Sleep, sleep, and more sleep

Ever since we worked through this last rupture and began to deal with the falling apart, out of control mess that was December me, we have been very focused on sleep. It started when I emailed Bea, telling her I felt a bit more like I had been able to put all the crap away, maybe into a suitcase, and it wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t really with me, either, and I could open the suitcase when I was journaling or in her office and so I was okay during the day, that the bad thing was at night, I couldn’t keep the suitcase shut, it just pops open and I have no control over it, so I can’t sleep because I have to keep the suitcase shut and stop anyone who might open it. 

So, 4 sessions ago, on a Monday, Bea asked, “Can we talk about sleep? Because I think we could do some work around this, maybe see if we can’t make it not so scary to go to bed.”

I nodded, sure, okay. “I guess so. We can try.” I wasn’t sure I really believed we could *fix* my sleep, but I was willing to try. 

“Can you talk about what your bedtime routine is like? Do you have a routine? Or even what your evenings usually look like?” She asked. 

I shrugged, and proceeded to describe how Kat has quiet time, watching a show and snuggling with me. After that, usually around 8, she gets her pajamas on, brushes teeth and we put anything in her room that needs to be there, like pacifier (yes, my 6 year old still uses a pacifier, please don’t judge me. She needs it, it is a sensory thing associated with her autism, and we are working on not using it any longer, but by nighttime, she needs it), or her iPad to plug in, or her current favorite stuffed animal. Then we put on a short yoga video, do a bed time meditation, and then I tuck her into bed, sing a song, do one more bedtime mediation, put on her audio book, and kiss her goodnight. By this time, it’s usually 9:00pm. I clean up, pack lunches, do whatever needs doing. And then I start to find things to do in order to put off going to bed. And then when I go to my bedroom, I won’t lay down, and I won’t turn out the lights. I will sit up, in a brightly lit room, and avoid bed and falling asleep. 

“So then what happens when you do try to fall asleep?” She wanted to know. 

I shrugged. I didn’t have a great answer. “I don’t try. I try not to. I don’t know. I can’t lay down. I mean, I can’t like, lay down and try to fall asleep. I just stay sitting up. And read. Or listen to a book. Or watch a movie. And I fight falling asleep. Until I can’t anymore. Then I just……I don’t know. I guess then I finally fall asleep.” 

“Do you feel less safe when you lay down?” I remember her asking this gently, trying hard not to upset me. 

I nodded my head at first, and then told her, “It just….it triggers things. Pictures. Feelings. I don’t know. It is triggering to lay down right now.” 

She mentioned that I lay down when I do yoga, but I shook my head. I may twist myself into pigeon, and then take the form of sleepy pigeon, or do an up dog as I move through sun salutations, but never do I lay down on my back. I just skip those asanas in class and take a different pose, and at home, my flows just avoid it. Savasana is done in child’s pose, and it took me a long time to even feel somewhat okay with child’s pose. I used to take savasana sitting up, in hero pose, so child’s pose is improvement of a sort. I tried to explain this to Bea, but my words got twisted up, and it didn’t make sense when I spoke out loud. So I simply said I didn’t know. 

Three sessions ago, on a Wednesday, Bea asked me if I felt okay continuing to talk about sleep, or if there was anything else I wanted to discuss. I didn’t have anything else, sleep and flashbacks and nightmares had become my new normal and I was fine with talking about and trying to mitigate the flashbacks and terrifying dreams. 

I’d written to Bea on Tuesday, upset that I never got the chance to be *normal*. I said that all I ever remember was being afraid of the dark, of wanting to hide under blankets or in my closet, of being afraid to sleep. I said all I remember is having bad dreams and being scared and alone. I said it was like that now, when I go to bed. 

“When you go to bed, and you fall asleep, or lie down and have a flashback, what is that like?” She asked me, after reading back over my email. 

“I…..Its like I can’t move. I get trapped there.” I told her. 

“Do you feel frozen?” Bea suggested, and she wasn’t wrong to suggest that, because frozen tends to be a common state for me. 

“No, not like that………a child, afraid to get out of their bed in the middle of the night. More like, because it’s night so it’s sort of scary, but also, my mother had rules about getting up and getting out of bed. Until I was 5, she had to come get me out of bed in the mornings, because she had drilled that rule into me so well.” I explained as well as I could. 

Bea hesitated then, but she eventually asked me if it was the same when Kenny would put me to bed. 

