Do you ever look back at a time in your life and think about how much has changed since then? I’m not sufficiently dedicated to keep a daily diary and since I’ve retired there would be a similarity in the entries anyway. To be honest, there are days when I have to check the paper just to see what day it is! However, having started this blog just over two years ago I have a number of pieces I can look back on and, for me at least, they make for an interesting comparison. For example, at the time I was ill with depression I also had major sleep problems, and I wrote about these in January 2013 in my post Sleepless In Epping. I had intended to reproduce it now, but it is quite a long post so instead I’m just giving you an extract:
For quite some time, many months at least and maybe years, I have got by with around five hours sleep each night, but in the lead up to my depression diagnosis this got progressively worse. I was managing three hours at best most nights, and not all in the one spell: I would wake up at least once or twice, and sometimes more, every night. Whilst this may not have been the ‘cause’ of depression, it sure as hell didn’t help prevent it! I was asked about this when I first saw my GP, who noticed that I had a slight irregularity in my heartbeat which she thought might be a contributory factor to my nocturnal arousals – the waking up and getting up, even if I didn’t need to pee! So, on top of all the other tests, I was sent for an ECG to see how serious this might be. Fortunately, this confirmed the irregular heartbeat but not to a severe level. So I still have that, untreated, and I know that I’m just going to have to live with it.
The next stage was to be referred to a specialist clinic. I didn’t have to stay in hospital but was invited to add to my apparel for one night – a mini computer, with all sorts of wires and tubes to be attached to my chest, stomach, arms and face. The instructions were like IKEA for sleep disorders, but at least they were in something resembling English and all the parts were there! This test also confirmed the irregular breathing patterns, but nothing more severe.
I was advised to try sleeping in a chair, rather than my bed, as this might improve airflow though my passages. They thought my irregular heartbeat might be combining with breathing patterns to jolt me awake. As the advice came from a professional I thought it was worth a go…..I’ve tried a few other things as well, with mixed degrees of failure. To give you an idea:
Infusions – I’ve never been much of a fan of the herbal/floral teas. As far as I’m concerned, to be called ‘tea’ it needs to contain ‘tea.’ Grass is for gardens, or for enlivening smoking. But someone recommended lemon and ginger and to my surprise I quite liked it. So I thought I’d try the special infusions to aid sleep. Verdict? Well, I’ve never drunk liquid compost, but I think I now have an idea of what it would taste like. And it didn’t seem to help me sleep any better either – probably because of the retching. Not recommended!
Herbal sleep tablets – following the ‘it’s good for you’ logic I thought I’d try these. Well, if they’re good enough for Cadfael, why not? They were quite large, it was impossible to swallow them without tongue contact and they tasted like…you guessed it, liquid compost in tablet form. No noticeable difference in sleep either, probably because of the bad taste lingering above toothpaste. Not recommended!
Hot chocolate – tastes much nicer than the shit-in-a-bag stuff. But no noticeable improvement in sleep. Recommended for enjoyment, but not for sleeping.
Keep the TV on with low or no sound – what was I thinking! I just ended up watching movies! Not recommended, well, for sleep anyway. I saw some good films though.
Listen to music – also falls into the ‘enjoyable but didn’t help’ class. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried it with AC/DC? Fun, but not recommended.
I told you it was a long post! If you do want to read the original it can be found here.
The period I described in that piece was in late 2011/early 2012. It seems like a lifetime ago! I still live in the same flat and am still on anti-depressants to control the depression, but much else has changed. I managed to become well enough to go back to work until I retired, in September 2013, and since then I have been sleeping a lot more. It is still erratic, and I usually wake at least twice every night, but the big difference is that I don’t have to get up and go to work, so if I need to I can sleep during the day – I don’t have to wait till bedtime! I’m generally much happier nowadays, too.
My point in telling you this is that over time my memory of the difficult period will decline, and it is so helpful for me to have this reference to look back on, to remind me of what I went through and have largely overcome. I’m not recommending that you start a diary, but I hope you recognise the value of retaining some stimuli to recall your previous life events. This is not to wallow in the past, it is more to give you a sense of where you were and how you have improved your life, how your experiences have shaped the person you are, and what they may give you to understand and help others if they need it.
It works for me!