Taking the first steps

Tonight will be my 4th night of cutting back on the bedtime routines. I’m pleased to report that things are going well so far. In fact I’m almost ready to cut it down a bit further already. It’s really only a tiny thing to be cutting down on, but it has been quite satisfying none the less. If I can keep this up then I could be free of my bedtime routine by Easter – much earlier than I thought!

Yes, I acknowedge that I picked an easy target for my first ‘experiment’ but it certainly gives me hope that I will be able to tackle the other issues I face. I know that the routines and rituals are going to be easier to cope with than my contamination fears but I think with the confidence I’ll get from overcoming these first few hurdles, I’ll be in a stronger place to fight those things further down the line.

The only difficulty I’ve found so far, is remembering not to do the things that have been routine for so long!

The weekend also saw me take another massive step. As regular readers of my blog will know I’m moving out of the shared house I’ve lived in for a year with a friend mainly because of my OCD. They will also know that I’ve never spoken of my OCD to anyone outside my immediate family and medical professionals. I came to realise at the end of last week, that although I gave my friend 2 valid and genuine reasons for my leaving,  this wasn’t enough.

Though I tried to tell her a couple of times in person, things didn’t go according to plan and things get left up in the air on Friday night with her worrying what was wrong. So, I wrote a short note explaining I have OCD and how I wanted to get a better grip on it this year. I didn’t go into too many details so as not to complicate matters but the few lines still took a couple of hours to write. Surprisingly the email made me cry – a lot. I don’t know why, but it did. I then had an awfully anxious wait to see if she would say anything in return. I had asked her in the email not to tell anyone but to keep it secret but I had no guarantees she would. I was extremely nervous and didn’t sleep well that night.

I got a message back the next morning. She thanked me for telling her, promised never to tell a soul and reassured me I could trust her. She said she wished she had known earlier so she could have helped me. Today we were back at work together and it wasn’t mentioned and she didn’t treat me any differently at all – it’s almost as if it never happened.

It is quite surreal to be honest, to know that out there there’s someone who is not family, that knows my big secret. Although we haven’t spoken about it (the opportunity hasn’t arisen), I think I could talk to her about it if something was particularly troubling me, and it will be easier to explain some of the things I do.

It’s taken me over 10years to find the courage to tell a friend and I don’t yet know the full consequences, but it has made me feel better. We need to start ending the stigma surrounding OCD and other mental health issues now. It has gone on too long. Everyone who has a mental health condition has the power to do this – even if it is just one person at a time.

My scientific experiment against OCD

My background is scientific – I like facts and figures, I love biology and human chemistry, I’m logical and practical; a great lateral thinker. That’s one of the things I find most annoying about myself and my OCD. I know logically that most of the things I worry about are scientifically ill-founded, and I know the scientific realities. However, my OCD mind has been the one in control over the past several years and its voice drowns out my scientific one.

In earlier posts I’ve already declared that I’m upping the fight against my OCD this year, but what I haven’t specified is how I’m going to tackle it. I’m going to record how I plan on doing it and what success I have with it in the hopes that if it works, it will be useful to others. As I find ‘exposure’ terrifying, I am instead, going to treat this battle as a scientific experiment.

As a scientist I know that when conducting an experiment, it’s not a good idea to change more than one variable at a time and to do it gradually so effects can be recorded. If you change more than one thing at a time you won’t know which variable was the one that actually made a difference. If you shift something too much, you might miss the fact you didn’t need to go so far – or you might end up in a much worse position than you were. This is the method I’m going to use on my OCD.

My OCD has many layers including my safety, family safety, security and contamination. I am going to pick one of these things to tackle at a time and I’m going to start small. For example, I have a certain bedtime ritual, which can take almost 45min-1hour to complete and can put me off wanting to go to bed. My first ‘experiment’ is to take this ritual and reduce it, bit by bit. I’ve set myself marker points of the 1st of each month. ie on 1st February I will start the reduction in the ritual and see how I cope and adjust – scientifically I expect to prove to myself that whether I do a certain ritual or not, will have no effect on me or my family – except I might get to bed earlier! With this proof and knowledge, come 1st March I will be able to take the next step and reduce another part. I plan to be clear of this bedtime ritual, which must be about 5 years old, by June.