I remember feeling extremely foggy, and not wanting to feel anything while I talked. “No..I…he would put me to bed and sometimes, right away…..he’d, well, you know, rub my back, sing a song, I don’t know…..and then….he’d stay in my room and bad things would happen.” As much as I didn’t want to feel anything, fear and shame and disgust still lurked around the edges of feeling. 

Bea murmured something validating and understanding and it seems it was the exact right thing to say, because I continued on with the story. “Sometimes though, he would put me to bed and then leave. And he might come back. And he might not. And I never knew. I couldn’t know. So I just stayed awake and waited. And waited. And I was trapped and stuck and couldn’t do anything!” I remember sort of shouting the last sentence at her, but Bea never gets upset by that type of thing. 

“That was hard,” she told me, “Really scary and really hard. Worse in someways, to just be waiting, not knowing.”

I nodded. Exactly. And then, in a very tiny voice, I said to her, “I wanted and didn’t want him to come back. It’s confusing.” I felt so much shame when I told her that.

There wasn’t any judgement in her voice, though. “Of course you did. That’s what we talk about, how bodies respond, and how these things can get very complicated, because our bodies are made to feel good.” 

I remember physically shrinking away from her words. “I’m disgusting.” I whispered. 

“No, I don’t think so. Not at all. Bodies reacting, that’s part of the confusing part, but it’s also part of that touch being too much for a little girl. You never should have been touched in that way when you were little. You were a child. You weren’t disgusting, you weren’t bad. That is all on him. And that’s when you went away, right? You went away because it was too much, too confusing to handle?”

I nodded, I agreed with her. She continued then, when I didn’t say anything, “You protected yourself in the best way you could. That little girl was very smart, and very brave.” 

I shrugged, and I felt even blurrier. “I went far away to the place in my head. That was different than here not here.” 

“Yes,” Bea asked, “Did you create a place you could go and feel safe? Did you have a place you imagined?” 

I remembered sort of day dreaming as I tried to fall asleep, but I don’t share that. They were always dreams of my Sunday school teacher or regular school teacher or my favorite aunt taking me home and letting me live with them. I desperately wanted to live in a place with no secrets. Instead, I opted to share something else. “Maybe a place from my book…..”

“Ahhh, yes. Books were very important to you, weren’t they?” Bea remembered. I learned to read really early, before school, even, so by first and second grade, I was reading chapter books. “Was there a certain book you pictured places from?” 

“Maybe the secret garden?” It came out as a question, but I had meant it a statement. It was just difficult to share that part of my story. I’d never before shared how I used the garden Mary finds and creates to feel safe. It made me feel vulnerable, like Bea could see through me and see all my secrets. 

“Oh, that is a good one. I didn’t read the book, but I imagine the garden was beautiful.” 

I didn’t respond right away, and then I told her, “You should read it, it is a really good book. It was one of my favorites, I read it all the time.” 

We discussed the storyline, but I didn’t remember much of it. It’s hard to recall facts, when the last time I read the book I was probably 10 or 11. 

“What does the garden look like, when you picture it?” Bea had wanted to know. 

At first, it felt too embarrassing to say anything. I cant explain why. I just get embarrassed when asked to share things from my imagination. I finally described how the garden is a secret, so no one can find it or even knows about it, and then I described the weeping willow tree with a bench under it, and how I liked the tree because it sort of hides a person who sits on the bench, and I shared how there are purple flowers on vines that climb every where (morning glories, Bea supplied the name) and pink roses, and other flowers, too, lavender, and ones I don’t know the name of. 

Bea told me it sounded wonderful and very safe. “I think this book could be a resource for you. Maybe you could read some before bed, see if it can help?” 

Before we ended therapy that day, Bea carefully broached the subject of trying some SP around my sleep issues. She told me she felt like SP was the perfect thing for the sleep troubles, because they were so much more than a memory, the sleep issues are happening right now, in my present day life, and they involve feelings and thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. She was very careful in the way she suggested it, making sure to stress that SP was just an option, not something we had to do. I agreed to think about it. 

During my session, I had shrugged off her suggestion of reading The Secret Garden at the time, but when I got home that night, I found a copy of the book on kindle with the audible companion, and downloaded it. I’ve been listening to the story at night, when I am trying to fall asleep. So far, it’s not helped, but it’s only been three nights that I have tried it. 

