Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Insomnia

Sorry, I need to write this down after a week of keeping silent. I need practical advice and maybe some of you have got some ideas. I can't sleep properly any more. And I need sleep to function; I am rubbish without it. I am trying to look after myself better, something I am not good at: since January 1st I have been exercising most days, working with a SAD lightbox to counteract the effects of the short days and winter gloom, taking vitamins, St. John's Wort and milk thistle, drinking juice in the morning with a healthy breakfast, not drinking any alcohol or coffee at all in January, keeping in touch with friends, planning our wedding, going to dance class last night...

I do not want to take pharmaceutical anti-depressants or drugs. I am not ill, and I do not think they will help. My G.P can't do much. She just looks sad, calls me 'my dear', bites her lip, says she is sorry that all this is going on, flutters her hands. I end up telling her not to worry.

Last night, I lay awake til 4.00am ( that was the last time I looked a the clock). The last two nights before that, 3.00am, and I have not slept until 2.00am for the last ten days. I drink chanomile tea before bed, I have long baths, I read a chapter of a novel and make sure the room is not overheated. I curl myself into J's back. I close my eyes and I try to relax, but my mind races and revs and worries, and I am afraid to sleep again, because the dreams are back. The dreams are frightening and vivid: this time it is not black smoke and screams, but vampires, someone peeling back the cover and clawing at my skin, drowning in foetid stinking flood water; all the themes are of invasion, psychic attack. I feel haunted, and sickened, and shaky, and angry and sorry for myself: why me, why me, again?

I touched on the reasons why I am so stressed in this post, and much as I would like to write more, I can't, for legal reasons. I have promised myself that when this is over, even though January is an alcohol-free month, I will pour myself a glass of champagne and cry with relief. There is a bottle in the fridge, waiting. At the moment, I do not let myself cry. I have not felt able to blog because to do so makes me more vulnerable to what is going on. I bite my cheek, and I put on an exercise DVD, and I work up a sweat instead, punch the air, dance.

But I am getting completely sick of trying to pretend everything is fine, when it is not. It is really getting to me now. There are limits to how much I can stand. Some of the damn PTSD symptoms I thought had gone away are coming back. I have not seen a counsellor since early last summer: I completed my course of practical Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy with a psychologist to manage panic attacks on public transport, and I got on with my life. But I have just started seeing a counsellor again; someone to talk it through with, for 50 minutes a week, so I feel that I am not going mad. I have had two sessions. It is a relief to be able to talk to someone in confidence about how I feel.

It's frustratingly hard to write in this situation, because I am exhausted. I am feeling angry, because I left my job to do this, to write. I have always wanted to do this, and what I am trying to do is being over-shadowed at the moment by this wretched business that I can't bloody well talk about or defend myself against.

But I have a book deadline, so I need to keep going. I know some of the readers of this blog are vaguely aware of the situation, and all I can say is, thanks for your silent support, and for not responding to what is going on. I appreciate it. It is hard because we are reaching the end-game now, and I have to keep telling myself that it is always darkest just before the birds start singing and the sky lightens. Soon this will be over. Winter will become Spring.

As I wrote that, the sun just came out. There. I'll be okay, I always am. It's always all right in the end, and if it's not all right, it's not the end.

I am going to write something about politics, so this is not at the top of the page, and so all the people who come here looking for stuff on current affairs don't get cheesed off with all the dark night of the soul stuff.

32 Comments:

Anonymous leon said...

I rarely do this but ((((((Rachel))))))

Maybe the dreams are on some level you letting go of what you're used to be to make room for what you've become/becoming?

And yes, it is always darkest before dawn.

January 17, 2007 2:19 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

You are in my thoughts Rachel. Take heart, the days are starting to draw out and the mornings get lighter. Spring will come.

And as an aside, have you seen the articles in the T2 section of the Times about sleeping better?

Rx

January 17, 2007 3:00 pm  
Blogger JonnyB said...

Try a 'Mind Machine'.

They sound sinister, there's all sorts of new-age rubbish written around them and there's no scientific evidence whatsoever that they can possibly work. But I found one really helped me during a stressful time. Basically they provide your brain with a bit of a distraction whilst you're in the stage of trying to nod off - - a bit like counting sheep, but with technology.