It doesn’t sound much, but this is the first time I’ve felt strong enough to actually consider getting rid of this particular routine. Then, when that one is out of the way and with much more ‘evidence’ I will pick another issue (perhaps changing all my clothes every time I go in and out of the house, even just to pick up a pint of milk) and do the same month by month reduction.

It does mean that getting over all of my OCD will take a long time (I have numerous worries, fears, compulsions & obsessions), and there maybe elements that won’t ever go. What  I hope to achieve is freedom from quite so many obsessions and compulsions. If I can get to this point, I think I will be less stressed (as I will have less things to look out for and worry about) and I’ll be less tired (less things to fight in my head, as well as getting to bed earlier and easier) and maybe then I will feel in a position to tackle the really, really big 2-3 things.

Until then, watch this space!

Battling OCD on all fronts

At the moment, my OCD isn’t too bad – or so I thought. I’m not particulary stressed at the moment and that’s normally a sign my OCD is going to escalate. However, yesterday I noticed that my hands are getting red and sore – a sure indicator that I’ve been washing my hands too often, so I stepped back and thought about my recent behaviour.

By doing this I realised that for at least some of the time, I carry out my rituals and compulsions subconsciously. They have become such an automatic response that I don’t even realise I’m doing them! That’s what it’s been like for the past week or two and why I’ve got red hands.

When I step back even further, I see myself snapping at people for doing things like walking in the ‘wrong’ place in my bedroom. Thinking about it, I wouldn’t normally have a problem with this, but with Christmas coming up, I like to do all my wrapping on the floor in my room – and I don’t want to sit where someone has walked. Obviously this doesn’t trouble anyone else, so they shouldn’t be expected to realise it, but I do get short tempered with them which later annoys me as I shouldn’t expect them to be mind readers. It’s been worse than usual at the moment because our very old cat is not really very well and has taken refuge under my bed, so my parents keep coming to look at her. I’ve just had a set to with my Dad who came in and walked in the exact place I’d just told my Mum I didn’t want anyone standing. I said ‘please can you not stand there, can you just move over?’ he asked ‘why?’ – but didn’t move. As he knows I have a problem, I was annoyed that he didn’t move first and then ask the question, by standing there longer, it just made me worse. I know the best thing for me is to confront the problem in my head, but sometimes it’s just too difficult.

I should remember back to the time when I used to walk round the house in outdoor shoes and lie on the floor and never got sick, but it’s very difficult. My mind just says ‘that was then, this is now. There are more dangers now then there were’ – which I know isn’t true!

I really thought I was fairly in control at the moment. I was aware I had begun to get up at night more often to check on the noises that worry me, so I’ve not been getting to sleep much before 2am which I know is dangerous for me – a tired mind is less able to combat my OCD. But whilst I was consiously fighting off these compulsions, the others were sneaking in the back door like a distraction burglar. It made me reaslise I have to be aware of all my OCD tendencies at the same time and fight them off from multiple fronts.

I was wondering – does this happen to anyone else? Think you have a grasp on one part of your OCD only to find another has hit you without you realising? It would be great to hear.

 

This week’s battle with & tiny victory over OCD

I realise I’ve neglected Twitter and my blog over the past week or so. Part of this has been because I’ve had family staying but the bulk of it is to do with my OCD.

Last Thursday I went to the dentist and was told I needed one of my wisdom teeth out. This was a big blow – not because I particularly need it, but because of the repercussions. I had to have 2 wisdom teeth out at hospital once and it was not a very nice experience at all and there was a threat of having to go in again. This sent my anxiety levels soaring. I also have a major issue with sterile conditions – ie I have major doubts. Even going to the dentist had stressed me out so much that I had already increased my medication to prepare for the onslaught of bad thoughts & obsessions.

