ZZZ: The Role of Sleep in Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the last post in the #AtoZChallenge. For my letter Z post, I have, each year that I got to it, used ZZZ at least among other things. And yes, it’s totally fitting with the self-care theme too. Sleep is so important! Today I’m going to explain a bit about how you can take better care of your sleep hygiene and how sleeping issues can signal other problems.

Most people have some sleeping issues at times. I have had quite a few nights in which I fell asleep late recently.

When I was a child or teen, anxiety would often keep me awake. Since I didn’t get any help for my anxiety then, the issue grew until I had to use sleeping pills for a while at age 20. When I moved into independent living, my insomnia grew worse and it was one contributing factor to my suicidal crisis three months in. The first medication I got, was again a sleeping pill.

Now let me be very clear: sleeping pills are not to be used long-term. When I got my first script in 2006, my GP said to take it no more than two to three times a week. I was taking sleeping pills for a few months early in my psychiatric hospital stay, but I eventually decided less sleep without pills was better than less sleep with pills. I did take sleeping pills on an as-needed basis for a while after that. However, except in extreme cases of severe mental illness keeping you awake a lot, you ultimately need to find other solutions. So learn to practise proper sleep hygiene. I honestly don’t do too well on this now that I write about it.

For example, one tip is to use your bed for sleeping only. Though I do that, I tend to nap a lot too. I am learning to get up after at most an hour, so that I won’t disrupt my night-time sleep.

Also, it is recommended to turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime. I’ve heard this is because the blue light of your smartphone or computer screen can stimulate the brain to stay awake. As I always keep my screen curtain on, this isn’t an issue for me and it may not be with dark mode either. However, I do experience that keeping very busy shortly before bedtime keeps my brain awake.

Some people find that hearing some white noise or soft music can help them sleep. I usually turn on calming music when I’m struggling to fall asleep, but eventually turn it back off as it seems to lead to a more restless sleep.

Having a soft toy in bed does help me too. Occasionally, I diffuse some lavender essential oil. There’s no scientific proof that it works, but it may help.

In addition to insomnia, sleeping too much is also an issue. I find that I sleep way too much when I’m depressed. This, of course, in turn worsens my depression.

Lastly, waking up unrefreshed can happen even when you get the right amount of sleep for you. This can be caused by a number of factors, including medications you may be taking or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. If this happens a lot, it may be time to see your doctor. Then again, doctors can be incredibly dismissive where it comes to fatigue.

COVID-19 Worries

The coronavirus came to the Netherlands a few weeks ago. Yesterday, we had the first case in the care facility’s town. The care facility hasn’t yet been affected as far as I know, but still, I grow more scared as the days go by.

I’m not scared of falling seriously ill or dying from the virus. Though some of my fellow clients are in their sixties, we don’t have anyone in my home who is otherwise at risk of serious illness or death as far as I know. I am not really sure whether I should worry about my family in this respect. So far, the thought has only fleetingly crossed my mind.

What I do worry about though is the consequences this will have for our society at large. I worry about people stockpiling food. I know my husband got some extra stuff a few weeks ago already when he saw it coming.

I worry about another economic meltdown. My husband has a pretty secure income, having just been hired indefinitely at his job a month ago. He might be forced to take time off, leading to a significant decrease in income, but he won’t be jobless. I am not sure about my income, as I’m on benefits. I don’t know that I will be able to handle yet another round of budget cuts to health care though.

More importantly in the short term, I worry about the need to isolate if you’re infected. What if I get the virus and need to stay in my room 24/7 for two weeks, not being allowed any human contact? Some other blogger idealized this by writing they’d finally have time to read all the books and binge watch all the Netflix series they wanted. As much as I’d like to escape the day center at times and just hide out in my room, I don’t think I could make this work for two weeks straight.

I also worry about staff needing to self-isolate if they get infected. Will this mean there won’t be staff to care for us? My staff has been trying to reassure me, but the letter sent out to clients’ family yesterday, had no information about what if the virus enters the facility in it. Which seems to be more of a “when” than an “if”.

I’m linking up with today’s RagTag Daily Prompt, for which the word is “Isolate”.

Dentist’s Appointment

I shared last week that I was going to have a dentist’s appointment soon and was really nervous. I reluctantly agreed with the care facility physician that 1mg lorazepam the night before and 1mg about an hour before my 8:30AM appt should help me enough. It for sure must’ve helped some, but I was a little disappointed in how much of the edge it took off.