Did quite a bit of research on them for a couple of bits of work I was doing. Some people love them, some hate them. Give us a shout if you want some info.

January 17, 2007 3:14 pm  
Anonymous Chris Lintott said...

I'm a freelance of sorts, and also suffer horribly from lack of sleep. The best advice anyone ever gave me was to take advantage of the flexibility of my work, and stop fighting to sleep at set hours. For a couple of weeks, if I woke up at 3 I let the day begin then. If I was tired at 4 in the afternoon, then go to bed.

It's not a great long-term solution, but I found that it removed all the anxiety about 'having' to sleep at certain times, which itself allowed me to sleep better and my sleep pattern returned slowly to normal, nighttime hours.

Just a thought. You get to feel smug about working while everything else is quiet, too.

January 17, 2007 3:59 pm  
Blogger Davide Simonetti said...

Perhaps just a very small Brandy or something similar before bed might help. It's possible that stopping all alcohol and caffine after the festive season might affect your sleeping pattern, especially if you're worrying about other things.

Anyway I find that a bed-time drink can sometimes help and I'm a notorious insomniac.

January 17, 2007 4:16 pm  
Blogger jailhouselawyer said...

I've always found that those talking books send me to sleep.

January 17, 2007 4:35 pm  
Blogger Dave Hodgkinson said...

Rachel,

you might want to try one of the Paul McKenna CD's. It's half an hour of relaxation, light hypnosis, NLP.

I find I drift off fairly easily with it.

Good luck,

Dave

January 17, 2007 6:25 pm  
Anonymous Mark said...

I sat and looked out at 4:30 today and it was still light. January always seems to be a dark and jaded month after the excitement of Christmas. Spring will soon be here. For me Tibetan incense works for insomnia, something about the smell of it ...

January 17, 2007 7:52 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thank you for all the helpful comments and suggestions, and for the lovely emails.

I decided to scratch writing today and take myself off to get sorted, I went to a herbalist, who has given me some herbs to help me sleep and told me some exercises and breathing tricks, and then had a massage, which helped uncrunch me ( I have been recommended to go back and have another one to finish unclicking me as I am all solid with tension and knots like a plank.)

J has just come back from work, tired and stressed too, and we are going to flop on the sofa and try to wind down to have an early night. I do appreciate you all.

Thank you

January 17, 2007 9:26 pm  
Blogger kris said...

Hi Rachel

I have no further suggestions as you are doing everything possible. So I can only tell you what people used to tell me: - this too shall pass.

In the meantime, I became a bit of a fan of Marianne Williamson. She's got a good voice and message.

In the old days, I had to order her tapes from the states. Now you can just down load from her website.

January 17, 2007 11:02 pm  
Anonymous Maria said...

Valarian root works well, but has a risk of addiction. My grandmother used to use it for her "nerves." I used to suffer terrible anxiety when traveling on long trips (if I had to drive for hours on unfamiliar roads), and found that drinking a cup of Valareian root tea helped immensely! (But it takes like tea made with dirty gym socks, so make the tea, sweeten with honey, and chill in the fridge before drinking. My ex used to call it "stink tea.") If you can't stand the taste, I think health food stores have it in capsule form. Take it up to an hour before turning in. Come to think of it, I probably shouldn't have driven after drinking stink tea...

January 18, 2007 12:23 am  
Blogger Tom Tyler said...

You have my sympathies, Rachel, for what you are going through. No, you're not "going mad" nor "cracking up" or anything of the sort. You are simply experiencing the effects of PTSD after 7/7 (let me put it this way: It was in Nov 05 that I started commuting to London on business, and during my first few weeks of journeying on the tube, I was almost sh*****g myself with fear and anxiety, and I wasn't even there on 7/7/05. So I can barely imagine how it must feel for someone who WAS there). The feelings of (false) guilt and anxiety could take a long time to work through your system. Continue with the counselling, it's a good thing to talk it all through.

I'm also aware of the source of your other major pain in the **** right now. That's all I'll say on that score, as I'm aware of the legal needs. Just hang on in there. You may feel like shit now, but in time, your mourning will be turned into dancing again, and you'll feel all the better and wiser for having gone through the bad times. Congratulations on your engagement and your forthcoming marriage. May you and J enjoy long life together.

