wellness, the partnership in which we spend our days (and nights)… or the practices we choose for our physical wellness. Turns out some of the most basic practices for my self-care support both my emotional wellness and my physical wellness (looking your way drinking water and eating more veggies!!). It’s worth thinking about for more than a moment. Abandon any one of those cornerstones of a good life, and the foundation isn’t solid enough to rest upon.

Get right down to it, and there’s just no magic bullet, or pill, or single solution to “all of the shit we go through”. No partnership can bear the weight of all of our bullshit. We’ve got to do all the things we can – everything we know to do, as reliably as we’re able to learn to practice. Through practice. Sounds like a huge thing to commit to, but taken a practice at a time, doesn’t it just amount to living life? I think about it a while, let the songs play. Watch the tiny bar of sunlight creep across my desk.

My partner comes in and rubs my shoulders and neck for a moment. “You writin’ a book?” he asks with a laugh. I laugh back; there are no shortcuts.

It’s time to begin again.

It’s the 10th of January. Not fancy as days on a calendar go, nothing splendid like the first of a new year, still… a good a day as any to make a change for the better, isn’t it? There’s an entire day ahead, suitable for making changes. Pick something, do the thing, see the result, refine the practice, and repeat. Easy. 😉

I woke this morning from an interrupted night’s sleep. The artificial “sunrise” of my alarm seemed to come too soon, and too brightly (although I opened my eyes just as it came on, and it comes on quite dim, so… perception vs reality can be quite subjective). I had the sense that I’d been awake, or awakened, often during the night. I felt groggy as I rose, showered, and dressed. I made it out the door without waking my Traveling Partner, or so it seemed. I know he also had a restless night. He woke me twice to tell me he was sleeping poorly, and managed to keep me “on alert” (without intending to, I’m sure) by fussing and swearing in the other room because he was having a rough night. At some point he must have returned to bed, because that’s where he was when I woke, and seemed to be sound asleep. I found myself more pleased that he was sleeping than I had been annoyed to be awakened, myself, and grateful to get out the door quickly and quietly to head to the co-work space.

I love working from home. The practical reality of it is, though, that sometimes in the early morning hours when my partner would like to be sleeping it can be a poor fit. The local co-work space works as a pleasant compromise without the tedious, time-consuming, and risky commute into the city. That’d be a miserable way to spend 15 hours every week if I had to do it daily. I sip my coffee feeling fortunate to have so many options, and the freedom to choose from them. So, here I sit in an office, sipping coffee. I’d rather be home…but only if that reliably meant enjoying my morning over my coffee at home comfortably without stress or fussing over whatever, and dealing with stress because one or the other of us had a bad night. I like “easy”. Like… a lot.

I remove a couple paragraphs. I lost the thread of my thoughts. I sip my coffee thoughtfully.

Winter mornings are not well-suited to early morning camera walks. The sun rises so much later in the morning that it encroaches on the start of my typical work day. Instead of waking to the earliest hint of daybreak sometime around 04:30 or 05:00, I wake to my artificial sunrise well before dawn. With this in mind I’m thinking about making my everyday practice to head directly to the co-work space every morning that I don’t go into the city (not just Tuesdays and Thursdays), and just let that be what it is until the dawn comes earlier, allowing me to grab my camera and hit the trails around and about first thing, before work. Once the sun is rising around 06:30 or earlier once again, I can go back to my happy practice of hitting the trail first thing with my camera, then returning home to get my work day started there after I know my partner is awake. This works really well most of the year.

I reflect on how nice it is that we support each other with such care, generally. Seems nice. Oh, we do struggle and fuss at each other over some fairly petty bullshit. We’ve got communication challenges because cPTSD is messy and my TBI is… challenging. We’re human. I get irked with him. He gets irked with me. That’s just real. Frustration and bullshit and baggage are parts of the human experience. We’re pretty fucking human. Sometimes it is easier to love each other from a bit of a distance. LOL

This morning I miss him. I reflect more on what works than on what doesn’t. I’m grateful for the love we share. Could I do better? Yes. Could he? Yes. Do we both need more practice? Yup. I smile thinking of him fondly without overlooking the practical realities of loving him. Love doesn’t need me to tell myself pretty lies or to whitewash my lived experience. Love is no happily ever after fairytale. It’s also not a tragedy. Love is love. Part of living life. It’s complicated and messy and sometimes needs more from me than I feel I have to give. My results vary.

