Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sleepless on the Island . . .

I've been having the most ridiculously obvious anxiety dreams -- part of last night's had me being left behind somewhere south of the border, perhaps one or two states away, and having to drive myself back. Part of the drive was up a terrifyingly stark incline, and for none of the drive did I have any idea which way I was supposed to go. Oh, and did I mention that my cellphone battery (in the dream) was dead. And that I'd misplaced my wallet. The latter might have something to do with actually having lost my wallet yesterday, not discovering that it was gone until I was at the gas pump and reached for my card to pre-pay. Long story short, I'd left it behind on the ferry and someone had turned it in. So that ended well, but the anxiety hasn't stopped quite yet.

Indeed, these dreams have been plaguing me at least once a week for weeks and weeks and weeks now. Another version has me losing children, instant adrenaline knife to the heart for a mom. Surprisingly, none of them yet have featured my classes, although my instinct would be to blame much of my worrying on work. Hmmm. I didn't even realize that until I typed that last sentence. Food for thought.

The dreams themselves are alarming, waking me in full panic mode, heart pounding, sometimes near tears, ready to fight or run or protect myself by curling up into a little ball. Even more annoying, the mood they cast doesn't dissipate quickly. Last night, I woke from one at 2, and finally went downstairs for some fret-walking and a glass of warm milk and cinnamon. Back in bed at 3:30, I registered times until 4, when I must have dropped off. Only to wake again, heart pounding, just before 6. It's going to be a long day.

So here, to soothe me -- and perhaps please you more than this sorry recitation -- is a favourite photo snapped in a beloved city (Paris) two or three years ago.

And if you also suffer occasionally from anxiety dreams and other forms of insomnia, I'd be curious to hear what seem to be the triggers. I should be on the side of menopause that has moved past the hormonal swings, but I do sometimes wonder if those might be a factor. My sense is that I can move through some crises with no sleep disruption while other times I'm prey to anxiety over apparently much smaller concerns.
Oh, and feel free to share what colour or shape of sheep count you back into slumbers. . . .

32 comments:

  1. No fun waking in the middle of the night, and thinking...! My solution is to put on earbuds and listen to the BBC or similar, very softly. Then I have something distracting if I really am wide awake, but generally I doze off. I use only one earbud, and switch it to whatever ear's not on the pillow. Have done this for years, maybe 15, and never felt the need for sleep medication

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    1. I should perhaps keep my ipod and earbuds by the bed, at the ready. . . . Perhaps an audio book . . . Thanks for the suggestion.

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  2. I don't often wake up during the night, or indeed have trouble sleeping, but when I do it is really difficult. I don't really have a way to get back to sleep easily - I like Anon's solution. I wonder what's going on with you? Hope that it passes soon.

    I do, however, often feel anxious and I guess it's a bit of a comfort to know that it's part of menopause and should lessen eventually.

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    1. There are a few family things at the moment, but much is a fairly predictable mid-term generalized anxiety, I think. . . And I do try to hold onto the comforting notion that it's part of hormonal shifting which will eventually settle. . .

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  3. Math works for me; i do the multiplication tables - i love math and numbers, but on the rare occasions when i am sleepless, the tables take me right back to slumber land

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    1. So you multiply your sheep -- I like that! ;-) (and may I guess that mia is a granddaughter and "nini" is your family version of Nana or Grandma? I love the name!)

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  4. I do wake occasionally at night and I use Yoga breathing, focusing on the inhale and exhale to calm my mind and usually get right back to sleep. I find that I sleep much sounder after a brisk walk during the day...dreams are weird indeed.
    How fortunate for you that your wallet was returned, I left mine at the post office once and headed off to the spa empty handed and only realized it was missing when I had to pay for what was a relaxing massage! Luckily they had my credit card on file from a previous visit.
    I also had to get out of the underground parking lot and explain to the attendant that I had no money! When I go thome there was a message on my phone saying it was safe and waiting for me to pick up at my convenience.
    Your wakeful evening might have been brought on by the stress of the events during the day...it is hard to shake off the thoughts and ramifications of losing your wallet.

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    1. You're probably right that the day's stress over my wallet played a part, but I had a similarly poor sleep on Saturday -- and that was after running 30 kilometres! I do try conscious meditative breathing, but I suppose I need to persist longer.

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  5. I only have trouble with nighttime waking these days when I exceed my one drink/night quota:(. Otherwise, I've been having very vivid dreams, even talking in my sleep, but not waking. Since leaving work my sleep is much improved.