Having the family over generally helped – they kept me distracted most of the time. Saturday wasn’t brilliant – everything the kids did added to my spiral as I mentioned in my last post. My pills make me more sleepy so I was trying to make sure I went to bed on time (ie by 12.30) and I was having a few lie ins. I know everyone else was thinking I was being lazy but I didn’t care – I knew I needed that sleep.

Tuesday and the day of the dentist came. I’d never been to this dentist before. In fact I hadn’t been to Thursday’s dentist before either, but his wife who has left to have a baby. But my Mum goes to him and is a nervous wreck at dentists and rates him highly. I don’t hate dentists as such. In fact as a child I loved going and never minded if I needed treatment or even extractions. It was the experience in the hospital and my OCD worries about cleanliness that have made me hate going so much. I admit I was better than usual. I didn’t shake in the chair as much as I was expecting and was told that was likely to be the adrenalin in the anaesthetic. I was comforted by the fact I could hear packets being opened before tools were used. I’m always in a quandry do I try and ignore things in the belief ignorance is bliss, or do I try and see everything to remove as much doubt as possible?

But with OCD there is always doubt. And there is this time. I carried on taking my full dose of medication rather than the half dose that I’m normally on. My pills help me stop thinking. I think that’s the point – they stop the bad thoughts and generally the limited time I’ve been on the full dose has helped. However, the amount of thinking space that’s been taken up by trying to not think about the bad things, plus the amount that has been quietened by my OCD medications, plus the strong painkillers I’m on because of my tooth – hasn’t left much space for much else! That’s why I’ve been so quiet. I haven’t had room in my brain to think about good blog subjects or to keep up on Twitter.

I’ve now reduced my medication again and although there is always a few days lag time (depending on how long I’ve been on full dose for) I feel like I’m waking up again. So, hopefully I should be a little bit more present in the weeks coming.

I don’t know whether it was because of the increase in OCD medication or just trying to copy what my friends do and be more relaxed in the house I share with my friend, but yesterday we had a group of friends over. It was a happy occasion – celebrating one of my friends going off on maternity leave. Unlike the last time we had a party at the house I didn’t freak out this time. It may have been that it was more confined and there was less of them – plus I knew everyone there, but I coped so much better. I didn’t mind they were sitting on the part of the sofa I normally sit on, I didn’t mind they had their handbags on the chairs, I didn’t mind them having their shoes on and I didn’t mind eating the crisps from the bowls the packets had been in. The only time I really had a ‘moment’ was when a friend put one of my cookbooks on the floor. As I’m loaning it out to my housemate I’m sure similar things will happen again and again, but as long as I don’t see it, it doesn’t bother me so much. It was only a small victory but a victory none the less. The week that started with quite major OCD issues ended up with me having a small triumph over it!

Keeping it from the kids

I’ve had a week off work as holiday. It’s been marvellous – lots of Olympics and a few lie ins. We’ve had family staying too. My sister and her 3 boys. They’re great kids really and my sister has some similar ‘rules’ that I do. ie the children have to take their shoes off when they come into the house and wash their hands.

However, the boys, being boys & children, don’t always do what they’re told. They forget to wash their hands, they crawl all over the floor where their shoes have been – they set off my OCD. When we’re out they’re often picking up things I wouldn’t, again they touch floors in shops, collect random things from paths in woods, lie all over various things we come across on day trips – be it chairs, tables, shop displays, country house furniture. All the time red alert lights are flashing in my mind as I desperately resist the urge to shout at them not to do it. Sometimes I can’t help it. Sometimes it’s more valid than others – there are some things they shouldn’t touch when we’re out, but not for the reasons my mind is screaming. So, somethings I can get away with. But I can’t get away with everything. This means my stress levels sore & I don’t cope with my OCD very well when I’m stressed – it’s a negative spiral.

