Tag Archives: nightmares

PTSD and a day in May

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tulips-1352561_640.jpgMy nightmares haven’t been as bad the past couple weeks: in fact I think I went a whole week without any. I still have intense dreams without the nightmares, but I can live with those.

I am feeling rather weak and I’m not sure why. My sleep schedule has been way off and I suspect that as the culprit. When I can’t sleep at night, I turn on General Conference (LDS Church) and listen to it. I haven’t had much exercise and perhaps that’s made me weaker.

I’m applying to finish my BYU Bachelor of General Studies degree (independent study) and I think that’s helped give me more empowered dreams. I’m really excited about it. In the past three years I’ve had trouble and writing and reading more serious subject books due to problems with focus and being “foggy-brained” but I think maybe I can do it now if I pace myself. When I was on campus, I had to go full time, and that was a no-go. I think writing two blogs has helped ameliorate my issues with perfectionism, so hopefully now I can just put my thoughts down on paper and get papers written. I’ve struggled for years with the fear that I’ll never be able to finish school and support myself.

I’ve also been a bit bored despite having projects to do, and my therapist sees that as a sign that I’m getting better. Now I just need more normal sleep and more exercise. It’s beautiful out there today: can’t wait to get out.

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Bad day

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I have no idea where it came from (I often don’t) but I had nightmares and intense dreams all morning and didn’t wake up until almost 4pm. I’m grateful to be awake. These are the days when I don’t want to close my eyes because I think I might fall asleep again and I don’t want to.

The dreams weren’t the worst I could have (in fact I had some me as a superhero dreams) but I was struggling to wake up and “trying to get home” and other common themes for me. Time to write about them in my journal. It seems to help.

And yes, I went to bed at a normal time last night. C’est la vie.

More Springtime Recovery

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flowers-747206_640.jpg I’m so happy that it’s spring. I really wanted to go for a walk today because it was so beautiful outside, but every time I stood up I felt discombobulated. I also have a head tremor today. 😛 I’m working to get my days and nights back to normal (more on that in a bit), and I’m sure that’s a large part of why I’m so “off.”

So, my latest attempt at day/night normalization:
(It’s currently Thursday evening.)
-On Wednesday morning, after being up all night, I decided to once again stay up all day. We had a Relief Society (church women’s organization) activity Wednesday night and I figured that if I could stay awake, I’d have that as a reward. Plus, I miss getting out something terrible. Add Spring Fever and there you go…
-I don’t remember what I did all day yesterday (Wednesday) but it involved a lot of Hulu, Netflix, and putting away laundry.
-By about 1pm I just.wanted.sleep, so I turned on General Conference (it relaxes me) and lay down. Happily and for my own good, I didn’t fall asleep. My body was a jittery mess. I’ve never had coffee, but I imagine that maybe this is what your body feels like when you haven’t had your caffeine?
-By 3:30ish I was feeling like I could go to sleep, but I figured if I could just hold out until 6, it would be close to a normal bedtime and maybe I’d even feel up to the activity.
-By 6 I wanted to go to the activity, but when I’d stand up it wasn’t good. I let it go until 7pm, then I crawled in bed and fell immediately asleep.
-At around 7am I woke up briefly, but my body was in full anxiety panic attack mode and I couldn’t move, so I went back to sleep.
-I woke up again around 11am. I spent the next two hours, until 1pm, in a nightmare and unable to lift my head but wanting badly to be awake. It was one of those “trying to find my bedroom” nightmares again where things kept stopping me from getting home. At 1pm I opened my eyes and decided there had to be some way to get up. Sitting up took all my willpower and I sat there for a long time, shaking my head and rubbing my eyes and reminding myself that the nightmare was over.

So, hopefully I can fall asleep tonight. I managed to go for a walk! About 1/4 mile in I was thinking that I should just go home, but a McDouble at McDonald’s later I decided to try a bit farther. It was pretty iffy, but I got out! And spring is here!! There were bulbs poking their leaves out everywhere. Soon there will be tulips galore. There was a bush full of singing little birds, and at one neighbor’s the daffodils were already blooming! I love spring here so much. And as usual, the mountains were there. No matter what day it is, they always seem to look a little different, and they’re always majestic.

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A few days in my fourth week of medication change problems

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heart addictedSuch a long title, but I can’t think of anything shorter.

Let’s see if I can spell this right again: Risperdal. Or generic Risperidone. I was on it for six months, so you’d think I’d remember the spelling, but it still mutates in my head.