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    1. I would allow myself as much vivid dream and sleep-talking as I could manage if only myself would not wake me up! I suspect that leaving work would make a difference, but perhaps not as much as I might hope . . . I do find that keeping the drinks down to one makes a big difference (no alcohol was drunk yesterday . . . )

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  6. I almost daren't say anything, cuz I don't want to tempt fate, but sleeping is one thing I seem to be able to do most of the time. I do have some anxiety (and seriously tedious OCD) dreams, but I won't complain (amazingly). I am very noise-sensitive, so if there's partying up the block, things can get very ugly in my brain. I try to talk myself off the ledge in those situations. And I call the police - something that isn't really going to assist you :-)

    Do want to say that I LOVE that photo you've posted. It's so evocative. I imagine that those ladies have been friends for many decades and they're off for a beautiful lunch.

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    1. Being able to sleep is a good talent, so definitely don't tempt fate on that one. . . I'm chuckling sympathetically, though, at the notion of you muttering away in bed at the party up the street.
      As for the photo -- I'm glad you love it as much as I do. I was so pleased to have captured it as it evokes just what you say and I find it such a comforting image of a possible old age not so very far off. . .

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  7. Very sorry to hear about you sleeping problems. Anxiety dreams are so terrible! I used to have them and I'm quite willing to share my experience with you, but I haven't got time now. So, with your permission, I'll continue this comment later.
    All the best.

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    1. Permission granted! I look forward to hearing what you'll have to say.

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    2. OK, here's what happened to me: I used to have bad dreams for quite a while. The subject was roughly the same always: in my dreams I suddenly realized that I had forgotten some child or cat(s) I should have looked after. So while I struggled to get to my charges, finding ever more absurd obstacles blocking my way, my guilt any panic used to mount until I would wake up frantic and with all the physical sypmtoms you describe. Neddless to say, not once did I manage in my dream to find out the real consequences of my neglect.
      As I found out in the end, the dream was not about being a bad mother or cat carer (which I am not) but about not caring for myself enough. The feelings of panic and desperation belonged to the neglected part, in the dream taken over by children or cats. As soon as I realized that (and with that I mean it made "clic" in my head and I KNEW this was the right expanation) the dreams stopped never to return again.
      Now the dream that you describe seem to me to mean something like LOST or even ABANDONED. Is it possible that your weak and helpless side (which we all have) has been left to its own devices lately and is weeping in the dark? (Sorry for this. I don't know you and I certainly don't want to intrude.)
      As for lying awake at night, I always keep some mildly interesting newspaper or journal articles next to my bed. They normally send me back to sleep within half an hour or so.

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    3. This makes much sense, Eleonore. My dreams do include that component of the forgotten or lost child -- very often, there is also forceful imagery involving me driving in very difficult and dangerous conditions as well, . . I'm glad you found the significance of your own dreams with such a clarity that they actually stopped. I hope mine do the same as I gradually (I hope) puzzle out their meaning. Thanks for taking time to come back with your comment.

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  8. I also use yoga breathing on those nights that dreams chase me back to wakefulness. It's such an awful sensation - sorry that you're struggling with this intrusive anxiety.

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    1. It is an awful sensation, isn't it? I find it rather frustrating that it persists at a gut level even when my brain/mind knows I have nothing so worrisome that it can't be worked through . . . except for those big ones that I'll never be able to change anyway. . . Rationalism doesn't cut it at 2 a.m., sadly. . .

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  9. I've surmised that my bad dreams tend to go along with waking in a panic and feeling some sort of not-rightness in my body; I think my predictable little brain responds to the uncomfortable physical feelings by producing imagery that is at least equally uncomfortable. I am happier with this explanation that with the psychological notion that I am repressing thoughts or feelings too terrifying to deal with while awake. My solution is to get out of bed and drink a glass of water and get as thoroughly chilled as I can bear before climbing back into the warm bed - relaxation follows as I become more comfortable, and sleep often comes after that. And thanks for that charming photo - I am homesick for Paris (which has never been my home, but there is no other word for it, unless you know of one?).

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    1. Not sure of the source, but I also try that trick of getting chilled as much as I can stand -- part of what wakes me (and perhaps, as you suggest, is the discomfort that induces the wake-me-up panic dream) is overheating. Getting up seems to give me a chance to reset the body thermometer.
      If we find that word, we'll need to trumpet it . . . many of us, I suspect, are homesick for Paris even though we've never been lucky enough to call it home.

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  10. Can I say that I'm a bit relieved to know of your anxiety dreams? I thought I was the only one. They've just started recently, in the past six months or so and are truly wretched. I awaken feeling like something is seriously wrong although I often don't remember the dream itself. I am thinking that the dreams relate to my back issues somehow - when my back is bad the dreams are worse.
    I find it very difficult to return to sleep. I pray, I think, I recite. I've learned to not worry when I can't sleep because that only heightens my anxiety. Getting up for a bit often helps. The day following is difficult, but I comfort myself by thinking what a wonderful sleep I'll have that night.
    Your photo is delightful. Paris. Sigh.

