Sleepytime Tease: On the Elusiveness of Sleep Balance

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I’ve never been great at sleeping.

Okay, I take that back. I’ve never been consistent with sleeping.

I can remember going to bed as a child and having the difficulty falling asleep. I’d be up late listening to my parents watch TV, reading under the covers, or tossing and turning. Sometimes I would fall asleep fine, but wake up at four or five in the morning and putter around on the house. Sometimes I didn’t need the sleep and was fine on just a few hours, sometimes I was exhausted and couldn’t sleep any longer, and sometimes I felt the urge for huge blocks of uninterrupted, non-restful sleep. That is the depression sleep. All night insomnia followed by a day of napping that left me even more exhausted as I rolled into another night with no rest.

By my late teens I figured out my depression sleep. It is partly why I used meth as a teenager. I didn’t care, kind of wanted to die, and I could never sleep, but was exhausted. Hello, drug use. I would stay awake for several days and then smoke pot or drink myself into a fitful nap. Coming off drugs was the worst; I longed for sleep and no matter how much I slept I still ached with exhaustion. When I was in jail I used sleep as an escape and could sleep about 15 hours a day (there is a difference between jail and prison, btw. In prison you have tasks, therapy, a schedule. Jail you just sit and wait). It wasn’t restful, but it was escape.

Having a baby and going to college full-time complicated my sleep pattern. I might nap during the day in between classes and then stay up all night writing a paper. Eventually I got to where I slept very, very little. Three hours a night on average. I did fine on so little sleep, until I didn’t. Eventually, I would crash into depression and miss class and work to sleep. And therein lies the problem. I know my sleep issues when I’m depressed. What I was wholly unprepared for was hypomanic sleep issues. That three hours of sleep a night in college that was enough until it wasn’t? Hypomania. When Sam and I first started dating and I could hang out until 3am and then make it into work at 7:30? Hypomania. If you look through this blog you’ll see several times when I would wake at 4 in the morning and bake, write, or read. That, too, was hypomania. See, I wasn’t taking a nap in the afternoon and I wasn’t even going to bed early. It is one thing to go to bed at 9 and wake at 4. It is another thing entirely to go to bed at 11 and wake up at 3 completely refreshed AND to continue to that for WEEKS AT A TIME with no tiredness. In these periods of little sleep I can also trace other hypomania behaviors: rampant promiscuity (before Sam), heavy drinking, depleting my savings account and maxing out credit cards, an increased need to be social (in fact, finding it unbearable to be alone), taking on way too many projects or extra roles, angry outbursts along with breaking things or hurting myself, recklessness and poor decision making. Going through my old journals has really highlighted this hypomanic issue and at first it boggled my mind. I knew about depression, but this was eye opening. I didn’t know to watch for hypomania.

How do I know when I am entering hypomania? How do I know If I am bordering on instability?

Sleep. Or rather, a lack thereof.

I should be getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night and I’m really striving to do that. What I find is that I have no problem falling asleep, but I am constantly waking. I’d really like to avoid going on more medication, so I have to work really hard at figuring out this sleep thing. Not too much sleep, but certainly not too little. Sleep issues seem to be my first indicator I’m either headed towards depression or barreling towards hypomania.

Here are a few things I’m trying and this blog post will help keep me accountable.

  1. I’m tracking my sleep in my bullet journal. Last month I wrote down the amount I slept the night before on my daily page, but my new layout will help me make comparisons.bujosleep
  2. Exercise. I’m not talking going to the gym or fitting workouts in. Right now I’m walking a loop through the library every 30 – 45 minutes. Seven loops equal a mile (our library director measured it) and I should be able to get in a minimum of two miles each day doing this. I’m also opting to eat lunch at my desk while I work and then go on a 20 minute walk outdoors.
  3. Decreasing caffeine. You all know how much I love coffee. I’m no longer drinking coffee or soda after 2 pm. I do find that I need something to get me through the melee of cooking dinner, chores, and putting the kids in bed, so I’m allowing one cup of tea in the afternoon. After 6 pm, caffeine is right out. I can stick to warm milk or herbal tea if I need a hot drink while I read.
  4. Setting a bedtime and a waking time. My goal is to go to bed at 10 pm Monday through Thursday and 11pm Friday through Sunday (I work on Sunday nights). My goal is to wake at 6 am each day. Once I get in the habit of sleeping 7 hours a night I can wake up a bit earlier. I reserve the right to nap on the weekend, but for no more than an hour.
  5. Turning off electronics: This one will be hard to do. No electronic devices or TV after 9pm. Not even Candy Crush.
  6. Keep evenings calm for a while. I got myself all in a tizzy and super excited about the Iowa caucus. I didn’t sleep much that night! When I go out at night it really takes a while for me to settle down. If there is an activity going on past 8 in the evening you can count me out. Except, of course, for the night I work.
  7. Establish an evening routine. There is quite a bit I need to accomplish in the late afternoon and evening: dinner, kid wrangling, laundry, prepping lunches, showering, etc…. I’d also like some time to myself to work on crocheting or read. My goal is to finish chores and get my shower before the kids go to bed around 8. I’ll have about an hour to chill and then at 9 (10 on my later nights) I start my bed time routine: a cup of herbal tea and journaling, brushing my teeth, peeing 57,000 times, and then hopping into bed for a few minutes of reading.