My doctor started tapering me off of it three weeks ago, almost four. Today was the first day since then that I was able to go out all by myself, and even that was a bit iffy. I won’t get into everything my body has been doing since then. I have been looking for synonyms for “disoriented” just for fun. Off-kilter, out of it, unsteady, rickety, wobbly, discombobulated. I’m liking “unsteady” (a friend gave me that one when we went for a walk) because it might be a more understandable to others. I have struggled to otherwise adequately explain this most common symptom of my anxiety to others. I think I came a little bit closer a couple weeks ago when I told a friend who was visiting, “If I went out to drive right now, I would get into a car crash within minutes.”  Just “dizzy” doesn’t explain it adequately. Just saying “my brain’s not working” invites understanding nods from others (and it’s my favorite explanation for most occasions) but it isn’t an adequate explanation of the difference between a healthier person’s mind after a rough day (which brings a type of fatigue I actually wish I could have more often) and my “unsteadiness.”

Yes, I’m still struggling with simple ways to explain this to those who want to understand better. And I’ve had a lot of unsteadiness this past month, but after a better day today I am still believing that it’ll get better soon.

So, the pharmacist said today that withdrawals from Risperdall (should I spell it differently just for fun? I do think it’s kind of a fun sounding name…for medication) usually last two weeks.  I’ve doubled that. So, I could (1) be on the long end of the exception or (2) the Fanapt is causing me problems. Or (3) some other explanation.

So I know this sounds crazy, but I’m grateful for the patience this past month has been teaching me. I used to complain when I’d get one or two days of this or a week, but with an entire four weeks, I’m having to dig deeper. I haven’t been able (until today) to go to the grocery store by myself or sometimes at all. I’ve had to get rides to the pharmacy and my doctors’ appointments. I’ve had to tell myself that it doesn’t matter when, at the doctor, they said I’d basically skipped out on my therapist appointment when in reality I was fighting nightmares and discombobulated unsteadiness at home. They weren’t trying to tell me personally that I was a failure. And….yeah so I corrected them quickly and they were understanding, but sometimes I wish they wouldn’t jump to conclusions so quickly when someone might be so sick that they can’t use the phone until after the appointment is over. Geesh, I’m sensitive. Still working on that.

I’m feeling less hard on myself than I was at the beginning of the month. I’ve had to ask for so much help and yet everyone who has helped me has insisted on checking up on me and following up to see how I’m doing and acted somewhat indignant when I’ve apologized too much. This world is not all a bad place full of scary people. Why I continually need this lesson, I’m not sure. It’s incremental, not an all at once thing.

I’ve also been patient with my need for a lot of Netflix. I’m not sure how many episodes of Gilmore Girls I’ve watched, but it’s helped calm the anxiety and I’m no longer telling myself that I’m such a horrible person for watching fun stuff when I’m not feeling well. Compassion for myself has bigger boundaries than it did.

I’m refusing to edit this. I’m too tired. It’ll have to do and that’s that.

 

Medication Changes: that Circus

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Possibly boring stuff: all on medication

I’ve been through a lot of medication changes and they’re never fun, but switching from Risperdal to Fenapt this past week has been the most challenging change since Paxil to Effexor more than ten years ago. I’m halfway through the change. My doctor had me swap one pill a day for a week: then tomorrow it will start swapping the other pill, and thus the complete switch to Fenapt and no more Risperdal.  So why the chance? Risperdal was working great at eliminating my nightmares (along with the Prazosin that I also take) and making my days feel more like “normal” days where I can actually get up most every morning. But Risperdal made me gain 40 pounds. And yes, when a psychiatric med “makes” you gain weight, your brain chemistry actually changes and you feel like you’re hungry 24/7. I fought it pretty hard, but I was waking up hungry in the middle of the night. So, Fenapt is the new choice. I need to study up more on Fenapt. I’ve only given it a cursory, “looks safe, won’t make me gain weight.”  (Just 4 days into going off Risperdal I could tell a marked difference in how much less an appetite I had.)

In any case, this being only the second worst medication change I’ve had (maybe third….it’s been too long) is because, once upon a time, I had to go off Paxil while I had two small children to take care of. I will never, ever take Paxil again because going off it was a nightmare. I couldn’t keep myself awake and I was dizzy 24/7 and only felt safe when my head was on my pillow. Their dad ended up having to care for them for more than his share, which I never liked. I like my share with my kids. But they’re better off safe: I knew that. Wasn’t easy on him, but that’s water under the bridge.

Koosh tumblr_m28qgtGUm31qitawxo1_400.jpgThis time around it’s mostly the immense fatigue and disorientation/dizziness. The first two days after the change my anxiety skyrocketed and I was sleeping in my bed clutching my magic Koosh ball which lovingly lets me squeeze the heck out of it. I had to miss singing in church. People were kind and my friend M brought me McDonald’s, and my new roommate A let me go with her to Walmart for groceries. I missed my therapist appointment on Friday but got to make up for it on Monday. I felt so proud of myself, getting there in the 20-ish degree weather, and even more so for getting home in the 22 degree weather plus wind. The wind was killer with those temperatures: the ride and walk down was pleasant, the ride and walk back with the wind was the coldest I’ve been since moving to Utah I think. The wind will get you every time. But: I am a studmuffin. I made it through.