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    1. You may indeed say that. . . these kinds of conversations are such a relief, I think, exactly for letting us know that we're not alone. And you're right that it's best not to get into a state about it as that only worsens the worry. I'm pushing myself through, today, and making myself get to my Pilates class is going to take a bit of self-talk, but I'm hoping that a good stretch, a nice light meal, and then a good night's sleep will get me back on the right path again. Maybe I'll even dream of walking my bike up a Paris street with a friend. Sigh . . . ;-)

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  11. I'm joining this conversation a bit late, but I also have those dreams that waken you and do not seem to dissipate easily. I have always thought mine were generated by the need to squeeze too many tasks into too little time. They don't occur as often as when I was still teaching, since there are fewer "balls in the air" these days! My worst dreams have me waking up yelling (not exactly screaming) which scare the you-know-what out of my husband. I'm lucky in that I usually fall right back asleep. Not my poor husband, though...who has to spend time reading himself sleepy again.
    Love that picture of Paris. It makes me smile.

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    1. Yikes! Poor husband indeed. I'll have to tell mine how lucky he is. . . ;-)

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  12. I had a difficult year with some nasty people in my life and had those awful anxiety dreams too frequently. Lost weight unexpectedly because the fear stayed with me during the day. I did all the right things (exercise, socail life, meditation) and knew that the situation in no way warranted my extreme reaction. But there were some annoying and frustrating things going on. The recommendation that helped me was to physically write down what was upsetting me before I went to bed.....but to also write down the calmer, kinder, more logical answer. Helped me sleep through the night....not change the situation but eventually that did change and I usually sleep fine nowadays. That lovely Paris picture is full of the love and sunshine that you can feel inside of you.

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    1. Anxiety never seems to respond well to reason, does it, once it's taken up residence in our bodies. But your approach seems wise -- translating that emotion into reason through a physical act. It must have been a horrid year, and you must be so glad to have it behind you. Thanks for the suggestion which I may very well adopt. And yes, isn't that photo happy-making?

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  13. In our school staffroom of (mostly) heading-out-of-menopausers( !) sleeping well has become something people comment on with excited tones- as in" I slept so well last night!" It definitely seems to be problematic for those of us of a certain age.I have no answer-drives me mad.I've cut back on coffee, tried changing exercise to earlier time slots, read before bed, not read before bed, etc... The best I can do is console myself that, if I sleep poorly for a night or two, sooner or later I will get a good night's catch-up because my brain will just have to!

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    1. Somehow it's a consolation to know I/we have company, no? Thanks for sharing this -- I guess my response is similar to yours. As long as it's only the occasional night, I can reconcile myself to catching up occasionally. . .

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  14. I started to have terrible dreams when I became a grandmother. I thought, at the time, that it had something to do with the terrible love I had for my grandson and my complete lack of power to protect him from the whole wide world.
    The bad dreams subsided, but for some years now I have slept badly, waking at 0319. I'd love to know what is significant about 0319!!! I live in the country - no light, no noise - but something happens at 0319. A mystery.

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    1. So interesting about 3:19 -- whether the message comes from outside or inside. . . our brains and our receptive-sensory systems are fascinating.
      And I agree that the Nana gig shifts my big-picture worries up a few notches. . .

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  15. Dreams..I am a teacher too and up until December had been plagued night after night with similar dreams. Always trying to get somewhere (where?) by public transport but never making it - planes wouldn't fly, crowded trains, wrong platform - or driving a car without brakes on icy roads, riding a bike at night because I wasn't allowed to drive to work...absolutely exhausting. And then I would wake up and think about work and progress and standards and parents and children and, and, and. Finally ended up weeping in my classroom and being sent home by the doctor. It's simple really - it is all tied up with having to make deadlines and achieve targets and more, more, more. Also: it is always about 3am because that is the time our bods are at their lowest ebb physically. My only words of advice are: try and stop. I have reined it all in and decided to be more realistic and less personally involved. Hard, I know, in a people-centred profession. But, like you, am past my first youth and do not want to spend my later years as a madwoman. Good luck and enjoy Reading Week. Half term for us next week. Sleep, walking and general pottering on the menu.

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    1. So glad you've found some relief -- you put my occasional night in perspective. I love your words of advice "try and stop": -- emphasis on the "try," surely!! ;-) Enjoy your Half Term. (My Reading Week already has two meetings on the roster, unfortunately, and much of the Reading is Marking! ;-)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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