I just keep practicing.

It’s time to begin again.

It’s been 10 years since I started this blog, and this journey. I mean, I suppose I could choose a lot of dates and say “I took my first step here”, but starting this blog and returning to therapy during a very dark time in my life was more significant than I knew at the time, and I’ve come farther, faster, I think, than I otherwise might have if I hadn’t taken those steps.

I lived in a different place, with different views.

10 years ago. I could measure that in jobs… it was 5 jobs ago. I could measure it in moves… it was 4 moves ago. I could count it off in hours, which is an impressive 87660. A little daunting if I think too long about how still needs doing. I could count it off in blog posts… 2512, an average of 20.9 per month, and more than 1 million words.

My first post was just an brief introduction. My second? It was about perspective. 10 years later to the day, and I’m still writing about how much perspective matters, and how to shift it in a more positive direction.

The first book my new therapist recommended to me, and an important step on a profoundly healing journey.

10 years ago I started reading, and building my reading list. I turned 50. I started keeping an aquarium (which I kept going until just last year). I began an intensely creative period as an artist. I bought new hiking boots and started walking a lot more, and I started making solo trips to the coast to make time for healthy self-reflection.

The beginnings of a piece on the theme of perspective.

I was in a rough place emotionally when I started this blog 10 years ago. At the same time I started this blog, I started an art project on the theme of perspective and experience, and the subjective nature of memory vs lived experience. I used two large glass containers, and into one I dropped dark stones, black glass “pebbles” and mementos of sorrow or grief, and small amounts of black glitter representative of darker moods. Into the other, I dropped light colored glass “pebbles”, glow glitter, and things reminiscent of joy and day-to-day moments of pleasure. Not so much “good vs bad” as pleasant vs unpleasant. I wanted to gauge “how bad is it really?” in some visible way. I kept it going until I was ready to create “Perspective” on canvas, some 6 months later.

“Perspective” acrylic mixed-media on canvas, 16″ x 36″, 2013

As difficult as my day-to-day experience sometimes felt, and as much as I often struggled with my experience, emotions, or circumstances, it was clear that even with “my thumb on the scale”, things were more often pleasant than unpleasant. The ratio wasn’t even close. There was more light than darkness, more joy than pain – and this is true even now. (I say that because it’s been quite a difficult morning and was a weirdly challenging weekend emotionally, and I’m definitely feeling that.) This particular art project opened my eyes to the importance of perspective in building and maintaining good mental and emotional health; if my lived experience felt unpleasant but was objectively better than I was feeling it to be, I figured there had to be a way to correct for that. I mean… I wear glasses because I’m near-sighted. What could I be doing to correct my sense of perspective on my own life? This became an important focus for me from then on.

…As it turns out, there are a number of different ways to gain or restore perspective… You could read Viktor Frankl… or take up meditation… or get therapy… I did all those things and found them each helpful in their own way. There are a lot of other things a person can do to shift perspective.

This morning I am sipping my coffee and thinking about the weird weekend from the perspective of having had a restless night, and being abruptly wakened (too early) by my Traveling Partner’s frustrated plea that I please work in the office today so he could get some sleep, himself. (I don’t doubt my snoring was keeping him awake, which sucks, and my office is adjacent to our bedroom and this manual keyboard is noisy, and my typing tends to reflect my emotions… I get it.) I was seriously looking forward to working from home this morning. I wasn’t set up to leave for the office at all. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant “wake up call”. I didn’t sleep well, myself so I just got up immediately, dressed, and “left for work” – hours before my work day even begins. I thought about just parking somewhere and napping in the car. I wasn’t actually properly awake when I left the house and possibly should not even have been driving (I was pretty groggy, hadn’t yet had my coffee, and was functioning on “auto pilot”, and feeling hurt to be asked to leave). I was feeling pretty “unwelcome in my life” – which is a shitty perspective to take on one’s own experience, honestly, and skewed hard away from the demonstrably positive real life experience I actually live day-to-day. I started the morning moody and emotional, and vexed with my partner. Bleh. I feel rather fortunate that I happened upon the awareness that this blog is now 10 years old, almost to the day (yesterday was the actual date of my actual first post). It’s given me new perspective on my perspective and a chance to write about perspective, generally, which tends to shift my focus from my own perspective to… perspective as its own thing. lol