So I have nothing exciting to talk about. It’s med changes and I’ll keep praying that the transition goes smoothly and that it doesn’t get to me so much emotionally that I end up in a heap on my bed for the rest of my life. Nope, odds are against that…I think.

Recovering from Good Stuff

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Cinderella shoe cakeI had the opportunity to help throw a bridal shower for a friend this week. I’m paying for it, but it was worth it. There’s some more good news in that regards, but I’ll get to that later.

I had plenty of time to plan. I don’t do complicated. I also had a partner in planning who did all of the things well that I’m not very good at. If I were to be a party planner the rest of my life, I would want her for my partner. It was that much fun. She even talked me into helping her icing the cupcakes with one of those fancy icing bags. I’m better at invites and games and that sort of thing.

I have to carefully allot my time during the week, but the past three weeks have been a lot better. My doctor upped my Risperidone and it’s helped a ton! I’ve been sleepy all the time, which I think is passing as I get used to it, but I’ve been awake a lot more. I’ve had less nightmares and everything else. It’s made life so much more bearable and I’ve also been more able to count my blessings without getting as depressed. My therapist said she could tell a difference, and my friends have been remarking on it, too.

Thus, I felt I had the courage (and ability) to help throw the shower. It was also at our place. I didn’t clean much beforehand as it’s already clean here, but it could have been better, yet I survived. My “have to clean everything perfectly” anxieties were thus lessened in that area. (Our front rooms are usually clean, my room is usually messy…a lot like growing up.)

So, while we were getting ready yesterday, my mind still halted occasionally but it wasn’t bad. I could tell I was headed towards bad anxiety just a couple of times, and after either eating or taking a break I was okay again. It was such a relief! One of the things that’s difficult to explain to people about anxiety disorders is that the “usual” methods of calming oneself don’t always work. We feel “stuck” in the anxiety with very little that helps lower it.

But….not this time. Some loud music someone played briefly on their phone almost got me while everyone was talking. I was leading the game so leaving for a break would have been awkward.

I fell right asleep last night. I did, unfortunately, have a lot of nightmares last night, but they could have been worse. I still felt like I had some control of the dreams. I ended up shaky with my “insides shaking” but I had no limbs flapping. For as much as I did yesterday, that’s quite a feat. Also, I couldn’t get out of bed today until after 1pm. Considering that at times after something so large I could have been wiped out for a few days, that’s also something. I’m fully hoping to get to go for a walk later. I could really use it.

All you can may not be enough (don’t beat on yourself)

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(This post is heavy on religion/faith)

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There’s a Michael Mclean song that I sometimes listen to over and over called “Gentle.”

Like a gentle wind can blow the clouds from the sky,
Like a gentle touch can ease the pain of goodbye,
Like a gentle smile embraces empty souls in lonely places,
We should be more gentle with ourselves.

Like the friend who gently builds us up when we’re down,
Like a gentle kiss can turn our world all around,
We’ve been hurt by others often,
We’ve forgiven and forgotten,
We should be more gentle with ourselves.

Life can be hard but
we need not be so hard
on ourselves,
If we will see

Like the Shepherd leads his flock with gentle commands.
With his gentle voice that only hearts understand.
One thing we can know for certain, He has borne the awful burdens
so we can be more gentle with ourselves.

One thing that I know for certain:
He will bear my every burden,
So I can be gentle with myself.

Sometimes I do everything I can to rest up so that I can make it somewhere (like today, to church) and I still end up not feeling well enough. I caught myself running through all the things I could have done or could have missed so that I could have made it, and I couldn’t come up with anything. It was a desperate grasp, yet again, to want to believe that I can control life more than I can. But not only can’t I control everything, Heavenly Father and my Savior are there for me. Even if life keeps throwing me curve balls (the small and the not so small) it doesn’t mean they don’t care.

One of my closest friends had a birthday party last night. It was a bonfire up in the canyon and the wind had been blowing hard all day and still hadn’t let up. The pollen count was high and the air was dry and I knew it might cause problems with my allergies, so I didn’t go. I had things to keep me busy (laundry, cleaning, phone calls, Netflix) but of course I was also disappointed. But even missing out on things doesn’t mean you’ll get a ticket to the next thing you don’t want to miss. And I am wishing that I had gone, knowing that in hindsight I’d end up missing church anyway.

The First Presidency Message on lds.org helped me out today, though not what some might think was in the most encouraging of ways (but it was). This is President Eyring speaking of when his father was dying of cancer:

When the pain became intense, we found him in the morning on his knees by the bed. He had been too weak to get back into bed. He told us he had been praying to ask his Heavenly Father why he had to suffer so much when he had always tried to be good. He said a kindly answer came: “God needs brave sons.”