I’m hoping these coping skills will help me create a healthy sleep balance. I don’t want the huge buckets of sleep when I’m depressed, but I really need to stay away from the very little sleep of hypomania.

I’m open to any other suggestions for sleep assistance! I’m not using supplements and medicine though on the recommendation of my psychiatrist.

Readerly Rambles: 8 February 2016

readerly rambles

What I read:

On Friday I finally finished Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. I have a fuller review brewing, but for now all I can say is I really enjoyed it except for when I didn’t. I swear there will be a review this week!

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 21 January 2016

Finished: 05 February 2016

Pages: 448 pages

Challenges: #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks, Back to the Classics Challenge, Virago project

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Owned

Stars: Two out of five stars

 

What I’m reading:

I’m participating in #comicsfebruary and reading Nimona (it is SO GOOD). I’m also still listening to the audio version of Sarah Waters The Little Stranger. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed is on my nightstand and I read a couple of pages at night.

What’s up next: I’m thinking of grabbing Life After Life by Kate Atkinson for a more modern read. Also, I’m feeling it is time for a poetry collection or two.

Other Bookish News: I’m struggling with reading right now. I’m so focused on proper sleep and health right now and my lack of reading time is making me grouchy. Why sleep when you can read, amiright?

Happy Reading!

Happy Birthday, Persephone Jane

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Dear Persy Jane,

On Thursday you had your third birthday. We had such a busy day! We sang the birthday song as you dressed for school in your favorite dress. Daddy took you to your first dentist appointment and the staff gave you a t-shirt, a Minnie Mouse toothbrush, a glowing birthday necklace, a birthday button, and then they counted your twenty well-brushed teeth. Later that day Daddy and I brought homemade strawberry cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting to your school for a classroom birthday party. You licked off the icing and refused the cupcake. In the evening we went out to dinner with your brother and sister (Chick-fil-A, your choice). We’re stretching out your 3rd birthday festivities. Today you opened your gift from me and your Daddy (a Lalaloopsy pirate doll) and tomorrow we’ll have doughnuts with your grandparents.

Your being a “big girl” didn’t really hit me until Thursday night when you informed me that you would be taking a shower instead of a bath because you are three. “It is what big kids do,” you proudly exclaimed. So you had a shower with only a little help from me when it came to shampooing. You were so proud, confident, and capable!

You are always informing me of your independence and sharing your opinion. Your Dad and I are accustom to the constant refrains of self-reliance. “I got it!” you exclaim as you get the milk out of the refrigerator. “I’m just checking” you call out as you check each and every pull-up to ensure that they all have Sophia the First on them. “I do it myself” you cry when someone helps you before you ask for help. I adore this stubborn and spunky grit even when it seems like I do not.

You strive to do things on your own and you question everything. This thirst to understand the world while making the world understand you is PRICELESS. One day when you are a much bigger kid, you will begin to see that girls are often discouraged from questioning, pushing, and challenging. Do not let that damper your feisty personality! Question, push, and challenge! You may learn that you don’t like some of the answers life gives you, but you will take pride in knowing that you never passively accepted the world as it is.

It has taken me several days to think of my birthday wish for you, Persephone Jane, and I finally think I hit on it. I hope your third year is filled with exuberance. Stay effusively enthusiastic as you grow and learn this year. Feel your big feelings, express your wonder, and keep growing into wonderful you.

I love you, Peapie.

Happy Birthday,

Mama

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February Planner Peek

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My monthly spread is divided into all day, morning, afternoon, and evening events.

