Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and the medications, dosages, and treatments described here are not meant for any readers to use as their own diagnoses and dosages. I have deliberately been vague about actual medications and some of their dosages to prevent this. They are described here purely for the purposes of showing fellow anxiety sufferers that there is help for them out there and that there is hope for them. Please seek professional medical help if you need it.
Most of 2016 is a total blur to me. I spent most days in a foggy daze trying my best to just put one foot in-front of the other and make it through the day. I was completely exhausted and couldn’t manage anything more than work each day.
After suffering a breakdown in April 2016 and getting some great help from my doctors, I started getting treatment with medication. My GP also wanted me to see a psychiatrist she knew to be great with sleep issues but I just could not afford the costs and found the stress of trying to organise sessions and find money to be too overwhelming. Psychiatrist visits were put on the back-burner and I turned to some at-home methods.
For most of 2016 I was taking 1 sleeping pill a night along with melatonin to help me get to sleep. It took quite some time for me to actually be able to sleep through the night again. I was waking up frequently throughout the night and was waking my partner as well. I didn’t want to take another sleeping pill to get me back to sleep (although my GP had prescribed twice a night) and would only do so after several truly bad nights (most nights were bad so I would probably end up taking 2 pills total each night every several nights or so). To calm my racing mind and try and lull myself back into sleepy-mode I would go off to the guest bedroom and read there for a few hours until a light sleep eventually took over. This made it much easier on my partner’s sleep patterns and was easier for me to do than to stay in the main bed and toss, turn, and stare at the ceiling. Eventually I pretty much moved into the other room. It was just easier than traipsing from one room to another when I would wake up.
Unfortunately I was spending most nights in the guestroom. Thankfully my partner was very understanding about why and did not get upset.
At the suggestion of my GP and homeopath I also started meditating. I downloaded the Headspace app and tried out the first, free 10 day foundation pack. I was skeptical at first. Sitting still for 10 minutes with my anxious thoughts seemed like a terrible idea but it turned out fine. In fact, I LOVED it! The guided meditations gave me something to focus on and took my attention away from whatever worries were plaguing me. The deep breathing totally relaxed me. I think I listened to the same 10 day foundation pack for 30 days. I downloaded other apps too and tried their free packs but I kept coming back to Headspace.
I cannot recommend meditation more highly. It really is great and whatever app you settle on will have something for you. Meditation won’t fix your issues – I wish! – but, in my case, it has helped lessen the blow of them. It’s helped me to become more comfortable with having a worrier’s mind and maintaining distance from unhelpful thoughts; with having sleeping problems and accepting that this is a problem I have now let’s work with the problem instead of against it; and being nice to myself instead of being so critical at not being the perfect person I always think I should be.
I could go on and on and on for ages about how much I love meditation and, in particular, Headspace but this isn’t a sales pitch and I just want to flag some great options for any insomnia and anxiety sufferers out there.
I also started keeping a journal. Not a very in-depth one, but one simply to note how my sleep was the previous night, anything that was bugging me or anything notable that happened in my day. This helped a load with tracking how bad or good my sleep was over weeks and helped my doctor too in seeing if treatment was working. Another huge positive I found was that it seriously helped to write about anything that bothered me, getting it out onto paper often got it out of my head. After a few months of doing this I could really see the benefit. I would stop worrying during the night about things beyond my control once it was on paper. I found it to be a cathartic exercise and am still practicing it.
In May 2016 I took a trip to England and was extremely worried about how this would affect my sleep. After all, I couldn’t get to sleep in my own bed so how on Earth would I get to sleep in a strange bed in a different environment? I put this to my doctor and she said something that profoundly affected me. It was along the lines of “frame it positively. Think about the great adventure you are going on, how much fun you are going to have, and that you have all the tools you need to help you get to sleep.” Framing things positively might seem obvious but to me it was a first. And it really helped! I can’t say my sleep was great while on holiday but I didn’t worry about it so much. Just accepted it for what it was and I found I didn’t wake up for such long periods during the night. Yes, I would have to sleep in a few hours later in the morning than my other travel buddies (we’re talking until about 8am here, not midday) so the sleep wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t terrible either.
Being overseas and having no mobile connection more than likely helped as well. My work could not contact me at all and for the first time in two years I actually relaxed a bit.
On the topic of work, I had job offer just after we got back from England and accepted it. I mentioned in the previous post that I’d realised how negatively work had affected my life and that I’d realised I needed to change jobs. Moving to a different company was the best move I could’ve made for myself.
I started at the new company in August 2016. I was still struggling with sleep at that stage and with anxiety but as I slowly settled into the new job and realised that I actually had a supportive manager and team who weren’t out to get me and who actually did not contact me outside of working hours (I could have weekends for the first time!) the anxiety slowly started to ebb away.
Changing jobs made me realise: Seriously, if you are stuck in a crappy job that is affecting your life in every negative way possible, leave. Get out. Even if you have children to support. Go to another job, it’s okay if you don’t like that one either. What’s not okay is for your health to be so badly affected by a job that you cannot actually function. It’s not worth it.
Between accepting the job offer (early June) and starting at the new company (August) the months were a bit of a haze. I certainly was feeling better. The sleeping pills were helping although I’d started developing skin rashes about once a month so had to (and still do) keep anti-histamines on me in the event the allergic reaction flared up. I knew that I couldn’t be on sleeping pills forever due to tolerance and developing the skin rashes but, for once, I was starting to feel a bit more human. My sleep still wasn’t perfect but I was slowly starting to sleep a few more hours during the night.
Around the end of August I’d decided that I’d had enough of trying to sleep on my partner’s centuries old mattress. Seriously, it was like being on a jumping/bouncy castle. Every movement he made would have me practically toppling off the mattress and every move I made would wake him up. I wouldn’t say this was the cause of my insomnia but it certainly wasn’t helping it get any better. We invested in a great mattress that was firm and did not vibrate through with the other’s movements (we did a serious jumping test on the showroom mattress). It was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made although I would only really return to sleeping in the main bedroom a few months after taking delivery.
After a few months at the new company, these hours of sleep also turned into many hours of deep sleep. I was able to start exercising a bit more as well although I was careful to not pressure myself into overdoing it and stressing myself out. The anxiety slowly subsided and that horrible feeling in my stomach went away (at last!) with the help of a nexium generic and sleeping better. My thoughts were becoming sharper again and I could actually hold conversations with people again. My humour and wit started coming back too which was great. I’d missed that side of myself. I’d honestly felt like I was stuck in a dark, hopeless pit for months. It was nice to laugh again and it was great to start feeling like my old self. I’d really missed me. I started feeling more confident in social situations and could feel people were starting to enjoy my company again after months of having to deal with a sad version of me.
It was due to these changes that I decided not to be hard on myself for still being on sleeping pills, that I would take things one day at a time, that was okay to find comfort in something that was helping me feel better. But I was also realistic about the fact that I would eventually have to come off them. With my new job going so well for me I decided that I would start weaning myself off them during the Christmas holidays, when I could properly relax. And I also decided that I could make use of my work’s therapy call centre service should I struggle a bit.
More about that next time though.
For now, I want you (whoever you are) to know that you are not alone. There are people out there who are ready to help you, you just need to ask for it.