02 June 2009

An ugly - and sadly familiar - demon rears its head

I've had trouble sleeping for years.  Long years, as in perhaps more than ten.

I hate to say it thusly, but 'tis true; this started happening when DH and I had been dating for a while.  A year.  Maybe slightly more or less.  Was he the source of stress?  What-ever!  No, of course not.  

The problem started with me falling asleep at his house, waking up, and driving home around 1:30 or 2:00 AM.  Then I'd have problems falling back asleep.  Then I'd get up the next day and start all over again.

This went on for years, quite literally, until we got married.  Once we lived in the same space, I didn't have to wake up and drive anywhere in the middle of the night, but my body couldn't get used to that.  Additionally, our first apartment was above ground, and my bedroom at my parent's house was in the cellar.  The dark, cool, silent cellar.  Every single outside noise woke me; cars, wind, the birds, rain, the early morning light....

After we'd been married for a year or so, the stress level at Ye Olde Evile Bank ratcheted up by 1000%, and I had trouble sleeping because of the worries and woes of work.  Fights, ahem, "discussions" were had about DH's alarm at that time, too; he sets it for almost 2 hours before he gets up.  Oh, yes, he plans to be out of bed at 4 AM and off to work, but that seldom if ever happens, and his alarm wakes me during those last few precious hours of sleep.  He, however, falls back asleep, and then leaps out of bed at 6:30, rushes around frantically, and makes it to work at 7.  Not that the alarm thing still irritates me all these years later.  Nope.  Not at all.  Have I mentioned that he sleeps like the dead?  I'm more jealous of that than annoyed over the alarm thing, honestly.  Wish I could too.

It was then that I started investigating alternatives to OTC sleeping pills, which I leaned on back then when I'd slept badly for a few nights in a row.  I've listed so many times the things I've tried for sleep:  melatonin.  Lavender.  Chamomile.  Valerian Root.  None of it worked well.

I changed jobs, and then we moved out of that horrible apartment.  The stress at the new job was different, and at first I thrived on it.  But later, around the end of 2005, it got so much worse.  The death of my old non-profit job was a slow and painful thing, like watching someone die of cancer that wastes away a vibrant person and leaves a nearly skeletal shell.  

By that time, I'd tried both Lunesta and Ambien, and discovered the wonders of prescription sleep aids.  Ambien has always been my favorite.  It is like turning off a light; BAM, you're out, blissful unawareness for at least a few hours.

As the deterioration of my beloved non-profit escalated, and I got progressively more depressed, sleep was such a wonderful refuge.  When I could sleep, that is.  Mostly, I got an hour or two, and then I'd be awake worrying about things outside of my control.

A quick aside here; the meds seem to help with the worrying.  I worry less about a lot of things, and I know that's the medication, not me mellowing with age.

When I was unemployed, when my world finally imploded, I slept a little better because I could sleep whenever I wanted.  I'd sleep until 10 or 11 AM, and then I'd go work out, come home, spend some time surfing the J-man forums, look half-heartedly for work, made dinner for DH, and wait for him to go to sleep so I could go back to the forums.

In 2007, my Auntie H got really sick, and I was on night duty at the hospice.  That further messed up my internal clock.  After she passed away, I started working that horrible sales job, and we all know what a really shitty year June of 2007 through June of 2008 was for me.  The winter of 2008 was easily the hardest of my life, bar none, and I relied on Ambien for getting more than 2 hours of sleep.

My work now is different again from anything else I've previously done, and I love it.  Wholeheartedly, but my entire life is not wrapped up in it, as it was at the old non-profit.  This job is super-stressful in short bursts, and in between, is not so horrible for stress.  But years of bad sleep habits are hard to break.

Spending more than a month in Europe isn't helpful either.  That 6 hour time difference...hooo boy, does it mess with MY head.  I dunno if it bothers everyone else the same way, but I've been home for more than a week now, and at 3 PM in Ohio, its 9 PM in Sweden, and I think it is bedtime.  I didn't get to bed in Sweden even one night of the entire trip before 10 PM, but I'd be ready to end the day before that most of the time.  So at dinner-time here, I'm dragging.  But at midnight, its time to get up!  

I slept better there than I do at home.  I'm unsure of exactly why, but there are a few solid reasons.  One, I had the window open in my room, wherever I was staying, almost every night.  Cool nights and cool rooms make for wonderful sleep conditions.  Two, we had 16-18 hour 'work' days.  You slept when and where you could, and I'd sleep pretty solidly 5 hours at a time.  Home, its rare I get more than 3 hours at a time.  Three, the stress I was under in Sweden is a vastly different thing that here in the states.  What I did there was often emotionally exhausting, and I think I'll write about that more soon.  But you were essentially "on," being cheerful and friendly and agreeable whenever you were awake.  That does take its toll on you, but it isn't the same as worrying about work.

I'm tired.  So, so tired.  But not sleepy.  After midnight, with a spring thunderstorm raging outside, and I'm chillin'.  Relaxed, in my jammies, at home.  I am not, however, asleep.  As the Brits say:  BUGGER!


Lora said...

I found your blog because someone came to my blog from yours twice so I was afraid I wasn't reading the blog of someone I know! I don't think I know you, I can't find a link to my blog anywhere (it could have been that "next blog" button at the top of the page or maybe because I had a post entitled Well Behaved Women) but boy, sister.

I hear you on this.

I'm smack in the middle of a bout of the sleeplesses too.
I'll be thinking about you in the middle of the night tonight!
And I'll be following your blog from now on, I love it!

Lucy Arin said...

Hi Lora-
Thanks for your comment! I had a glimpse of your profile and blogs in a not-stalker-sort-of-way and I'm loving what you've got to say too. I'm sure you'll see me popping by from time to time on your blog.