Feeling lonely

Breathe in, breathe out with an “sssss” sound. I’m late, my anxiety is sky-rocketing. It snowed last night, not a lot, but just enough to make the roads icy in some spots. And of course, everyone has forgotten how to drive in the winter, and so we are all traveling along at 25 miles an hour– in a 55 mile an hour zone, so I can’t even speed to make up for lost time. It’s funny, because I’m breathing to calm myself down for several moments before I realize that I am breathing like this. I continue with it, and send Bea a text, letting her know I’m sorry I am stuck in traffic. Of course, I wouldn’t be late if my nanny hadn’t been late. The nanny is always late in the early mornings, and it’s usually been fine, but as the roads get snowier, it won’t be. I’m going to need to say something, but I’m not sure what, or how. Ugh. I hate having to be the bad guy.

I finally arrive 10 minutes late, rush in, apologize, leave my boots on the rug in the hall, sit down in my usual place on the couch and breathe. “Whew. The nanny was 20 minutes late. I’m so, so sorry.”

“She’s young, isn’t, she? Young people like to sleep,” Bea laughs. She’s not concerned, not stressed, not upset. I relax about it. It’s really okay.

“I guess so,” I shrug. I don’t think I ever really slept.

“How are you sleeping? We haven’t really talked about that lately. You haven’t talked about nightmares, or not sleeping.” She studies me, but not in a mean way. More like a someone who cares, searching for signs of tiredness, or not okayness.

I look down now, as if my socks are suddenly the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen. “I don’t..I don’t sleep. Nightmare aren’t every night like they were but sometimes…..sometimes it’s like one night of nightmares can ruin the whole week of sleep.”

“Well, yes. We don’t want to go to a bad place if we can help it. No one does.”

“So I just don’t sleep, I guess. I sleep for a while, wake up, fall back asleep, wake up. I don’t know,” I’m chronically tired, worn out. But I can’t relax, can’t really rest.

Bea swivels in her chair, like a kid might do. “So, what happens, when you lay down? Do you fall asleep or lay there, get up?”

“I lay down when Hubby lays down, sometimes earlier if I’m tired. So maybe 9:30. I’ll read my book, or write in my journal. But if I put that stuff down, I get too anxious, and can’t fall asleep. So I will just read until sleep hits me over the head and knocks me out. Then I sleep for a few hours, and either have a nightmare and wake up freaked out, or just jerk awake, no nightmare but sure something is not okay, or I wake up feeling like everything is off, and disoriented for a few minutes. Then I’m up for a while, or up for good, it depends on how I woke up. If I fall back asleep, it’s usually that in and out sleep for another hour or two. And then I’m up.”

“So like last night, how did you sleep?” Bea asks.

“I think I fell asleep around 10— the last time I looked at the clock it was 9:45. Then, I woke up around 12:00. And then I read my book for maybe an hour or so, fell back asleep, and woke up,at 3:30. And I’ve been up since 3:30.” I yawn, and laugh, “I’m a little tired.”

“You never look tired to me,” Bea tells me.

I smile. A few weeks ago, I would have taken this as her calling me a liar. Now, I hear her saying that I don’t have dark circles under my eyes— which I am really sensitive about having, so it’s nice to hear– “I have really good concealer.” (The concealer is yves saint Laurent radiant touch— it literally reflects light and brightens the face. I don’t wear foundation, or much makeup, anymore but this and my mascara is where I spend my money when it comes to makeup.)

Bea laughs. I think she thinks I am making a joke, but I’m so serious. My concealer is like 8 hours of sleep in a bottle. “Did you sleep good when you were a teenager?”

I shake my head. “No. Not really. Those were the insomnia years.” I don’t tell her that those were the years my mother was annoyed I didn’t sleep a lot like teens were supposed to, that she would be annoyed I was awake when she went to bed, and up before her. I don’t tell her that my parents forced sleeping pills on me then, and that is part of the reason I am so against them now, I don’t explain how scary sleeping pills felt to me, how they just conked me out, or how I still dreamed but couldn’t wake up. I don’t explain that once I took the pills, because my mother always made sure I took them, and then I didn’t go to bed and fought falling asleep and that was a terrible night, because I hallucinated scary, scary things– it was like my childhood nightmares come to life. All of these things run through my head, but I cant say them out loud. I can’t go there. There is….still a feeling of disconnection between Bea and I, at least in my head, and it makes me feel like I can’t be fully honest or talk about everything that goes on in my head.

“What about before that? When is the last age you remember sleeping good?”