I had my appointment today. Went to bed at 8:30PM yesterday evening to hopefully get a good night’s sleep. I didn’t. I half-awoke at least eight times before finally waking up at 4:15AM and not getting back to sleep.

Still, I was calm’ish on the way to the dentist’s office. My dentist’s practice is at the main institution for my care agency in Wilp, which is a 45-minute drive from Raalte. I had fully expected to fall asleep in the car, but I didn’t.

I still didn’t really know what to expect, even though I’ve had a lot of cavities filled before. This was an old filling that needed replacing, so that should be easier. It wasn’t. I did get a topical anesthetic. That reminded me of why I hadn’t had it when I had seven cavities filled at age eighteen. The anesthetic is really, well, weird. I really expected the injection to hurt, but it didn’t. Instead, the feel of numbness and thickness was more annoying.

I was really anxious all throughout the procedure, but had no idea how to make it clear. I mean, my day activities staff was with me and she held my hand, but she apparently didn’t feel me pinching it. Then again, what could we have done anyway?

I had one filling replaced and a new cavity filled. It also turned out I have a pretty bad mouth ulcer near the tooth that needed the filling replaced. That will need to go away on its own. I will need to return in April to get some fillings on the other side replaced.

Now we’re twelve hours on and I do have some slight pain still, but it’s manageable.

I’m just trying to relax this evening. Had a pretty good day overall today. Having lunch with the anesthetic still wearing off, was kind of hard, so we chose to move the Tuesday morning cooking activity at day activities to the afternoon. The tortilla wraps were delicious!

#WeekendCoffeeShare (February 2, 2020)

It’s February, yay. I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare again, even though I’m not 100% sure I feel like writing. I had a lot of green tea and only one cup of coffee today. It’s interesting that, at my husband’s and in-laws’, I mostly drink green tea, whereas in the care facility I almost always drink coffee. Anyway, let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week was a hard one. I don’t even remember what I did on Monday. On Tuesday, I was in a near-constant panic at day activities. I eventually asked to go to the behavior specialist’s office to see if I could schedule an appointment with her to talk. However, the behavior specialist on my case wasn’t in the office. Another one was, but I couldn’t quite make it clear what I needed and so I went back downstairs.

That evening, I had another huge crying fit. I took a PRN lorazepam, but still didn’t sleep all night. In the morning, I kept crying. My assigned support worker informed me that the behavior specialist responsible for my care was on sick leave, but she called the one who’d been in the office on Tuesday.

She visited me at day activities at around 11AM and I talked for about an hour. I talked about all that I was overwhelmed by. Particularly, I felt that I need more support at day activities. This still needs some sorting out, but mostly I do now get an assigned staff member each day.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that from then on, I felt okay and haven’t had panic attacks or meltdowns. I do struggle with some level of overwhelm and anxiety, but it’s manageable.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that on Thursday, the family of a potential new client came for a visit. This stressed me out a little, because I thought another client coming to my home means less care for me. This isn’t the case, the staff said.

If we were having coffee, I’d say that I traveled by train to Arnhem yesterday. A transregional ParaTransit taxi drove me to Deventer station. There, a travel assistant was waiting to help me onto the train. She apparently needed to help someone in Arnhem next, so she actually traveled all the way to Arnhem with me rather than just helping me get on the train. My husband picked me up from the station at Arnhem again. It was a relatively comfortable way of getting eased into traveling by train again.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my husband and I had pizza at our in-laws’ yesterday. Then today my mother-in-law would be driving me back to the facility, so she picked me up at my husband’s at 4PM. We first went to my in-laws’ house again, where we walked the dog and ate fried potatoes, broccoli and chicken. I had a Magnum almond ice cream for dessert.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I finally brought some of my soaping supplies to the facility with me today. One of our home staff was leaving this week, so I had originally intended to make her a soap earlier. Thankfully, she will be working at another home with this facility, so when I do make the soap, I can bring it to her.

How has your week been?

Worrying: Will I Be Kicked Out of the Care Facility?

I have had a lot of dreams in which I was kicked out of the care facility lately. They’re no fun. I don’t know why I have these dreams. I mean, yes, a new client may come to my home, but I didn’t find out about that until today. Besides, my staff say it doesn’t mean I’ll have to leave. After all, there’s still an available room in my home.

Still, it scares me. I worry that, if this other client needs a lot of support, I will not get my needs met. I mean, not because of this other client, but because staff will be busier. Oh my, this sounds incredibly attention-seeking. I don’t want to need more support than I can get.

