With apologies to anyone who struggles with real sleeping difficulties, I am not sleeping well. Relatively speaking. I am a sleep obsessive and a bit of a zealot. I firmly believe, and a wealth of current books and articles suggest that I am not wrong, that if I sleep well I am much healthier. Both in mind and body. I have never subscribed to the heroic boasting of how little sleep I have had. I sleep well at night for seven hours and can nap like a pro. The offspring have semi-seriously enquired whether I have sleep on my CV, it certainly seems to be a skill.
Recently my sleep has not been as good, I am trying all sorts. The room is as dark as I can make it. I don’t eat before bed, I make sure I eat healthily in the day, I exercise in the daytime, but not too close to bed. Except yoga – and that helps I think. I don’t drink caffeine after noon. I don’t drink alcohol every day – a glass of wine definitely disrupts sleep.
Despite all this effort I can’t stop waking up in the night, I don’t wake up for long and can generally drop back off. I have no idea what time it is happening, as I have turned off all clocks in the light reduction effort. I suspect that part of the issue is that my days vary a lot, I work in different locations, using different modes of transport and with different teams. I tend to wake up feeling bit anxious trying to work out what I am doing today.
In an attempt to offset this feeling of confusion, I have written down a timetable for this morning and read it in detail last night again before settling down. It certainly helped me drop off much more quickly when I woke up in the night and I woke up keen to get the day started, knowing that the slot between 6 and 6:45 involved coffee and blogging. My sleep may not be perfect, but at least I am getting a blog written. I still woke up though, so maybe that is now a habit which will take a while to wear off.
And I am intending a good catch-up nap at the weekend. I am totally aware that anyone with a proper sleep problem is rolling their eyes at this blog – my heart bleeds for you and the real pain you feel.
On Friday I donated blood. Nearly a pint of my O+ is now lurking in the UK blood stocks should anyone need it.
It is taking me a while to process the enormity of achieving something I have always wanted to do; I was jolly nervous and it has taken a while to process. I had no immediate feeling of exhilarated “I’ve done it”. Rather I wanted to sleep, which is a fairly normal Abigail-reaction to trauma.
A few days later and it feels a huge achievement. For many years I was phobic of needles. I had problems walking into a friend’s bathroom where I knew her diabetic mother kept her hypodermics. I have needed up unconscious in hospital because I refused an injection to help me breathe. I made a decision not to travel anywhere where vaccinations were needed.
It was that final decision that broke the behaviour. My decision was not affecting me, but also my husband who wanted to travel. Heck, I wanted to travel. This was about 25 years ago and I realised that life was limited through my fear. Strangely the effect of the hospital episode on my parents had never occurred to me until Friday, post-blood donation. My Mum is owed a large apology! Once I had decided it could not go on, I sought counselling and hypnotherapy and have never avoided an injection since. Every annual flu vaccination has me marvelling at how not scared I am. Blood tests were not so easy though, hence the decades it has taken me to get to donating.
I cannot say I enjoyed donating blood. The length of time involved (about 10 minutes) with a needle in my arm made it much harder to control the demons. I did though. I felt anxious as one does doing something unknown. It felt a bit uncomfortable – my veins are narrow, the needle is not, I was very tense anyway. Afterwards I felt such a resounding sense of relief that I honestly couldn’t say if it was a reaction to the loss of blood or the fact I had done something I was nervous about and come through it.
But I did it. I will do it again. And I am really really proud of myself. Feel like I can achieve anything.
And if you are scared of needles and have read all the way through this – well done – no way I could have done that 25 years ago!
Everyone has hard days, either at work, or at home. Yesterday I had one of those hard work days. A year or so ago I would have dealt with that with food – cake, chocolate, wine – and hours of Facebook/Instagram scrolling. And allowing myself to get angry inside.
Yesterday I leaned in to my new support systems.
A specific colleague who is great at having perspective and a less emotional reaction to bad days. She does not get into the mess with me, she offers me a way out.
A specific group of friends who I am virtually journeying through the year with in a particular quest to make life a little bit better together. We cheer each other’s successes. We help each other through the bad days, offering a wider perspective that we are not bad people, we are good people who have bad days. We have a wide range of skills and talents and sometimes we do things wrong, but we have what we need to correct the mistakes.
A knowledge that eating well and resting well will ultimately help me. So I spent travel time resting not doing. Not diverting my brain, but letting it process. I did indulge in food-based treats – but just a couple of squares of very dark chocolate. I stuck to the healthy eating otherwise during the day. I didn’t reach for the evening coffee and cake combo that my brain started telling me I needed.
And then my domestic support in the guise of my husband – a support system that has been in place for close on three decades! He shepherded me to a cosy corner of a local pub for a G&T. Not the totally healthy solution, but better than downing half a bottle of wine in the kitchen on a school night. Being out of the house contained the debrief of the day. Once we were home I felt happy, supported and reassured and able to refocus in on all that is good.