Being 6, 6 & 10 the boys don’t understand about OCD. They know there are a few things ‘Aunty’ doesn’t like, but although educating youngsters about mental health is important, I don’t want to force too much onto their brains just yet. The oldest in particular is already showing some signs of obsessive behaviour – he likes to wash his hands a lot – so I don’t want to make things worse. I’m hoping this is just a phase and he’ll grow out of it. He doesn’t seem to be exhibiting any of the instrusive or bad thoughts yet so I don’t want to give him ideas.

One of them is currently counting coins on the floor. I hate handling all kinds of money – I just see it as covered in germs. It is stressing me out considerably. Most of the coins probably haven’t been out of the house for several weeks but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t help much that he’s counting it in amongst the shoes – one of my other real hates.

The only way I can really handle things is to take myself out of the situation completely. I feel quite antisocial sometimes, or like I’m sherking my responsibility of looking after the kids – but at times it’s that or me shouting at the kids over something no one else has an issue about, or having a complete meltdown myself. At the moment I’m already struggling a little bit, and have decided to up by medication slightly for a few days – because I’ve got to have a tooth out at the dentists in a few days (I’m highly worried and anxious over the cleanliness of the instruments) – so I’m trying to get back onto an even keel. Sadly the boys right now aren’t helping. I have taken myself off to my own room and am trying to distract and calm myself.

It’s so difficult trying not to display too many OCD behaviours in front of children. We don’t know if it’s genetic or learned or even a combination. Whichever it is, I think they’re a bit young to be exposed to it at the moment, I don’t want them picking up by bad behaviour (and they do copy me quite a bit) and it’s not their fault they’re doing things I don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with most of what they do, and if there is, they get into trouble. I hate losing my temper with them because of the OCD but I do find myself doing that from time to time.

Have you had a similar situation when you’ve tried to keep your OCD (or other mental health issue) from young children? How have you coped?

When conditions collide

Here’s something else about me. I have severe arachnophobia – I mean pretty much any size (even money spiders), I can’t even look at a picture and I’m not overly keen on writing the word.

I am absolutely terrified. I can be frozen with fear, unable to decide which way to go, or I can bolt out of there like lightning. I shake, my heart races – all the usual symptom of true fear. I’ve been known to dash out of my own bedroom leaving all the lights on, the TV blaring and move into the spare room. Last year I moved out of my room for 3-4 nights because of one. I even made my parents help me move everything out of my bedroom to find the bugger. Still, I couldn’t go back in there to sleep for a while. I have also occasionally been known to come in from the garden and head straight for the drinks cupboard for a sip of something to steady my nerves after I’ve come across a particular kind unexpectedly.

As you are all probably aware – I have OCD and one of my compulsions is to check the doors, windows, TV, gas etc before bed – usually more than twice. The trouble comes when my phobia collides with my OCD. Tonight as I was unloading the dishwasher I heard my Mum exclaim there was a very big spider in the lounge – Dad went in to help her get it out, but it moved too quickly and it went under some furniture. This means it’s still there. When lights go out and the house quietens down – they come out more often (certainly in September). I have done my checking once (and I tried to do it mindfully and methodically) but now I’m in a dilemma. My phobia is keeping me from going downstairs to do any additional checking but my OCD will kick in as I get sleepy and will urge me to go downstairs and check.

This is not the first time this conflict has arisen. Sometimes the OCD wins, sometimes it’s the phobia. Maybe it’s because I didn’t see it this time so in my mind it’s enormous, but I have a feeling the phobia might win out. Not sure though.

Anyone else ever had a conflict like this?

How habits become Obsessions by mistake

I’ve always been the type of person who has phases of tastes. ie I’ll listen to the same album (even the same 2-3 songs) for 6months without change, or watch the same TV series for 5months, with nothing else quite capturing me as much, then move onto something else for a year, before returning to it again.

