Part of my OCD is to look at things as problems that I need to solve. Sometimes this works in my favor and sometimes it works against me.
I often believe that I am a problem to solve. If I can just find the right thing, activity, practice, or object, I often believe I will be happy and healthy.
In the search for that goal, I have read hundreds of articles and many books. I have researched products. I try different things, like therapy, medication, and changing my sleep rhythm.
Recently, I’ve been struggling again with my insomnia and heightened anxiety. They both went into overdrive working on my written exams and with some personal events right after.
It’s been a few weeks and I’m still trying to get on an even keel.
Episodes like this make me work hard to “fix” myself.
Trying to “Solve” My Insomnia
There’s nothing wrong with trying to sleep better, but I can take it too far by trying to cure it and by extension, myself.
I have trouble just accepting that this is a rough patch in my struggle with insomnia and anxiety. I feel “broken” when I can’t sleep or focus. I start getting migraines and become unproductive. I want to fix myself so I can be productive and “normal.”
Even when I have the time and space to do so, I struggle with my need to just experience this period. I get frustrated.
I forget that these are illnesses and conditions that are chronic and that I will constantly have to work on them my whole life.
How I Handle My Insomnia
I started a new medication a few months ago to help with my insomnia and anxiety. Surprisingly, it helped most with my back and muscle pain. It helped a little with the insomnia and anxiety, but it’s helped less over time.
I have many other medication options I can try, but I am already barely comfortable taking two medications for anxiety.
Instead I want to try other things, some of which I’ve tried before and some new things.
I try to see if sleeping at a different time will help, much later so I’ll be exhausted when I get to bed. Or I try to just get out of bed when I wake up even if I’m still fatigued after only a few hours of sleep. I try having a drink or two before bed (even when I know that means I’ll probably wake up in the middle of the night, but I don’t really care at that point because I would probably wake up anyway).
I have a diffuser with lavender oil. I use black out curtains and a white noise machine. The room is cool. I shower before bed. I take my meds at night to see if they make me sleepy. I don’t use my computer right before I go to sleep, instead I read. I reread familiar books. The familiarity is comforting and I don’t have to wonder what will happen next or feel tempted to read too long.
I try lying in bed even when I have trouble sleeping to see if I can train my brain to just go to sleep eventually. I think of happy memories or create blog posts or stories in my head. The other day I lay in bed for an hour or more trying to remember the timelines in How I Met Your Mother.
Surprisingly, it didn’t work.
But I keep trying to find that one thing or technique that will solve two decades of sleep issues. And I continue to believe that that will solve my larger anxiety and pain problems instead of focusing on managing and accommodating my illnesses.
So tonight I’m still going to see if I can get better sleep by going to bed later. I’m going to fill my diffuser with water and a few drops of lavender oil. And I’m going to hope that I sleep through the night, while realistically hoping that I just get more sleep than last night.
And I will continue to work toward acceptance of the ups and downs that are an unavoidable part of having chronic conditions.