And so he soldiered on to the end, trusting that God loved him, listened to him, and would lift him up. He was blessed to have known early and to never forget that a loving God is as close as a prayer.

I remember well several friends telling me frequently about 8 years ago that I was “stronger than I realized.” And the things I’ve been through since have helped to teach me that they were right, and to understand what they meant. I don’t think that I have to go through these things because I’m being punished.  I know that from past experience that eventually the downs in life turn around into the ups in life. It’s been a hard lesson to learn that I will eventually learn from the pain and I become a better person because of it. And there are others who could say this much more eloquently than I could, or with worse experiences. I’ve been through much worse than just missing out on things: it’s the missing out on things over and over again over years that gets to me. I don’t remember where it was recently that I heard this (but I really wish I did remember) that it’s possible that no one else other than the Savior will ever truly understand what our trials are like for us as individuals.

Anyway, I get to go to a fireside tonight. Perhaps the upswing will begin there. My nightmares last night weren’t at their worse. I can be grateful for that. And I can be grateful for a lot more: got to talk with my daughter on the phone last night. I got to pet my roommate’s dog this afternoon (she’s not here much….the roommate, and the dog…roommate is very busy.) Likely this will be one of my boring-est entries. I can deal with that.

Nightmare Vacation

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sun-157126_640Or more correctly, vacation from nightmares. I went for a whole day and a half with no nightmares. Then, I had nightmares during my nap today. Still, that was a blessed break after over a week of bad nightmares.

The weather is beautiful and I may go for a walk instead of making kale chips. I think I’d rather turn on the oven when the temperature has lowered anyway, right?

Meh

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time-371226_640And another bad week. More nightmares almost every morning, into the afternoon every single day except maybe one. Have done some more journaling/DBT but need to do more. Missed my therapy appointment on Friday because of it. Here’s to things getting better. The nightmares could be worse: they’re mostly annoying and not the most scary ones. They definitely give me an indication as to what is bothering me. One of this morning’s is almost funny now, it just didn’t feel that way during it: all these people were dancing in my living room for some kind of Sunday morning club, and I couldn’t get around them to get to my room or the shower so that I could get ready for church. My roommate’s clock on the wall had an earlier time than it really was (only 10:30am) so I was feeling like I could get ready on time if people would just get out of the way. There was a lot more to it, as there always is. My closet had a lot of old clothes in it, and as I’d grab something that would fit, it would change into something else. That’s a recurring theme in my dreams, too. Babies kept appearing that needed their mothers, so I’d have to stop getting ready and look for their parents. And that was only a small part of the morning’s nightmares.

high anxiety

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not to worryJust not doing well. The past week I’ve had high levels of anxiety about 18 hrs out of each day. I’ve managed to relax a few hours out of every other day or so. I’ve had a lot of paperwork to do for myself, my son, and my daughter (all for good things) and keeping track of it and what needs to be printed out, mailed, notarized, and faxed has been a challenge. I don’t own a printer or a fax, so it’s meant a lot of bus rides. A friend helped me out yesterday.

I was up most of last night with digestive pain, but now it’s all gone. 🙂 I played “Rock Band” with friends at activity night at the church on Tuesday: unless you had good observation skills, you wouldn’t have known that I was anxious. I had to leave once for a while because it got too noisy for me, but by the end of the night my anxiety level seemed like the lowest it’s been in a long time. We had an activity the night before, but that one didn’t go so well for me, and I had to leave early.

The good side to all of this is that I’ve been able to spend time calming myself as much as I can and trying to figure out and write down where it’s coming from. The odd part is that I can go to bed feeling so much more relaxed after being with friends or going for a walk, then partway through the night the nightmares and/or tremors begin, with my head shaking or my arms twitching; or in one case last week, I had bad nightmares I couldn’t wake myself from until about 10am when I woke up partway with my arms pinned to me, and I couldn’t move or completely wake up. This lasted until about 3pm.

So life goes on. Will getting a set date for my disability hearing, and getting it finally over with, help solve this? Is it showing me just how much fear I have inside me that I need to heal? I have no idea. I missed my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday because I could not speak or get up and my body was shaking. It’s been rescheduled. I’m working on getting a ride to my therapy appointment so there’s less chance of missing it. I am very blessed that there are so many people (even strangers, people from church who don’t know me) who are willing to help. I get to where I just want to prove that I can make it myself for a while, then I go through a bad spell again and have to humble myself and learn to accept help again. Do any of us ever really learn this lesson?

It makes me laugh that I can still type so well when I’m still having trouble speaking. I absolutely had to make a phone call for my son’s college plans for next year, and the lady at the other end was extremely kind and patient.