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On the other side I have tasks, bills (posties covering personal info), and other project-oriented goals.

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Blog calendar with posties to facilitate a changing calendar.

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Sleep tracker!

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An example of one of my daily layouts. At the end of the day I journal my day. Yes, I write down my outfit of the day. Not wearing fun clothes I love and resorting to sloppy outfits is one of my depression warning signs.

On Mothering and Social Media

momcritic

When I hear folks complaining about smart phones, Facebook, and other social media platforms, I roll my eyes. When I hear folks complain about MOMS on social media, I start to get twitchy. Now I’m going to get downright rant-y.

Dear readers, this is a post that has been brewing for almost two years. Today, for some reason, I decided it was time to let my social-media loving freak flag fly.

First I’m going to tell you when the seed of this post was sown. It was April of 2014. I had this friend on Facebook who was an “in real life” friend of a friend. We met at a mutual friend’s wedding and hit it off. This Facebook friend, I’ll call her Stacy, was super cool. Tattoos, liberal politics, hippie dippie, super feminist and lived in California. Stacy did not have kids. We were never close, but we did comment regularly on each others photos and chat periodically.

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On this sunny April day, I posted what seemed like a tame mom comment. Persy kept me up most of the night, work was a booger, and Atticus was having a meltdown. I think my post was one of hoping for a good night’s rest. Stacy commented, “why don’t you sleep train your kids?” I replied back, “nah, they’ll grow up soon enough.” Then Stacy said, “then why don’t you quit complaining about your kids all the time.”

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Whoa.

My heart sunk down into the pit of my stomach. I was horrified. Do people think I don’t love my kids? Do I sound ungrateful? I scrolled through several month’s worth of Facebook posts. The only other post that could be perceived as slightly negative – and I post quite a bit – was about three months before this incident and was tangentially related to over-dramatic teens. I messaged Stacy back something about criticizing moms being completely un-feminist and after a few angry messages we were no longer friends of any sort.

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For some reason women have a free pass to admit that sometimes marriage, work, marathons, macaron making, etc… is difficult, but throw in that you’re having a tough time as a parent and suddenly the haters appear. There is this, “you chose to have kids so suck it up” mentality that I don’t understand. Parenting is difficult and part of that difficulty is in finding social support.

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I started thinking about how social media has helped me become a better parent. YES. YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY. I am a better mom because of Facebook and other social media platforms. Let me share just a few examples:

  • I’ve arranged play dates and parties with ease on my lunch break or while the kids are brushing their teeth.
  • I received most of my breastfeeding support from other moms on social media and figured out Atticus’s dairy intolerance thanks to parents sharing their stories.
  • When the kids had Hand-Foot-Mouth disease the doctors didn’t know what it was (it manifested differently because of several new strains of the disease) but another mama on Facebook recognized what was happening and filled me in.
  • Sometimes documenting a messy house, or posting a “why my child is crying” funny rant, or bemoaning a lack of sleep produces a chorus of other moms saying, “yes, me too” and I don’t feel quite so alone. It gives me space to breathe, pause, and look at the situation differently.
  • On maternity leave, or during marathon nursing sessions, or at home with sick kids I’m still able to stay current with on library trends, talk books with my friends, and stay SANE because I am having grown-up talk with grown-ups.
  • When my depression started worsening, my “in real life” and “social media” friends came to my rescue via social media. I had messages of encouragement daily. It lifted my spirits to know that so many people cared. I also was able to arrange for help with the kids and meals.
  • I cannot stress how valuable social media is in parenting a teen. Hope and I snapchatted about grades and school this past weekend. We send each other encouragement. There are ridiculous selfies when we hang out. It brings us closer.
  • I read the news instead of watching the news live. This means I can know about all the terrible things happening in the world without having to explain “mass shooting” to my two-year-old.
  • There are times when I simply need to de-stress. I may be looking up cookie recipes on Pinterest, ordering ballet shoes for my son, or simply reading celebrity gossip. Those ten minutes, usually while I’m sitting on the toilet, helps me to return to my kids with a slightly better grip on reality. I’ve had a break and I’m better because of it.

There are countless other examples of how I’ve fashioned social media into a support network.

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If you think about it from a historical standpoint this makes sense. In the 80’s lots of moms worked, but we lived in a small town filled with farms. My mom had several mothers in our neighborhood who were SAHMs and there were visits, phone calls, and emergency babysitting situations. Those women chatted, consulted, and helped one another. She had a readily accessible “in real life” mama tribe. I have my mama tribe, but most of us work outside the home or live many miles away from one another. We get the same level of support, but with more “online” as opposed to “on-ground” support.