The tl;dr is that perspective matters – and you can change yours. (Your results may vary.)

…I’m not “in a better mood” or any more well-rested than I would have been without the opportunity to reflect on and write about perspective, but it is much harder to just wallow in a shitty mood over the crappy start to my day once I take the time to slow down and reflect on some positives. I feel myself starting to let that shit go.

The weekend was actually pretty wonderful. We got some things done. Celebrated some achievements. Loved each other thoroughly. We also found ourselves dealing with a couple unexpected moments of strife. Predictable. Human primates are emotional creatures, and barely domesticated. I try not to get hung up on those, although now and then such moments find me reconsidering my life choices, if only for a moment. :-\

I stare into my coffee lost in my thoughts. Often.

10 years. This year I’ll be 60. Another opportunity to begin again.

Sipping my coffee and feeling a tad sluggish and disengaged this morning. I am contemplating all the many things I think want to do, experience, or change. From this vantage point of “feeling disengaged”, it suddenly seems quite overwhelming to want to both “be very good at my work” and also “improve my fitness and emotional wellness”. Fuuuuuck… there are a lot of verbs wrapped up in those two things, and my list is longer than those! Suddenly I just want to walk on a beach somewhere – hot or cold – and just be. I feel… exhausted. Makes no sense. I’m resting, aren’t I? My sleep is okay, isn’t it? I sigh out loud in this quiet place where my day has started.

…I check my fitness tracker for data, instead of relying on impressions and emotions…

Over the past month I’ve averaged 7 hours or so of sleep per night, and the change in medication has resulted in the sleep I get being much more restful. That’s good news. Looking closer I also see that there are a couple noteworthy outliers – nights that I slept more than 9 hours. When I eliminate those (3 nights), the average amount of sleep I’m actually getting is only 6 hours. Endurable but not ideal (for me personally). Okay, so maybe I really am tired. No point taking fatigue personally.

I find myself imagining driving some great distance and parking alongside a sunny meadow on a quiet lane and napping in my car. lol To be “nowhere doing nothing” sounds incredibly enticing right now.

…I find myself “in this place” kind of a lot…

I take a breath. I grab a bottle of water. I stretch. I think about fitness and emotional wellness – maintaining my health sort of allows everything else to fall into place more easily, and keeps challenges feeling quite manageable, generally. The changes to my medication have done a lot of reduce my anxiety and improve my energy and the quality of my rest. What am I missing? Exercise? I’m getting more of that too – and it feels good. A healthy diet? Definitely eating a more healthy diet, and it shows. I’m even drinking more water. So… what’s missing?

Cognitive rest matters more than I sometimes think about. Not just sleep, but actually giving my brain sufficient “down time” to process buffered information, and to rest/recharge/rebuild – and I’m pretty bad about making sure I get enough of that sort of rest. The new medications help, but I go from the cognitive busy-ness of a work day to the cognitive busy-ness of hearing about everything going on in the shop for my Traveling Partner, and then pump additional information into my head through my eye balls on top of that. Day after day, night after night – and I’m doing it without quite enough sleep. It’s too much, and it’s that simple. This need for (and lack of) cognitive rest is the primary driver of most of my trips out to the coast, my camping trips, and my time out on some trail with my camera. I’m just seeking internal quiet.

Giving myself a few minutes in the morning to really think about what I need to thrive, and listen to the woman in the mirror, goes a long way to meet the need for stillness… but it’s not “a cure”. This morning, I get to the end of my “me time” with a yawn, and a third cup of coffee.

It’s time to begin again.