Because of this, I’ll get into the habit of watching something before bed, or going to sleep listening to certain music – every night. Before I know it it’s become a habit I can’t break and straight into my nightly routine. It means I have to always see that TV show, that movie, listen to that song before I go to sleep or something bad will happen. I’ve managed to get it down to clips of certain things and I’ve made myself a compilation DVD for ease – but it still takes 20minutes to get through. This has been going on for several years now. Gradually I am changing things (and by gradual I do mean the speed of glacial ice). I can now watch my DVD & the various clips on my ipod at the same time, so I get through things quicker, I can have them on in the background, so not paying a lot of attention to them. I also have a clear out at the start of each year so that any I’ve accidentally added to the list can be taken out so I’m back to the core few. (It’s supposed to be every month, but I found that come the critical time I would be away from home, or something big was happening so I didn’t want to change things in case there was an effect).

I know it’s ridiculous, because honestly and scientifically – how can me watching anything have any effect on anything else other than keeping me awake longer than I should? Recently I had fallen into the trap of watching a new short clip of something everynight (it started out, because I wanted to, it kind of inspired my imagination) but then I didn’t want to anymore but had to anyway. This past week has been a real struggle for me sleep-wise and I’ve only just realised that for the past 2-3 nights, I’ve missed this bit out of my routine. Even thought, it’s probably saved me 40seconds, in a way I’m quite relieved. Although I do kind of want to watch it again, because as I said, I like the clip, I’m trying to avoid it – certainly at night, so it dosen’t get added to the routine, which is quite long enough.

It’s not just with TV or songs, it can also be checking new things, like the gas or certain lights etc and this just leads to longer and longer routines each night. Then they act this huge hurdle between me and bedtime because I don’t want to do them because of the time they take. Then I get to bed later and later and then I get more and more tired which sets of my OCD even more. It’s a never ending spiral.

The challenge I have to give myself is not to form the habits in the first place and if see a pattern forming I need to get out of it immediately. Then, gradually I need to let go of some of the habits I already have – maybe just concentrate on 1 at a time.

It would be great to hear from anyone else who has similar experiences or any tips.

Why role models are important to end mental health stigma

This week saw quite an important moment in politics. I’ll admit now – I believe most of what comes out of politicians’ mouths to be crap or lies. This week however, 2 MPs came forward and spoke honestly about their mental health problems.

Charles Walker admitted he has been living with OCD for 30years and Kevan Jones talked about his depression. Mr Jones also commented on the ‘difficult’ decision to open up. This reminds me of the stigma and difficult gay people face about ‘coming out’. Nowadays most people in the UK don’t see sexuality as an issue at all, whether someone is ‘straight’ or ‘gay’, and believe it’s ridiculous people are nervous about owning up to their feelings. I’m not saying everyone finds it easy and that there isn’t stigma left – there is (there are no ‘outed’ Premier League Footballers for example), but I do think progress has been made. There are now several, fairly high profile, public people to act as role models – Stephen Fry, Graham Norton, John Barrowman, Martina Navratilova, Neil Patrick Harris, Elton John, Sue Perkins, Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen Degeneres, Will Young, Jessie J. David Starky. Where’s my role model for OCD? (See here for a list of people with OCD – see how long it is). I know at least 10 people at work who are homosexual – I know no-one with a mental health issue, yet the statistic of 1-in4 makes the odds of several people falling into that category, very high. In today’s world I think it’s harder to come clean about your mental health than it is about your sexuality.

I believe people in the public eye are in a very powerful position in helping to end mental health stigma. They have access to a huge number of fans, the TV, radio, magazines, interviews – they have the opportunity and the means to get people to listen. That’s what we need. Usually you mention ‘mental health’ to someone and are then subjected to all the stereotypes and myths they’ve heard of with them thinking they know it all – or they clock out completely and stop listening. If someone famous and respected does it – people listen; they pay attention. Then they start to understand.