Speaking of the 80’s, I believe many of us are looking at the past with rose-colored glasses. I think it is funny how we’ve managed to forget the ways our parents tuned us out at times. Did no one else have a mom with a super long phone cord who had HOURS long conversations with Grandma on Sundays? Am I the only one who really got tired of my dad watching the news at night while we were expected to ignore the awful stories and only bother him during commercials? Seriously, no one has parents who read the newspaper over coffee on the weekend? We all grew up with our parents staring at us 24/7 and anticipating meeting our every need while in a social vacuum with no community support?

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With social media I have my mama tribe readily available , I can connect with friends without hushing the kids, I’m aware of the news, and I get a break. All of this while still hanging out with my children who are fed, clothed, and loved.

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Now there is a catch. My social media consumption and communication has to be balanced. There are times when it is simply not okay to be posting on Facebook or re-tweeting articles. Driving the car, bathing the kids, crossing the street, when my child or spouse is trying to communicate with me in real life, etc…. I also try to set an example for my kids and not get out my phone during events or at the dinner table (after I Instagram my food, of course). I want my children to know that I am more than a pair of eyes staring at a phone. They see me read, knit, and do any number of activities besides interacting with technology. As my children grow older I listen to their requests regarding posting pictures and talking about them on social media. There are boundaries.

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When folks decide to play the critic and pick apart what I post and when and why, it isn’t helping anyone. You don’t know about the conversations my husband and I have about what we share and don’t share on social media. You may think I’m ignoring my kids while they play on the playground, but you don’t know that I’m snapchatting my teen through a tough break-up. When I post a witty comment about tantrums you aren’t there to see how I hold my sensory sensitive son while he screams and thrashes and you may not realize that that little post is how I let off steam and build support when parenting is difficult. If you peek in my window at seven on a Saturday morning you’ll see me drinking coffee and playing Candy Crush while the kids watch Glitter Force. My kids are not living a deprived and hollow life with an absent mama, because what you didn’t see is all of us piled into my bed in the world’s biggest cuddle puddle for most of the night.

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Parents should feel empowered to make social media choices for their families. What is right for me and my family, may not be right for you and your family. That’s totally cool! What would be really great is if we could stop the snobby “social media is ruining society” rants against parents. Now that’s a status I would “like” a million times over.

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Goodbye, January and Hello, February

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January:

  • My first week was introvert paradise. The kids were in school and I stayed at home … ALONE. I read, blogged, and drank so much coffee. There were even daily naps under a cozy electric blanket with the cat curled up beside me. Utter heaven.
  • The second week decided to bitch slap me into reality. I went back to work after four weeks off and it was difficult getting settled back into a work routine. On the way to work on Monday our check engine light came on in the van – keep in mind we are a one car family – and it was a transmission issue. It was around $900 to repair. Later in that week we got word of lice at the daycare, we checked Atticus’s hair, and OH JOY, LICE. I stayed up until 1am combing and shampooing everyone. Luckily, Atticus was the only one infected and we caught his early. He’s sporting a new buzz cut because I was paranoid about checking is dark, thickly abundant hair. I was afraid I missed something. And the dryer broke, WHILE WE WERE WASHING ALL THE THINGS. Thank goodness for laundromats. After that week January leveled off to a reasonable pace.
  • We celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary with a second viewing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Thai food, and coffee.
  • We had a day and a half off for “snow.” It only snowed for about 15 minutes, but there was some nasty ice. The kids were disappointed. Atticus wanted it to look like The Polar Express.
  • I organized my yarn and embroidery supplies and FINALLY finished Sam’s scarf.
  • A little bit of coloring, a little bit of baking, a whole lot of binge watching The Great British Baking show.
  • Saw The Good Dinosaur with Sam and the little kids. Persy did fairly well for her first movie.
  • Read My Antonia and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’m still reading The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall. It is taking me forever.
  • Shook out some blog wrinkles
  • Got a shipment of three adorable ModCloth dresses
  • Had an essay published in The Mighty.

Looking to February:

  • February is birthday month around here. Persy will turn 3 on Thursday and later in the month Hope will celebrate her 16th birthday. WOW!
  • My plan is to keep February quiet. This is the month when illness tends to hit and it is also the month that – historically – my depression gets worse. I’m a weirdo and I typically have spring/summer depressions.
  • My few goals for February is to track my sleep, read, write loads of letters to friends near and far, and focus on weathering through the month.