January 18, 2007 1:36 am  
Anonymous JohnC said...

Just a comment about light boxes Rachel - I have used one for 5 years with only slight improvement until this year when following advice I read on the net somewhere I started using it on the 1st of September instead of waiting till the clocks changed in late October. The difference has been really radical - immense improvement.
Not a lot of use to you now but remember this for next year.
BEst wishes -
John

January 18, 2007 8:05 am  
Anonymous Not Saussure said...

Poor you. I'm -- sort of -- with the people who're recommending taking advantage of your freedom to nap during the day if you have to. During the periods I have difficulty sleeping I find the worst thing is lying in bed worrying about not sleeping and how dreadful I'm going to feel the following morning, so I get up for an hour or so (or until I feel like going back to bed -- could well be a lot less time) and doing something, be it work-related or just reading. I also try to make myself get up at the normal time even when I'm not working away from home, secure in the knowledge I can always have an hour or so's sleep during the day if it's really necessary.

One suggestion which can be difficult to implement but really does work is only to use the bedroom for appropriate activities, by which I mean don't spend time reading in bed, listening to the radio or whatever. You need to get yourself thinking, at an automatic level of course, something on the lines of 'I'm in bed now, so I'm going to sleep soon'.

I have to say I don't see what you've got against anti-depressants, particularly since you're taking St John's Wort (which contains the same stuff -- though if you do decide to try anti-depressants, it's very important to discuss the St John's Wort with your GP; it can react very badly indeed with some formulations of anti-depressant, so you may need to come off it for a while before taking a more conventional medicine). They don't dope you up, and they were a life-saver for several months after my wife died.

January 18, 2007 10:06 am  
Blogger Tim said...

A public hug is here:

*hug*

A private email is on the way.

January 18, 2007 12:16 pm  
Blogger Newmania said...

I have suffered from anxiety related symptoms of many sorts most of my life.Stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something about it
1) Buy a book by Claire Weekes. She is a genius and to understand what is happening is calming
2) Buy a book containing thought relaxation excercises , tape the relevant section and listen to to it as much as possible . This has proven results and can even lower blood pressure. This should help a common condition like insomnia .

If you are interested I could recommend some titles. To be honest I`m not sure of you read you contributions you seem rather sef obsessed to me which is not a help.If on the other hand you are genuinely interested in helping yourself take these steps .They work

Oh and take some excercise....


....and I still find your ghastly politics vile beyond belief.I cannot work out exactly what you would have against Blair .

January 18, 2007 12:27 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hi Newmania,

I am not surprised you have suffered from anxiety related symptoms most of your life if you find all left wing politics, 'evil',(as you have just said on Iain's blog) - it must be very frightening indeed and highly stressful for you.
You would doubtless be thrilled to know, ( if you had actually read my post) that I *am* exercising, I am already doing many things about the insomnia already!

But of course, you'd have had to actually read my blog to know that. And as my writing and opinions are 'evil', and as you are a naturally anxious person, it probably is best that you don't read them, for the sake of your clearly-fragile health. In fact, you'd doubtless better avoiding my blog altogether, and thus helping to keep yourself calm. So I do thank you for braving this nest of evildoers and popping in with some well-meant advice. Very bracing!

Blogging, and writing in general is of course, self-obsessed, you are quite right. Why do you write a blog and express your opinion on others blogs?

January 18, 2007 12:38 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Well, I took some herbal stuff last night and got to sleep at 2am and woke up at 8am instead of 5.45am. I managed 6 hours instead of 3 which is a huge improvement, so thank you all once again for all the dead helpful ideas and emails and comments. Have a few more emails to reply to, so apologies if you have not heard back from me yet.


I have just done 2 hours work on the book and am taking a quick break to do my kick-boxing workout, then working some more this afternoon. The wind is blowing wildly, which is always energising...

January 18, 2007 12:55 pm  
Anonymous IainC said...