I wouldn’t say Charles Walker and Kevan Jones are role models for their day to day jobs but I think they are for speaking up about their mental health. I for one am not ‘brave’ enough to come clean, but if more people in the public eye did so, and it became a lot more accepted as part of life, I would be encouraged to.

Another good thing about Charles Walker’s admission is that it’s got my Mum and Dad talking to me about my OCD more. In fact they both eagerly and separately told me about what he’d done just in case I’d missed it – I think they wanted to show me it’s okay to talk about it, that it has made his life easier by opening up and that this might work for me. They’ve had to live with it with me for 10years and have been incredibly supportive. They have some understanding, but once they’d heard Mr Walker’s speech I think it hit home a bit more what it’s like, particularly my Dad. We had a 30minute car journey together the other day and were able to have a fairly frank and open discussion about what it feels like for me, what the anxiety levels are like and why I do the things I do. I also mentioned there was a great piece on OCD-UK‘s website about living with OCD and he said he’d be really interested to read it and he really wants to help me in whatever way he can. We have a good relationship anyway, but it was the admission by Charles Walker that gave him the opportunity to broach the subject with me. Sometimes it can be hard for either side to start talking about mental health issues. Sometimes we need someone else to give us the opportunity to start a conversation.

Have you managed to own up to your mental health issue? If so, how have you started the conversation?

A treat for some, is hell for others

On Friday I had to go to London for work reasons. I was going to a plush hotel and a posh dinner, something most people would see as a treat. It wasn’t for me. It was completely the opposite.

I hate going to London – I find it incredibly stressful. To me it’s dirty, full of people pushing into my personal space and there are millions of unknown stains. All of this contributes to my OCD spiralling out of control leading up to, during and for a time, after the visit. I try and avoid London as much as possible. It takes something really special to get me there and then that makes going through the torment of thoughts more worthwhile. The work do I had to attend wasn’t one of these really special things so I found the whole things incredibly difficult.

I had to travel down by train – another thing I have issues about. I got myself into quite a state whilst I was waiting to get on board the build up of the train & what was to come later caused me to start panicking – my breathing got quicker and shallower, my heart was racing and my hands visibly shaking. I ended up buying a newspaper to sit on for the journey. Usually I don’t have to do this, I’m with friends which means I’m forced into doing the ‘normal’ thing and my family somehow get me through it. This time I was on my own and being bombarded with so many of my fears all at once that I opted for an easy way out to avoid a complete meltdown. I met a colleague once we got to London so had to face the tubes with her. Yes you’ve guess it – another real problem for me & one that resulted in me experiencing my first major panic attack a few years ago on arriving home.

The hotel seemed plush enough on first view but for anyone that’s read my blog ‘Why Holidays Aren’t So Restful‘ will know how I feel about staying away from home. As I wasn’t sharing a room I was able to deal with this in my own way, using as little of the hotel things as possible and living out of my suitcase.  Having already faced 3 of my greatest troubling scenarios, I still had to face dinner. Fortunately this wasn’t as stressful as it could have been and everything seemed relatively clean (which was amazing) and I soon got carried off in the fun of the dinner and entertainment, though the thoughts were still running in the background of my mind.

It was back in my room when I began to really struggle again. It was 2am and I was tired having used up a lot of adrenalin making it this far. I checked both sides of the bed and although there were no major marks in them to completely freak me out, but there were marks (probably oil from washing machines) & they were enough. There was also a door that linked through to the next room. My side of the door was not lockable at all and opened on to what looked like a blank door – no handles, no locks. In my head the controls were all on the other side meaning anyone could come into my room at any time. I made the decision to stay up all night. But I got cold and really tired (again exhausted from the anxiety) – I  knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay away. I then had a brainwave and pushed some furniture in front of the door and plucked up enough courage to lie on the bed and get some sleep.

