August 3, 2010

Letting the Horses Run Free

I am now three months into this current bout of insomnia. This morning, as I rolled out of bed after spending most of the night tossing and turning, I realized I had hit my limit. I can't do this anymore.

Sleeplessness has been my good buddy for all of my adult life, and I have come to believe that it is not merely a physical problem I'm dealing with; it's an emotional demon - or rather, it's a product of my emotional demons: my stress, my anxiety. I believe strongly in the mind-body connection, and I feel that if I can let go of my mind, the body will follow.

But the mind, that's the tricky part.

My mind feels like it's a force of its own. I don't feel like I have any control over where it goes or what it does. It's like a TV switching between channels constantly, an iPod searching for the perfect song. I don't know how to relax or sit still or do nothing. And when I need to most, I don't know how to focus.

Sometimes I can get myself into a good trance state. Doing something like slicing a ton of lemons or shredding paper or anything repetitive like that has allowed me to enter into a nice calmness in the past. In those moments I have found myself in a pleasant state of nothingness. I need more nothingness in my life.

Instead, I am distracted. Perpetually dazed by all the stuff that I need to do. By the noise. The incessant hum of my mind.

I know this is the reason I can't sleep. It's too fucking loud inside my head. It's loud in there because the outside world is loud but it's loud outside because it's loud inside. The only solution to all this is to unclutter. To pare down to what's most important and let the rest go. I've been working on this feverishly (when I have the energy) on a physical level, as I prepare for the arrival of the baby. I've been hoping that my mind would catch up. But instead my mind becomes fixated on what's left to be done and how much time we don't have left and how that makes me a failure and how I will never escape all this exhaustive noise.

And on the cycle continues. You see, I don't really know how to let go or be still at all. But I can clearly see that I need to learn how, and that I can learn. Just because my mind has always gone a mile a minute doesn't mean that I can't slow it down. I really believe that I can. It's just going to take practice.

My mom gave me some advice today: while relaxing, I should imagine a big fenced area full of horses. The gate opens, and one by one, the horses run out, until only emptiness remains. Tonight and every night after, I will do my prenatal yoga. I will have a warm bath along with some chamomile tea. I will do my Bradley relaxation practice. And I will look for the horses - and the emptiness beyond. And in that emptiness, I will find rest and peace. It may not be tonight or the night after or even two weeks from now. But the quietude will come and sleep will be mine.

In the meantime, if you have any relaxation tips, please share them. I need all the help I can get.


Crazy Daisy said...

Leslie -- I am so sorry you are experiencing all of this. Here are my thoughts.

Once upon a time I was dealing with so much family stuff I couldn't stop thinking. My mind just wouldn't turn off. It is a horrible feeling to hear all 1 million to dos, worries, fears, emotions, etc at the same time.

For comfort, I started doing the below in my bed, where it was "safe". once I was comfortable, I would find a nice "quiet" spot. sit on the floor, or in the grass outside.

Close your eye, and imagine a candle flame. This in itself can be a challenge. To focus for long enough to see JUST the candle and flame. Once your get this far, control the flame. make it brighter, make it nearly flicker away. Focus all your thoughts on the flame.

For me, this took forever (yeah, seems silly it took me a long time to be able to do this) however my mind wouldn't concentrate long enough. I would think of all the stuff.

The important part is when something else enters your mind, don't be made at yourself. Acknowledge it, and then dismiss it and return to your flame.

Best wishes to you. Let me know if you ever want to chat! :)

Eric's Mommy said...

This post could not have come at a better time.

I have always had problems sleeping but recently things have been very stressful and I can't sleep at all. I resorted to taking Nyquil some nights and Benadryl sometimes too, I just can't stand it. My mind just races. It's another reason why I can't read a book during the day, my mind can't focus on it. I start a sentence and next thing I know my mind is wandering.

Amanda said...

I don't have any tips really. Like Eric's Mommy, I resort to taking Benadryl at times. It's not ideal, but it seems like everyone's voices and needs and wants just stay in my mind when I'm trying to sleep. And it's not just my mind that feels busy. My body feels like it's busy too. It's very strange. And hard to deal with. I haven't slept well at all this summer. Anyway, I understand what you're going through. I hope you find peace.

amber said...

I can only imagine how taxing long term insomnia is, especially when it feels like there is no way to calm your mind. Jim suffers from it now and again, but I don't think he's found any good long term solutions. Much love (and sleep) to you my friend.