An old man(ia)'s suggestion (particularly as I've just recovered from a bout of what I think was pharmaceutically-enhanced insomnia):

Exercise in the open air is, I believe, significantly better (and not so mind-contractingly boring) than gym or machines for naturally inducing tiredness. I suggest a daily walk, or jog if you prefer, for an hour - three miles walking, five jogging. If you're concerned about going alone, there are lots of walking and jogging groups. Time of day varies but joggers seem to prefer before breakfast, walkers before evening meal.

It works! You'll lose (even more) weight, you can take your mp3 player with you, and you can create a daily outdoors/indoors routine around your writing. The important thing is to mix the indoors with the outdoors in some regular pattern - a healthy and productive version of what you used to do when 'going to work', which your body is probably programmed to expect.

The personal is more interesting than the political, in my view, and it was what drew me to your blog in the first place. Nonsense from Newmania notwithstanding ...

IainC

January 18, 2007 1:17 pm  
Blogger Robert Newsom said...

I agree with Tom Tyler. What you are experiencing is PTSD, which in and of itself should surprise no one - your circumstances are a textbook example of how the disorder is acquired, and your symptoms are classic. I assume that you have been diagnosed as having it, or at least being at risk for it, and that the counseling you mention has been directed towards that specific condition, and that you have obtained a good deal of information about it.

I have had PTSD for 22 years, ever since most of my immediate family (mother, father, grandmother, sister, two nephews) were murdered by another family member. I know what PTSD can do in terms of derailing a life. I have also learned a few things about living with it, which is, in the end, the best one can do (I doubt, personally, that anyone is ever "cured").

In my case, counseling, medication (natural and otherwise), writing about it, etc., did little good. Over a period of years, I got worse and worse. I threw away my money, my legal career, and my family (what was left of it). I had multiple hospital admissions and a suicide attempt. I started getting better when I dramatically shifted my course in life, and begin to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant (similar to an NCA, I think, in the UK).

Not many people go from Barrister to bottom wiper, but I did, and it was just what I needed. I fell in love with the practice of nursing, and went to nursing school. Since then, due to studying nursing theory, and with the encouragement of nursing scholars in Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the UK (my fellow Americans, with two notable exceptions, haven't been that encouraging), my interest in philosophy has been rekindled. I now teach philosophy and practice nursing. Based on this lived experience, I would offer one observation, or suggestion, that MIGHT be of some help (better than "just shut your eyes and think of England," or "listen to the force," anyway).

What made my career change work in terms of helping the symptoms of PTSD is hard to pin down, but I think that it has to do with forcing me to spend a lot of time living "outward," becoming phsically, intimately involved in the lives of other people that I otherwise would not know or care about. This is important, I think, because PTSD can, to an astounding degree, lead one to close down normal feelings, and to isolate oneself from the wider world. The treatment for this is to engage our natural empathy for others, and act upon it. So, you might want to look for sutiable opportunities to do that to an even greater extent than you do already.

Hopefully, extreme measures like those I have needed will not be necessary for you. After living and working in the "woman's world" of nursing for twelve years, I have concluded that women are stronger that men, and better able to cope with grief, pain and loss. Perhaps that national "stiff upper lip" will also prove to be an asset (although, if it makes you reluctant to accept help, it becomes a liability).

I would add that your being circumspect about alcohol is a good idea - I do that myself, and generally save the drinking for my visits to your blessed isles with their glorious pubs (when in London, I can't resist The Friend at Hand). Frequent drinking makes matters worse. I DO think that a BRIEF course of treatment with some of the newer, less impairing and addicting, hypnotics is something to consider and discuss with your GP whenever sleep deprivation becomes a problem. Recurring nightmares ruin sleep, which makes one a bit more edgy, which makes one more prone to recurring nightmares, which makes one even MORE edgy, which... you get the picture. Sometimes meds help nip this in the bud, and there are many new ones that are safe and effective.

Hope this helps. I really DO know how you feel.

January 18, 2007 6:23 pm  
Anonymous Jim Boy said...

Rachel, as if you haven't had enough with the attack on you that you wrote about in the London Times and then surviving the London Subway bombings, I now find out, with a little search engine help, that you are under psychological seige from someone who is quite mentally ill.

I hope that they have confined themselves to writing on their wierdo blog and not anything worse. I am shocked at the level of disturbance and hatred shown by this character who I guess has never met you but is just a jealous and delusional type.

