Have I mentioned lately that I’m tired? I’m bored of my own voice to be honest. I’ve been muddling through life with sleep deprivation for a pretty long while now but a few months ago I got to a point where I felt like it was getting beyond that. Was I simply ‘just’ sleep deprived or was I, in fact, suffering from anxiety? Had my sleep deprived state induced an anxiety disorder? I think maybe it did. But I think I have managed my way through it. I thought we could chat about it today. Because I know I can’t be alone.
Awareness of mental health issues is really on the rise. I see so many people campaigning for openness; for the removal of stigmas attached to mental health issues, for better funding so that more people can be helped and for more awareness. And I think it’s brilliant. For one it has made me be able to evaluate myself more freely and I have felt like actually if I feel I’ve gotten to a point where I can’t manage it anymore it is MORE than ok to go and see my GP and ask for help. There is no shame in it. Not a jot. If anything I believe it is something to be proud of. That in the midst of feeling (sometimes) at your very worst you are able to pick yourself up, get your bum out of the door and try and get some help.
Sleep deprivation arises from lots of different sources. Mine is from having children who don’t sleep. We thought the second couldn’t be as bad as the first… Turns out he was/is worse.
I feel like the symptoms of sleep deprivation and anxiety have very blurry crossing lines. My symptoms aren’t constant (I do show signs of the less severe symptoms most days but the more severe and concerning ones are, luckily, fairly infrequent). I feel dread sometimes. I dread going to bed because I know in a matter of a few hours I will be up again. And I know that I don’t do well at that time of the early morning. I have felt on the edge. On the edge of blowing my top; finding myself unable to handle the situation in front of me (sometimes this can be as minor as getting my five year old to put his shoes on) and on occasion, these moments have led to panic attacks. There have only been a few but that is a few too many. The feeling of not being able to catch your breath is terrifying. I’ve locked myself in the downstairs toilet so I can sob, leaving my nearly two year old in the company of Ben and Holly. I have had many a 1am meltdown, trying to cry silent tears so as not to disturb my husband who has a long drive to work every day but sometimes I have wailed. I’m extremely clumsy and became very disorganised, unable to focus on just one thing at a time or sometimes, anything at all. To sum up; dread, on the edge, tearful, panicky, clumsy, the attention span of a gold fish. That’s a maximum of 9 seconds if you were interested.
The more severe of the symptoms come and go and are more prevalent when we’re having a particularly bad stretch of sleepless nights. I knew I had to make some changes to be able to deal with it and like most people I have spoken to about this sort of thing, I wanted to have a go at breaking it on my own before seeking external help. So I made some changes but I gave myself a goal. If I wasn’t feeling better by a certain date, I would be going to see the GP for advice.
So what changes did I make? I handed bedtime duties solely over to my husband. All of it. From getting pj’s on to brushing teeth to reading stories. And what a relief it has been to do that. Both boys have always been very much about me putting them to bed but after a week or so they were used to the new routine. I joined the gym. I now have some space that is solely for me and my goodness it has made a difference. Maybe it’s the endorphins? I’ve become more selfish. I announce now that ‘I’m going to go and wash my hair’ at 6:45pm and I take myself off. Or ‘I’m popping to the shop’ at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon. And I go. I get some head space and I return feeling more able to focus. I have a new daily routine. I was wearing too many hats all at the same time and feeling overwhelmed by it all. But knowing everything has its own time and place has seemed to straighten out my ability to focus and be productive.
And I have learnt to breathe. When I can feel that bubble rising up inside my chest getting ready to burst I breathe. I count and I breathe it out. For the most part it’s working. Occasionally I find myself having to walk away to remove myself. Shut a door for a couple of minutes. But I’m getting through it. And I’m hoping I’m coming out the other side.
Are you sleep deprived? Do you feel like it’s led you to feel anxious? And do you have any tips on how to deal with feeling overwhelmed by situations? Feel free to tell me how you’re really feeling because all too often we don’t. I know I’ve answered the question with ‘yeah all good thanks’ when really what I wanted to say was ‘I feel like I’m going to throw up on your feet because there is too much on my plate, I feel guilty for having a meltdown at 1am and then shouting at the dog for trying to see if was ok but all I wanted was some space and I haven’t slept properly for 6 years!’. So go on, go for it… How are you today?