strategy notes from the fatigue battle

Posted: April 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

One of the best gifts I get from my writing is the peek it gives me into myself and my situations – at the end of a session or shortly thereafter, I suddenly realize the things that I knew but didn’t realize until they oozed down through my fingers, through the keyboard, and onto the page.  It’s a mysterious process, much of which I simply count as prayer.

After I blogged recently about my battle with fatigue, I came away with clarity:  it’s time to stop dinking around and get strategic.  When the prospect of driving 35 minutes to see my grandbabies is one that I dread because of how the drive will go?  That’s a priority.

That very same day, I got myself to Target to pick up a big 4-inch piece of memory foam for our bed, and even spent a few more bucks on a memory foam pillow.  After all, part of my sleep problem has been the need for a new mattress for…well, more than a year at least.  Probably several years.  Waking up many times in the night in pain, needing to shift and shift and shift – it’s not a good recipe for healthy sleep. Waking up feeling bruised from head-to-toe every morning, needing the hot shower to wash away the ache – it’s not a first step to feeling well-rested.  The memory foam is considerably cheaper (and easier to transport) than an entire new queen-size mattress of decent quality, which I kept in mind while trying not to have a stroke at the checkout counter.

That made an immediate difference in my comfort.  I still woke up and moved way too much, but each time I reveled – I don’t hurt!  I don’t hurt at ALL!  It didn’t magically, immediately solve the fatigue problem, but I feel like it’s helping incrementally over time, and I’m ridiculously lavish in oo-ing and ahh-ing every time I snuggle into bed now.  It’s incredible.

The Very Busy Brain of Karen Buchanan is the thing I’m strategizing to help now.  It robs me of sleeping soundly, and even when I sleep hard enough to not hear thunderstorms in the night, it scrolls one “working dream” after another almost every night, creating the phenomenon of wearing me out as I sleep.  A working dream is when I dream of working on a project basically all night long, and though I work as hard as I know how to work, I never make any progress at all in the dream.  None.  When a working dream is plaguing me, it follows me – even if I wake up 5 times, it follows me back into dreamland 6.  Not cool.  Not cool at all.

So I’m being intentional and strategic.  I had already bought us both sleeping masks to help us cope with the time change and the fact that we go to bed when it’s daylight outside.  G is great at praying for me to sleep well as we climb into bed.  No work projects near bedtime of any kind.  Very careful screening of what I allow myself to think and talk about in the last hour of the day – nothing that might give my brain a ball to chase around the room (I’m limited in how well I can abide by this one, since any meeting in the evening automatically takes me past 7 PM bedtime and doesn’t leave margin for settling my brain down after).

I read repeatedly that the blue light of “screens” – TV, phone, computer, Kindle – tends to jack with our sleep patterns.  So as of the night before last, all screens go dark in our house an hour before bedtime (that’s 6 PM, and it cuts me off from even conversations with my kids after that hour – not my favorite outcome).

I bought an adult coloring book – not THAT kind, you goofball – it’s scriptures with artwork! – along with a big box of 64 Crayola crayons (sharpener on the box, just like when we were kids) and 50 Crayola colored pencils.  All that came yesterday, so while the night before I had tried an art project that got my brain busy in a different way, last night I just worked on a coloring page and meditated on the scripture written there for the last hour.  Will this shut my working dreams down?  Well, it didn’t last night.  But perhaps if I persist, it will.

I’m also considering how my during-the-day life might be bleeding over into the night.  For instance, I’ve been piled up at work, and my desk had gone back into disaster land.  I had noticed the day before that the mess had reached the proportion that makes it hard for me to think; as I stopped yesterday (at a time when it didn’t FEEL like I had time to do so) and refused to do another thing until I had the filing all caught up and the desk back in neat order, I wondered if this might help fight the working dreams.  As I said, it didn’t *cure* it instantly last night.  But maybe it’s another notch in the right direction.

Yesterday was haircut day; when I talked about this issue while in the chair, my stylist was quick with a suggestion for what to do with that last hour of the day:  “bubble bath and a glass of wine?”  It’s on the table.  I’m a morning showerer, but I’m willing to consider a bedtime soak as a solution, on the nights that we’re not out until already-past-7 PM-bedtime.

Meanwhile, a conversation with my mom reminded me of what I was not paying attention to at all:  the fact that both she and my dad have had pretty severe sleep issues for most of my life.  They are different issues, but it’s all sleep stuff.  My mom barely gets any sleep at night for several reasons, and my dad has been so plagued that I can’t remember a time when he didn’t fall asleep during the day pretty much as soon as he sits down, despite being a high-energy worker without a lazy bone in his body.  I had not been factoring heredity in at ALL while thinking about this; it’s not the happiest trail to go down, but it will be good information to give my doctor, should the struggle still be real in May when I see her next.

All of this is not as bad as it seems on the page.  Despite the fact that my working dreams are holding on with a vengeance, the solutions ARE working, to the extent that I’m less exhausted overall in the last day or two than I had been for awhile.  I had been completely off caffeine for most of a year; I’ve returned to having a giant mug of tea in the morning to fight off the nodding-at-my-desk problem, and it’s helping.  My bag of Yerba Mate came yesterday in the mail; I understand it to be pretty high in caffeine (for tea) and today THAT will be what goes in my giant mug.  I’m not fond of the notion of using caffeine to be awake – seems like a person ought to be able to just make healthy choices and be fine – but it’s not exactly shots of Monster, so I’ll do this for now while I work the other side of the equation with all my might.

Tomorrow will be a test – we’re road-tripping to G’s synagogue in Skokie and then back home again.  Driving has become such a problem for me.  How will my body respond to about 7 hours of road time in one day?  I’m about to find out.

No big lesson here.  Just collecting the information along the trail.


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