Oh man, this is a tough one to write because I’m exposing a side of me that’s weak, and to be quite honest, hard to admit. I was just about to write the word, embarrassing, but you know what? It’s not. I’m actually proud to be in a place where I can write this knowing that it might benefit and serve others struggling, is far greater than the risk of some thinking “less” of me. I was listening to a Rachel Hollis podcast once and I wrote down these words, “Nerves are a selfish emotion”. I don’t think it applies to everything in life as nerves can certainly be a good response to something that shouldn’t happen but when it comes to what others may think, I do think nerves are selfish.
I digress. Sleep. It’s never been just an easy thing for my body, actually, my mind to slip into. I’m a big thinker, I am constantly observing and conjuring up thoughts about my surroundings, assessing how others feel around me or what they’re thinking, second guessing decisions, wondering what’s next. It’s hard for me to be “in the present” but it’s something I’m always striving for. The older I get, it does get easier, and I think that’s just because I have years of good experiences to look back on and when I look around me, I am assured that I made some pretty good decisions to get where I am. There are some good things about getting older!
K I digress again, sleep. I would say my trouble with falling asleep started in my early twenties during my senior year of college. I was a good student, striving to get the best possible grades I could. It wasn’t an every night thing but before exams I found myself worrying about the next day and not being able to fall asleep. I tried Tylenol PM around this time and it worked great. But again, this issue was rare and only really happened before exams. On other nights, I was fine, more than fine, college was the most fun, ever.
In my twenties, my sleep was never amazing but it was totally manageable. At every physical exam, I can remember my doctor asking me if there were any issues and I always said sleep. I was prescribed certain medications but never liked the way they made me feel the next morning. I would take them once and then never again. I was also sort of afraid to take them because what if I had a bad reaction or what if they didn’t work. There was ambien, and one other one other, I forget the name. SO I managed to get by and those bad nights were pretty sporadic.
I slept amazing all through my first pregnancy which was a pleasant surprise but when it got really bad was after I had my first born, Brian. About 3-4 days post-partum the anxiety hit, hard. It was terrible! You can read more about that here. I ended up calling my OB who recommended me to a psychologist in my area and within days of seeing him AND being put on medication, I was a new person and finally able to enjoy my newborn. The anxiety had manifested itself in severe insomnia, I remember those first couple nights being up the entire night, in between feedings and everything else that goes on in a new babies life, just not being able to sleep. The experience of irrationally fearing for my life without sleep left me traumatized, but again, thankfully was put on medication and sleeping was no longer an issue. I stayed on the medication for some time and eventually started to wean off of it and no longer needed it. It was also very assuring to know that I did well on medication so if the issue ever did arise again, I knew the person to see and had a solution.
3 years later Sweet Grace came into the world. Those same feelings started to creep in around 3-4 days postpartum and I knew exactly what to do. Because I was on top of it, I had a blissful experience and could actually rest when my baby was sleeping. Same thing, was able to come off medication at the right time and be just fine.
3.5 years after Gracie girl here we are. Although never diagnosed, I do have some form of PTSD from that time. It was scary to be in that position not knowing what in the actual eff was happening to me. I was fearful, embarrassed and ashamed. Regretfully, I didn’t even tell Brian, my own husband while it was going on. I went to my mom who guided me on what to do next. Brian has since become aware and feels badly that I didn’t tell him but I didn’t want him to know that I was going through that in the midst of what was supposed to be an amazing time at home with our baby. It was almost 6 years ago, and even in this short amount of time, I feel like we’ve come a long way with bringing awareness to the postpartum issues that women face. I never expected it back then and thought it only came in one size, the horror stories you saw on the news.
So you see sleep is not just a natural thing my body and mind do easily, and it’s the first thing that suffers when I’m going through anything. I’ve learned how to deal with it over the years, and have found that just knowing that I was able to overcome it, albeit with help, puts me at ease. There are also some other practices I do nightly that help me tremendously. I have a whole routine that I do nightly to set myself up for a peaceful nights rest.
I diffuse essential oils right next to my bed. I use lavender, frankincense (an amazing essential oil for racing thoughts) and either Roman Chamomile or Cedarwood in my diffuser. I do about three drops of each as I’m getting into bed and the aroma soothes me right to sleep. What I’m actually practicing here is aromatherapy. To get scientific real quick, when you diffuse essential oils, they are taken into your body via your lungs, absorbed into the bloodstream and circulated throughout your body, including your brain. When you inhale frankincense for instance, even if you just take a long slow breath right from the bottle, you’ll feel your body relax, at least I do. I have found the combination of lavender, frank and the others I mention, Roman Chamomile and Cedarwood, to be most effective for me at bed time.
Some nights when I’ve got a lot on my mind, I’ll take a couple extra steps and do this whole thing with my feet. Sounds crazy but hear me out. I give my feet a hot bath for a few minutes, like really hot, and I can feel my whole body start to slow down. I then roll on Vetiver, an essential oil that promotes grounding, stabilizing, and calming feelings, to the bottoms of my feet. It makes me so calm, and I swear when you roll on that Vetiver, your whole body relaxes. I hop right into bed and it’s lights out for me.
I also keep SleepEssence tablets in our medicine cabinet for times when I’m laying in bed and can’t go to sleep. They have melatonin in them and a couple other essential oils and work INCREDIBLY well.
SO, I am a sleep warrior, lol, and I’m so happy to be writing this post on the other side of it all. I hope that if anyone is out there dealing with a similar issue, you find some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone and that you will get through it.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. If you’d like more info on essential oils, go here.