Judging by their rambling prose and reading between the lines ( which was pretty hard work and made my eyes bleed) they are to be arrested and charged soon? I hope the cops do their job and the person gets help as well as being told not to bother you any more. The internet is cool but it provides a place for some very disturbed people to 'act out' and you seem to have attracted the attentions of a total nut job.
(I'll get nagged at home for writing that!) I won't say any more as I know you Brits have tough laws about discussing potential court cases but GOOD LUCK AND HANG IN THERE LADY!


I am married to a psych. nurse, and we were discussing your blog the other day. She has asked me to pass on her good wishes to you and her admiration of your remarkable strength after all that you have been through.

Best wishes to you and J.

Jim Boy

January 18, 2007 7:14 pm  
Blogger Newmania said...

You are right Rachel I skipped from the camomile tea to the moaning and missed the baths.(Are we still in the real world? ..Oh yeah..right on we go) Life is very stressful for me as I have a family a full time job and a Mortgage. Add to that a tax regime from hades a Lib Dem Council , the GLA and I may have to top myself .
The only thing that may save me from this radical solution is ranging about the place ticking people like you off.Thankyou for the public service you perform. Nonetheless the advice I give is good.

I look into your blog because you are local to me and for entertainment. Same with SUZ

Cheerio

January 18, 2007 8:34 pm  
Blogger Tom Tyler said...

Nice words from R.Newsom and Jimboy. Y'know, politics has nothing to do with this, and nor should it. As I'm sure you're aware Rach, I disagree with 99% of your political opinions, but so what? I like your writing, you put your arguments across well. And you're a credit and an asset to 18 Doughty St.
All good human beings, no matter what our political inclinations, will put them to one side and support a fellow man or woman who is going through a tough time, right?

iainc's suggestion (walking) is one which I too would recommend. I left my last full-time employed job in Feb 05, due to stress. Since that time, I try to go for a good hour's walk 3 times a week, and it has lifted my spirits and also helped me lose weight. Here's a walk I have done in London: From Kings X St Pancras, walk up Euston Rd towards Euston Stn, turn left at Euston into Upper Woburn Place, walk all the way up U.W.P past Russel St Stn, Southampton Row, then Kingsway, till you get to Aldwych, turn right into Strand along to Trafalgar Sq, then walk down Whitehall to Parliament Sq, then all the way down Victoria St from the Abbey to the Cathedral, and re-embark upon the tube at Victoria. So many beautiful examples of British architecture to observe along the way. And I found it quite safe to walk alone, during daylight hours. After 6 to 9 months of disciplined walking, my sister remarked to me "hey, you've lost a good bit of weight, you look great to me!" (Not that I think you look overweight, by the way, not at all. Seen you on 18DS, you look fine.)

January 19, 2007 3:03 am  
Anonymous Tim C said...

Rachel, thank you for allowing meto read the comments of others. I will be seeking music by Marianne as we have a daughter by that name, and another daughter (Laura) who uses a light box for her SAD. She is coming tonight for the weekend having been in India for a month, part work part holiday but has some discoveries about herself to share with us, excciting.
The value of the night is hard to find but love gets me by everytime. Judy and I have proved so often that divorce and then finding each other, marriage and sharing our children works for us. You sound so happy with J and I am happy for your future plans too.
Thank you Rachel and love to you

Tim C

January 19, 2007 12:49 pm  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

I'm sure someone has probably suggested this but I have found it really helps to do lots and lots of physical exercise, and I also recently got a dawn regulator alarm clock. It wakes you up by slowly getting lighter and you can reverse it so it gets gradually darker, helping your body to realise it's sleep time. I was sceptical but it is fantastic.

The other thing worth saying, is that sometimes, you just need to cave in and accept that you can't sleep. When it happens to me, I just say to the universe, 'I can't deal with this, you deal with it, it's too much and I need help.' Easy to say, I know. But I hope you find relief soon and I will send soothing, sleepy vibes in the meantime.

Puss

January 19, 2007 1:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been depressed - nothing on your scale, but this I learned. Force yourself not to retreat into a corner. Talk to friends, see your family. Get out into as much sunshine as you can find.