Hope you all had a splendid January and February is off to a fabulous start.

A Blog Update, Mindfulness, and a bit of Mary Oliver for Good Measure

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You know, I don’t even know why I had my blogging knickers in a bunch. I had so many really lovely and constructive comments from readers. The overwhelming consensus was that I should do what the fuck I want to do with my blog. That’s what I’m going to do.

That seems like an easy answer, but it took several days of ruminating and reading through old posts to figure out what the fuck I do want to do with this blog.

The verdict?
I’m just going to do me.

I think that’s what I knew I would do all along. This wasn’t so much a blogging problem as it was a time and priority problem. The old Amanda had a list of things a mile long that she wanted to do: read! knit! chair this! lead that! write those things! grad school! parenting! work! clean! marriage! bake! everything! NOW!

Burning the candle at both ends indeed. How did I manage to do those many things? Cutting my sleep down to 3 to 5 hours a night. Drinking so much coffee my heart twitched in my chest. Staying so amped up about the next thing that I didn’t always enjoy what I’m actually doing. At work I’m struggling to whip up a blog post in a 30-minute lunch break or thinking about cooking dinner. At home I’m worried about work stress and did I remember to do everything I needed to do. I’m always between two places and never still, never present.

No more.

I’m practicing mindfulness.

When I’m at work, I’m at work. I may listen to an audiobook or podcast. I’ll read a few pages or edit a post on my lunch break, but my task is to handle my business and that I will do. Head down and work.

When I’m home alone with the kids due to Sam’s class schedule, I’m mom. I’ll play LEGOS. I’ll handle the laundry. I’ll make dinner. I’ll embrace that sweet, chaotic love my children give me. It is silly to try and read or balance my checkbook in that tornado of giggles and mess.

When the kids go to bed, I’m a free-wheeling introvert. I’ll knit, I’ll read, I’ll cuddle with my cat. Dishes undone, chores be damned, and the bills can wait until tomorrow.

When I’m with my husband and we’re spending time together, then I’ll be a wife. This means not agonizing over Candy Crush levels or crafting politically witty Facebook posts. Or worrying over work tasks or grocery lists. Instead I’ll focus on listening and how much I love his handsome face.

When it is 10pm and time to wind down for sleep, I will be restful. I will breathe, journal, snuggle down and just be. I’ll let the worry slide from my body. It can wait. I can rest.

I hate to sound cheesy, but this mindfulness thing has been quite a journey. I had to examine so many facets of my life, create boundaries, and ask, “is it worth it?” Quipping “be mindful” like some sort of Yogi drill Sargent was wholly unhelpful. I had to sit still and listen, as Sylvia Plath writes in The Bell Jar,
I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart, ‘I am. I am. I am.”
It has been hard work sloughing off things that are good to focus on what is better. I think I thought an overly full life was only detrimental if it was full of bad things. Nope, too much muchness was tipping me over. I had to ditch some good things to be healthy enough for the great things. It was difficult and more than a little humbling and uncomfortable.

I resigned a professional role that would have been awesome for my career. I decided to not pursue graduate school this year. Too much stress all at once was sending me spinning.

I quit my knitting group when they moved to a different night and location. I need to calm down and go to sleep at night and working the one evening shift is enough. I crave quiet before bed and I’ll find other times to connect with friends (Saturday afternoon, anyone?).

I radically accepted that some days I won’t read at all, or do laundry, or have a delicious home cooked meal for my family. Some days I’ll just want to sit and be to unwind. Or the laundry will have to wait. Or the we’ll eat cheap pizza and bagged salad.

Blogging was one of those things that required me to take a really hard look and ask, “is it worth it?” Yes, yes it most certainly is full of worth, friendship, clarity, and joy. I looked at my beautiful blog friends who are such kindred spirits and I read through my old posts and I marveled at the worthiness. This blog has worth because it has helped me puzzle out life, celebrate the good, grieve that sad, and figure out what it is that I value.

Yeah, I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to keep doing me, but I’m not going to worry about blogging when it is not Blogging Time. Yup, I have blocked out weekly blog time. I’ll write what I can, close my laptop, and then go on to being present with the next task.
What better way to close than to share a favorite Mary Oliver poem?

Mindful by Mary Oliver

“Every dayI see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?”

~~~~

Little blog, here’s to being that needle in the haystack of light.