And what if this other client is very noisy? He’ll most likely be assigned to the other communal room than the one I’m assigned to. However, I think he’ll attend my group at day activities, which is already very crowded and noisy as it is. I was told they had many more clients before I came, but well, then this place wouldn’t have been suitable to me.

I talked about my worries to my former support coordinator on the phone. She told me these are just my thoughts and there’s no reason I’ll have to leave because of this other client. Then again, I didn’t get to elaborate on my worries.

I don’t want to be seen as needing too much. I was often seen as needing too much. Either needing too much or claiming to need more than I got. The two are different. The people at the first day activities I attended with this agency, truly thought I needed one-on-one support most of the time, which isn’t even what I was asking for. The staff on my last psychiatric unit thought I needed little care but was just demanding a lot out of some feeling of inadequacy that was apparently unfounded. Either way, I was asked to leave the place. With the psych ward, things were a little nastier than with the day center, but the result was the same.

I saw the behavior specialist who worked for that first day center today. That fueled my worries even more. I mean, she was extremely supportive, but didn’t really know how to handle my issues either. Then again, she never got to talk to me beyond the one time when she made sure I got transferred from the industrial activities group to the sensory group. That was a good move, but when it didn’t fully work out, I guess the manager stepped in and said he’d been accommodating enough and I would have to leave. That’s what I think will happen here too. I mean, my staff are very accommodating, but what if it isn’t enough? Will we find other solutions? Will I get even more accommodations? Or will I at some point just be kicked out? I’m very unsure and that worries me.

Gratitude List (February 23, 2019) #TToT

This week was a truly mixed bag. I am tempted to focus on the negative. I mean, even my Thankful Thursday post sounded more negative than grateful. For this reason, I’m going to write a gratitude list for this week. As always, I am linking up with #TToT

1. Nearly 14,000 steps on Monday! I had over 120 active minutes thanks to a long walk in the morning, another long walk in the afternoon and going on the elliptical.

2. No more need for painkillers. It’s been five weeks since my collarbone fracture and I am now almost pain-free without medication.

3. Lovely weather. It’s been a lot warmer than is normal for February this past week and it’s supposed to get even warmer next week. I know this could be bad in terms of climate change, but I’m so grateful.

4. No weight gain. I had my annual physical check-up at the mental health agency last week and weighed the same as in late December. Since I’ve not been minding my diet at all, this is good news. My blood pressure was also pretty good.

5. PRN tranquilizers. I haven’t needed them anymore after Wednesday, but I’m still glad I have them.

6. My cynical sense of humor. By 2021, everything will be okay. I know really I can’t wait that long, but everytime I say these words, they still bring a grin to my face.

7. Horseback riding with my day activities group. Because two clients from my group are currently not capable of horseback riding, the staff asked me whether I want to ride in their place. I loved it.

8. My mother texting me. She rarely calls or texts me and I’d let it go and not contacted her after our visit last December. She asked how I’m doing. Of course, I still had to avoid the elephant in the room that is my going into long-term care, but oh well.

9. Getting more used to my Mac. Yesterday, I even started writing a blog post on it using an external blogging app (because WordPress is hard to use). I haven’t figured everything out, but I’m sure that I will.

10. My mood being slightly better thes elast few days. I am not nearly as anxious as I was early in the week.

What have you been grateful for lately?

2021

I am struggling a lot. On Sunday, I read that long-term care funding will be available to those with a lifelong psychiatic disorder, but it won’t be till 2021. Then, I had myself convinced that I won’t get funding until then. After all, the funding person said the medical advisor may have to talk to my psychiatrist. I’m pretty sure my psychiatrist feels my primary disability is psychiatric in nature, because, well, she’s a psychiatrist. Then I will be denied long-term care funding for now.

Of course, I could be seeing the 2021 thing as a positive, in that even if I don’t qualify for long-term care now, I almost certainly will by then. I cannot see it like that though, because right now I’m virtually drowning.

I struggled a lot at day activities today. I have been struggling for a few weeks, in fact. I couldn’t find the words to express myself at first, only that I’m anxious. Then finally I was able to put some feelings into words. I fear when going into the sensory room on my own that the staff will forget me if I fall asleep. I also feel very easily overloaded by the other clients (and sometimes the staff). I just realize as I write this that staff trying to explain what is happening, sometimes overloads me even more.

I’m also afraid I will be kicked out of this day center if my challenging behavior escalates and that I’ll be left at home alone all day then. I’m not sure whether I believe the staff when they say that I won’t.

I am just so scared. I don’t know whether I can go on like this for two more years. In fact, I’m pretty certain that I can’t.

Carol