I shake my head. I’ve kind of drawn into myself a little, with the thoughts from the teen years and sleep. I’m alone with them. The horrible thing is, that I should be able to share these thoughts with Bea, but I can’t. It’s like things have gone backwards again, in the trust department, or something. That’s not exactly right, either, though, because I trust her. And yet there is this disconnection, and I don’t understand why, and I’m not sure Bea even knows it’s there, which means it’s just me being crazy. Ugh.

“Did you get up and go to your parents, then? Ask for a glass of water, get a hug, or something?” Bea is looking at me, but not directly. It’s like she knows I’ve gotten uncomfortable and gone away a little.

“No, I was, they-” I cut myself off, hold back tears. It doesn’t feel safe to cry here right now. It’s that disconnection again. I was going to say that I never got out of bed when I was little. I was afraid. I had nightmares that snakes lived under my bed and would hurt me, and so,I was afraid to get out of my bed at night. They, my parents would come if I called loud enough that they would hear me, but usually I couldn’t yell loud enough. I have vague memories of being scared at night, and calling for my mom, but my voice being frozen, I couldn’t get the words out loud enough for her to hear me to even know to come to me. “No. I don’t really think I have ever been a good sleeper. I think I’m one of those people, I don’t need a lot sleep.”

“Mmmhhh. That’s probably true. If this is a life long pattern, then it would make sense.”

I nod, and don’t say anything else. We sit quiet, for a minute. Bea is calm, and I am restless with the silence. I hate silence. I need to have someone talking to me, or to be filling the silence with chatter. In therapy, it is hard for me to fill the silence.

Bea doesn’t have tea with her today. It’s odd to see her without tea. She turns her head more directly toward me. “Are you wanting to work on sleep here? We could do that here….one thing would be to work directly with the nightmares. Of course, I know that makes them worse before they get better.”

My heart feels like it stops for a minute. I breathe. I can barely think. “Nightmares. Not today. Thursday. We can do it Thursday. I’ll write it down.”

“Okay, that sounds good. What about talking to your MD about sleep? Or Dr. Beals?” Bea sounds far away to me. Why doesn’t she notice I’m not so much here right now?

“My doctor just would give me meds, I told her no. Dr. Beals has been working with me, we cut down on caffeine, really slow. From coffee to tea. So now it’s 1 or 2 cups of coffee in the morning, and then tea. I can have caffeine tea until noon, after that it has to be decaf, or really low caffeine. She says tea with caffeine is different than coffee, so even that is less of a jolt than coffee would be in the morning. And then we looked at supplements, vitamins, all that. Nothing, no change.” I shake me head. Nothing helps. Because I am tired, I just fight sleep so much.

“Caffeine!” Bea hits her forehead jokingly, “Now why haven’t I thought of that?!? Here we have been discussing sleep, and I haven’t even thought of telling you to cut back on caffeine!”

“It didn’t make a difference anyway,” I say.

“How has it been with Hubby gone?”

I sigh. “Awful. Every noise makes me wonder what is going on, makes me jump. Kat has been sleeping in my bed, because she has been told every night forever that when Daddy goes on his hunting trip, she can have a sleepover with mom every night. So I’m even more paranoid about having nightmares because I don’t want to wake her, or scare her.”

“So, in some sense, Hubby is the protector at night for you, making you feel safe, even if you won’t turn to him.” Bea seems intrigued by this.

“I guess. I mean, I’m used to him being there.” I don’t know. I wish I had a definite answer. I suppose I feel safer with him there, I believe he is capable and that he is safe. But, at the same time, he scares me, because I’m afraid of what will happen if I turn to him when we are in bed in the middle of the night; I don’t know what to expect.

Bea doesn’t say anything for a minute, and either do I. Then she tells me about how her husband was out of town last week, and she let the dog sleep in the bed. Which worked out well, until he came home and the dog hopped into bed the first night. We both laugh.

“I still have the eating behaviors list, why it’s hard to let go of the behaviors,” Bea tells me, when our laughter stops.

“No. Oh no, not today.” I shake my head, make a face and look down. Why did I ever give her that damn list? Now she has it. I should have taken it back, not let her keep it. Crap. “Hubby and I did the first chapter from the workbook together.”

My tactic of distraction works well, Bea is too curious about this workbook, and she wants me to be able to lean on Hubby for support. “How did it go?”

“Well, I’d say that you can recommend it to people, for sure.” I smile at her. I’m happy with the way the workbook has gone.

“Well, tell me!” She says, really wanting to know, and I can believe that she does care about what happens with me, and that she wants me to be okay.

