Homework assignment: Sleep

Someone linked Robert Sapolsky’s marvelous lecture on depression at Stanford some time back, and I was completely floored by how well it matched….and explained! so many of my symptoms.  Yes, it’s a seven year old lecture.  I cried as I watched it, even though he’s funny, because finally someone articulated all those things I couldn’t explain to people about where I am right now.  (And have been, over and over in my life.)

When I was about 19, my boyfriend at the time expressed complete exasperation with my constant state of exhaustion.  He told me I needed to get checked out, because lots of people managed a lot more activity than I did without being so tired all the time. (Here’s my middle finger for that guy.) I wasn’t tired like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tired, but constantly sleepy and often just unwilling to move.

It’s really been a long time since I’ve felt truly energetic.  I probably haven’t felt energized since junior high school.  Now, I’m not a slug.  I’ve run a half marathon and all three times I went to college, I worked more than one job, did some kind of collegiate activity and took a full load of classes.  But yawning is my default mode.

Actual sleep, however, never comes easily, and I rarely stay asleep for eight hours.  I usually wake up anywhere from four to eight times during the night.  Even if I “sleep in,” and stay in bed for ten hours, more than half that time, I feel like I’m in the shallow pool of unconsciousness, and the slightest movement will wash me up into wakefulness.  And I’m usually right.

So this week, my counselor asked me to work on sleep.  If I use a sleep aid, such as Tylenol PM, I’m to do it for a full ten days, to make sure I obtain the normal sleep cycles and habituate them. I haven’t done that yet, but I’m thinking about it.

(Nope, no Ambien, thanks.  I’d be one of those people sleep driving to work at 2 a.m. and ending up in the river.)

For now, I’m doing lavender oil and starting a bedtime ritual.  (Jammies, wash face, teeth brushed, lavender oil on feet and back of head, read, then out.)

No change yet and I’m still exhausted.  So I’ll probably begin the sleep aid thing tomorrow.

I hope it helps.  It would be nice to have something help for a change.

Coming back from pain

On Sunday, I injured my lower back doing squats.  Monday, I seemed fine by afternoon, but I woke up Tuesday morning in real pain, and worse, instability.  I couldn’t control my own movement with the easy, fine touch that we all take for granted.  Even being careful, I would hit a place where the pain would shock me and make me recoil into another place of pain.  Then I would recoil from that, and the overcorrections would cause their own pain. 

I spent much of Tuesday in bed with a heating pad.  

Yesterday, I woke with less pain, but the same instability.  I felt my back and belly were weak, that the girder of muscles that kept me upright had taken a vacation and gone off to someplace it didn’t hurt.  I used the heating pad now in a seating position and set to work finding exercises to bring them back.  

I found this.

The middle exercise looked impossible to me yesterday.  I couldn’t do even the mild yoga from Prevention that I was supposed to do for the day.  I managed Warrior II on the right (injured) side, and then was supposed to place my right elbow on my right knee and stretch my left arm over.  I almost went to the floor.  

The prospect of sitting flat on the floor with straight legs and my hands behind my head, by itself, even without the lean forward, was enough to make me want to cry.  

But late last night, I tried it.  

It was amazing.  The backs of my legs screamed, as the therapist said they would, but the pain in my back was gone, everything was open, and I felt in control of my body for the first time in a few days.  

I even felt good enough to do about 15 slow crunches.  

That’s the priority when this is over.  I’m going to get my core stabilized and strong, so this doesn’t happen again.  I don’t care if I ever wear a swimsuit again–who wants to see my tiger stripes, anyway–I just don’t want to feel out of control like this again.  Enjoy Hawaii, belly, because when you get back, we are going to WORK!

Can you imagine how much worse this would have been if I had been 15 pounds heavier, with heart palpitations and wheezing?  

I hit the road for 25 minutes today.  It hurt and I’m sitting with a heating pad on my lower back right now, but it needed done.