The exercise suggestion is a good one (worked for me).

Constructive hobbies are also good - make things.

All of the above are just suggestions of course - the big thing is finding what works for you.

Yes, maybe it is just avoiding the problem, but if it works...

The Anon

January 20, 2007 9:23 pm  
Blogger Nemo said...

Might I suggest a melatonin supplement if they are available in the UK.

I sympathize, having both insomnia and a raving nutcase on your plate is no fun at all

January 21, 2007 7:11 am  
Blogger Lori said...

Hi Rachel,

Sounds like you're already doing your best to cope with a difficult situation.

With so many helpful comments already I hesitate to add my tuppenceworth to the throng but... I have been thinking of effect the current trials might be having on the survivors of the London bombings. While a trial can be a useful part of the healing process it can also trigger a recurrence of PTSD symptoms (albiet perhaps in a different form as you may be experiencing in your dreams)

I sincerely recommend you check out EFT. This easy to learn tapping technique has been highly effective in reducing and frequently elminating PTSD altogether. The emofree.com website has numerous examples (type PTSD into the onsite search engine)of work done both by practitioners and individuals working on their own. It really is a fantastic healing tool.

I have felt moved to offer my services to anyone who is still suffering the effects of the 2005 bombings and would be happy to work free of charge. I wanted to to this after the bombings but did not feel I was sufficiently experienced in those days.

If that's something that might be of interest to you - or anyone else you may be in contact with please get in touch.

In the meantime, keep doing those breathing exercises!

all the best,

Lori

January 22, 2007 2:09 pm  
Blogger thegirl said...

Amongst the other advice here, I would like to suggest EDMR therapy. Whilst I have not experienced it myself, I happen to know that because it has been proven to work, it the main treatment used for employees of London Transport whom have been affected by PTSD - therefore I thought perhaps it could also be of assistance to you too.

You can find out about the therapy here:

http://www.emdr.org.uk/default.asp?nc=4228&id=25

And details of how to find a therapist here:

http://www.emdr.org.uk/default.asp?nc=2275&id=31

January 23, 2007 8:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Rechel,



Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for an adequate length of time. It is commonplace for several people to suffer at least an occasional night of almost non-existent sleep. It is when the occasional night here and there becomes a pattern of several nights in a row that you are faced with a sleeping problem.

The causes of insomnia differ from person to person. What made a student insomniac varies from what caused a shift worker or a traveler or an employee to acquire such sleeping disorder.

Insomnia, which is the inability to sleep satisfactorily or to have any sleep at all, is one of the most common sleep disorders. It is characterized by restlessness, sleep interruptions, decreased sleeping time than the usual, or sometimes complete wakefulness.

Insomnia is the perception or complaint of inadequate or poor-quality sleep because of one or more of the following:

Insomnia Symptoms & Treatment

Marvin.

January 24, 2007 6:44 am  
Anonymous Rachel too! said...

Rachel, what an incredible lady you are.

Not sure if you're still suffering from insomnia, but I massively recommend a brilliant homeopath called Mounir Torabi. I was horribly poorly with migraine for a long time (I used to get at least 5 a week) before stumbling across him, since when I no longer suffer at all. He has since helped many friends with various complaints, all successfully.

He works at the happiness centre in Shepherd's Bush www.thehappinesscentre.com from Monday to Wednesday.

Echoing what others have written, this is a temporary condition - you will sleep well again. Have hope. I know you do anyway from perusing your blog.

I send you love, albeit love from a complete stranger.

February 06, 2007 3:34 am  
Anonymous Dormouse said...

I'm a little late but I hope this might help. I have had severe and intractable insomnia for many years following acute anxiety. The anxiety went the insomnia did not. Everything my (very patient) GP and I tried failed. Late last year we had a break through. It was so simple I wish had found it years ago. The US favourite for jet lag melatonin. You can get it on private prescription in the Uk but it is hideously expensive (£57pcm) although frankly if I could get it no other way I'd pay it. As it is I get US friends to mail it to me. You don;t need it every day take it for three - four nights when insomnia strikes and it seems to reset the sleep clock in your brain.

Good luck I hope by now you've got some sleep.

H

February 12, 2007 9:11 pm  

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