My sunrise and sunset check in show one little blip in life. At sunrise I was running along the Thames. The day was good as well as bad. I had plenty to write in the gratitude journal, and my overall reflection on yesterday – a very good day with loads of support and lovely people in it. Couldn’t ask for more.
Yesterday was my birthday. I love my birthday. It is a day to relish and do the out of the ordinary. It’s day to take stock of life and enjoy what is good.
I always take a day off work on my birthday (a hangover from when I worked somewhere that offered that as a benefit), yesterday was no different.
My day was filled with a birthday plethora of family and friends, some in person, most via brilliant cards (very funny ones this year!) and kind texts and Facebook messages. It always fills me with amazement and a lot of thankfulness at the huge group of friends I have built over my nearly five decades of life and the steady growth in the family.
It’s been a busy few months and planning the day was a casualty of having too much on my plate over the past few weeks. So friends and family stepped in and planned for me. My birthday involved breakfast out with my husband, a run, some downtime, outdoor swimming and jacuzzi and a relaxed lunch, dinner with family. I ate my favourite foods and drank excellent wine.
None of yesterday would have felt special without the people involved. I felt loved and cherished and that feels good. Thank you everyone.
Thank you for support yesterday. The dog had his blood re-tested and all is well. Apparently having abnormal blood tests is something that happens sometimes, the re-test showed everything to be as expected. The vet said the very reassuring “panic over” (actually I hadn’t panicked – I was just mithering, and I should have been panicking??). I am blaming the strange test results on over-consumption of doggie birthday cake. I am blatantly not a vet, so my diagnosis of cake-affected blood panel should be ignored. The dogs tell me the cake was delicious and they feel it should be consumed more often. As you can tell, the relief is making me slightly silly.
It was a great exercise in me spending a short time writing down the problem I saw and immediately getting a new perspective on it. It is not always clearer, but it is always different to see my thoughts in writing instead of just in a muddled mess of thinking.
The day changed after blogging. The sense of being overwhelmed reduced and somehow nothing seemed so impossible. Hurrah for writing.
My computer insists that the word ‘mithering’ is not correct and keeps auto-correcting it to ‘withering’. Which feels quite apt actually, because I have spent this weekend with a mithering worry in mind and it is withering my relaxation and sense of happiness.
It is just a mither though – nothing too serious and nothing we will not cope with, but still there and bothering me. The dog is not well. We know the dog is not well – he has cancer of the adrenal gland which has made him unwell for well over four years now. But just over four years ago he was given somewhere between weeks and years to live, and he was properly poorly. He has, in his own poodle way, taught us to approach every day of his life with an enthusiastic wagging tail and to look forward to whatever meal, walk, cuddle is right in front of him. Not expecting more, just loving whatever he has. It has been a good lesson in life.
It is a lesson I took to heart a few weeks ago when we decided to have a mad celebration of his tenth birthday. Having never been sure he would make it to ten, we thought it fitting to celebrate what was there in front of us. We baked a dog cake, we bought presents. In fact we seem to have taught the old dog new tricks – unwrapping presents and emptying gift bags – unfortunately he has no way of differentiating between his presents and those intended for others. Oops.
So, I do feel we have enjoyed every moment as much as we can. But this afternoon the vet wants to re-run some blood tests as they suspect the poor dog has a second very rare disease. That would colloquially be known as sod’s law.
It turns out that although I thought I had made peace with him not lasting forever, the sadness of having to actually face this is definitely pervading my mood. Time to just accept I am worried and get on with the day being worried and doing other stuff at the same time. I am hoping that naming it helps that process.
You may have gathered that I am in a slump at the moment. I know it is the transition of the seasons from that gorgeous hot summer to the dark of the winter. I know it is the incredible busyness of September and October. I know it is the change in our family circumstance as one of the offspring leaves home. I know all of that. Knowing it makes it much easier and I had a sense of acceptance that this was just the mood of September and October.
I do feel I am coming through it. I have had to rest for medical reasons, so having to focus on sleeping has probably helped a lot. I have tried to spend a bit of time reflecting on what has gone well and a lot has gone very well and I have done a lot despite the energy slump.
One of the things that has helped a lot is social media. I know it is not trendy to see social media as a force for good, but I do. I am vigilant about what I follow and what I click on, generally I avoid news consumption on social media and I make sure I interact with people, so it becomes an important part of my social activity. It’s not my whole social activity, believe me, but it is a good part of it.
Yesterday it came up trumps in many ways. I directly declared I needed motivation to get to a yoga class and it came in spades, delivered with gusto and humour and of course everyone was right, I felt better for going, I also felt better for having some interaction with people and knowing that they were sympathetic of my sofa versus yoga battle. I could have asked some friends via text to nudge me, but that felt intrusive in their days. The friends on Facebook were obviously having some downtime too and were happy to reach out to me in that downtime. That is a lovely feeling.
Thank you to everyone who helped me out the door, I had a great evening and have had the best night’s sleep this week. And, hugely importantly I had to walk home from the class. Walking in the dark for the first time is always a psychological hurdle in the autumn I find. I leapt that hurdle and had a great evening, much of it down to social media. Thank you!