It seems strange and may sound melodramatic to others to talk of ‘plucking up courage’ to sleep in a hotel bed, especially when my colleague next door was relaxing in a bubble bath! But for me, that’s what it’s like. I have to fight my irrational, bad thoughts which I know aren’t founded in any logic but they fight straight back. It’s Ali vs Foreman in ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.

I shared some of my fears on Twitter before and during the trip and found some amazing support and some great ideas on h0w to cope better. This was the first trip when I’ve actually been able to express the thoughts going through my head with anyone. Usually I just say ‘it’s difficult’ for me. Talking about my OCD is helpful – if not in actually ‘fixing’ me, but sharing the experience making me feel less alone. I took up some of the advice – things like allowing a bit more time, so I could pause before each step and regroup and I had my ipod with me full of stories and music to help keep me distracted.

Now out the otherside I’m still mentally exhausted from the trial (getting less than 5hours sleep didn’t help) but I’m patting myself on the back for getting through it. It won’t necessarily make the next time any easier, but I can at least remind myself if I’ve done it once, I can do it again.

One of my favourite quotes for getting through times like this is ‘this too shall pass’. I know that whatever dark moment I am in, time still ticks on, the world still revolves around the sun and I’ll get out into the light again.

Night time isn’t relaxing

Sleep is the one thing I need to get the right amount of to help keep my OCD at bay.

Unfortunately I find nights & going to sleep really difficult. I’m much more of an night owl than morning lark but I think my issues around sleep compound that.

I often find when I’m tired and before I get into that chilled out zone of semi sleep and dreams my negative thoughts can hit me badly. It’s one of the times I’m most vulnerable.

Therefore my mind doesn’t want to go there, it doesn’t want to let go of control for fear of what it might let in.

As compulsions to quell any of my long running obsessions I have certain things I have to do in addition to normal things like cleaning my teeth, washing off make up and putting on PJs:

1) write diary (this can be stressful in itself if I’ve had a bad day because I don’t want to relive it)

2) watch certain clips from tv shows (these add up to about 20 mins though I now let myself do other things at the same time)

3) check all the doors are locked an the keys where thy should be

4) check the gas is off

5) check the windows are locked

6) check on any of the family who are staying in the house

7) say my prayers

Points 3-6 may be done any number of times and are a major contributing factor to the late nights and lack of sleep.

I mentioned in a previous post that I offer up little prayers throughout the day when faced with troubling thoughts to ask for everything to be okay etc but in addition I have to say an ever increasing list of them before I go to sleep each night. The problem with these can be:

a) every now and then one will jump out at me for no reason and I will relive the incident that caused me to start saying it in the first place just as if it had just happened.

b) because I’m tired or saying them too quickly I’ll get muddled and end up saying the wrong thing. Then I panic the wrong thing is going to come true.

All of this adds up to me putting off going to sleep. Unfortunately that means I put off the rituals even though I know I won’t be able to go to sleep until they’re done. You would have thought by now I would have learnt to get them out of the way early on and remove the stress surrounding going to bed. But I haven’t. I do try and some days are better than others, but because the rituals have become firmly embedded in my mind as connected to bed time I put them off. I’ll happily do anything at night not to go to sleep.

It’s strange then, come morning I hate leaving my bed. I think by then I’m over the danger zone where my thoughts are concerned and am so relaxed they rarely bother me. I like that feeling and want it to last which is one of the reasons I hate getting out of bed (the other is because I’ve usually go to sleep very late and haven’t had as many hours sleep as people think I have).

Taking the stress out of bedtime is going to be one of my new priorities. I’m going to try spreading the rituals out over a few hours and start much earlier. This way they’re done before bedtime and haven’t had to be given a set hour all of their own. There’ll be less stress and hopefully the rituals will become less of a hurdle to have to cross before I’m allowed to sleep.

I’d love to hear if other people find night time as difficult and what you do to help yourself.