I tell her about the workbook, how it was rough going, but how things got better. She is amazed with some of the things the book talks about, and she really likes the attachment viewpoint. I tell her that it was a very noticeable parallel to me that when Hubby tunes me out, or I feel insecure about our attachment, I talk incessantly, and I would do the same thing as a 3 and 4 year old to my mom–she still complains about it to this day, in fact. “That’s one of the ways it feels safe for you to seek attachment with your attachment figures,” Bea says. I wonder if this is why I have always liked people to tell me a story about themselves, about their day, their lives, anything, to help me calm down. I don’t ask though, because it could be a way off base-totally crazy thought.

“I thought it seemed to work well, I mean Hubby was pretty standoffish about it, even though he agreed to do it, and by the very end, he was really talking openly. We both were. I mean, I couldn’t read my paper, I had to give it to him, but that started things for him, he was upset at how upset and hurt I was. But after that he shared more, too.” I pull out our mini binder, and the loop worksheet, to show Bea. “This loop was helpful to see, and to fill out. How the feelings lead to a behavior, but my behavior triggers a feeling in him which leads to a behavior in him, which triggers my feelings which leads right back to my behavior, and round and round we go.”

Bea nods, looking at the loop. “When you were vulnerable, and really showed him how much he effects you, you took a chance. But it made it safer for him to open up and be more vulnerable. Guys are taught to hold back feelings. This workbook is really forcing the feelings front and center, though, isn’t it? And the loop is a really good visual, for you guys to see. I like the list of behaviors, too. It’s all good.”

“It really is. I ended up buying the book by the lady that created the therapy. I got really interested in it, and read ahead in the workbook, but I wanted to know a little more. You probably will want that one, too. Because it has more information in it than the workbook does. It’s called Hold me Tight.” I drink some tea, wiggle my toes. I’m fidgety today.

“I’m going to have amazon at my house everyday this week!” Bea laughs.

“I like the viewpoint. I read other books on couples stuff. But this makes the most sense. There’s no scripted conversations, it’s more questions, things to talk about with your partner, to understand each other. She compares it to addressing a symptom versus addressing the real problem.”

“I’m excited for you, it seems like you feel good about this. And I’m interested, curious to learn about it, I have to say. I haven’t heard of viewing relationships as adult attachments, not in therapy like this, not in a formal way, but I like it.”

I frown a little. “You said before I even found this, that Hubby was my closest attachment figure. That a spouse was an adults closest attachment figure.”

“Yes, yes I did, because that is my personal belief as a therapist. But most couples therapists, most adult therapists believe attachment needs end in childhood. So this is very, very interesting to me. That’s why I’m so curious about it.” Bea smiles.

“Now you are going to want to be a couples therapist,” I say. What I really mean, is you are going to stop seeing individuals and “quit” me to see couples.

“I might be more likely to see couples if I’m already see one person of the couple. Like you, and then you could bring Hubby if I saw couples.” She says.

I feel better. At least she isn’t quitting me. “Hubby is coming home for lunch. He called and said he missed me. So he is driving back from hunting camp to come see me.” I smile.

“That’s a great thing! He left for his trip feeling more connected to you, and so he missed you. It’s great– and huge– that he is coming back for lunch.”

“It’s weird though. Before, we did the workbook and talked like we did that night, he kept,telling me he wasn’t coming home because I was bored. But he would come if I needed something. And now, he’s coming home for lunch? It’s like it made a difference, you know?”

“You guys connected on an emotional level. That’s the difference, I think. You haven’t been letting him in, and he hasn’t been letting you in. The other night, you did. It’s easier to miss someone when you are connected.” Bea stretches her hands in front of her, and crosses her legs. It’s all slow and calm, though. Nothing seems fidgety or awkward like I feel when I move around.

We chat a few more minutes, and then wrap up the session heading out. Bea to errands, me home. We say our goodbyes, and see you Thursdays.

I’m mad at myself for not really doing anything with my time in therapy today. I feel like today was a waste. I don’t know why I can’t open back up. If I had maybe said some of what was going on in my head, therapy wouldn’t have been a waste today. Why do I feel so separated from Bea? I end up not talking to her, and then I feel really alone. Thursday I’m supposed to tslk nightmares. Will I actually be able to do that? Or so I need to figure out what is going on with me and Bea first? But she doesn’t seem to sense it, or feel it, or realize it, so it must be me– in my head? Driving back home, I shake my head. I’ll figure it out later. I’m too tired to think about it right now.