Nights used to comfort me, but something shifted a few weeks ago and now every evening as the sun sets I find myself gearing up to do battle.
It is somehow easier to be busy and occupied. But after Olive goes to sleep the stillness descends and my mind starts turning over and over, this perpetual motion machine that simply keeps churning away even as I lie there, willing to give almost anything to be blissfully unconscious.
The days knit me together and the nights pull me apart.
Everything looks different in the dark, shadows form and things become magnified and distorted. I am finding it painful. I don’t feel like saying more than that. I know vague blogging is generally frowned upon, but I also feel in my bones that there has to be some measure of grace in this whole thing. There must be some willingness to offer space and support without requiring a bloody sacrifice in exchange. So I am trying to parse out what is helpful to say, and what is not.
So far, all I have got is that it feels as though it would be helpful for me to say that right now I am struggling to accept something very painful. I want to acknowledge that because to not do so feels duplicitous, but also I think I need to simply admit it. Why is it so hard to admit that things aren’t easy? That pain happens and life disappoints, we experience unimaginable loss and we struggle? We all do, at some point or another, but a large chunk of our lives seems wrapped up in slavishly constructing elaborate artifices to prove to everyone that we are fine.
Perhaps because we so desperately want to be. Or maybe because we don’t feel that things should be this hard at times, or we believe that they are not this hard for others (because of all the artifice and “I’m fine!”-ing, you see), so we sit alone in silence, we shoulder the blame and lie there, stomach clenched and thoughts churning, night after night.
It’s not always easy, it’s just not. And would you want it to be? This place I am in feels desperately uncomfortable, but it also feels like stretching and breaking and reaching. It is not a fun process, or one I would have chosen, but I am trying not to run from it because as prayer-hands as it sounds, I think I can learn a lot more if I choose to feel everything and go through it, rather than around it.
I am reading a book written by Pema Chodron that speaks to this directly, how our hunger for stability and safety does so much harm to us, because nothing is ever safe or stable. You think something will bring you happiness, but it might not. You feel like something will break you, but it might be a beginning instead. We expect things to unfold in an orderly manner in the way we planned, but being a mother the first time around I quickly realized that you can not plan life. It is easy to trick ourselves into thinking we can, and are, with schedules and investments and five year goals, but we have no idea. We have no idea.
The tighter we hold on, the more painful it is when we do experience loss or upheaval. And man, was I white-knuckling this thing.
I feel like life is cyclical and perpetual and it comes in waves. I had some rough years in High School, and then a chunk of many many happy, easy, exciting years, and now I feel that I am coming out of the tail end of a few challenging ones.
Quotes have come to mean a lot to me right now. You know, all the old favourites:
The darkest hour is just before the dawn.
The world breaks everyone, but afterward many are stronger in the broken places. (Hemingway. Of course, right?)
All that is gold does not glitter/ Not all those who wander are lost. (Tolkein)
Sleep helps you win at life (Amy Poehler)
At this rate I am probably three days away from sticking motivational post-it notes on my bathroom mirror. I always said I would never be that person and now suddenly I woke up and I might be that person! Because I might need to be. And I finally understand why those people were those people and now that I may be one of them too it finally makes sense.
Unlike this post. Which I am writing to postpone going to bed. Ha.
I am going to take Amy Poehler’s advice (one should always take advice from Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Caitlin Moran), take one of these magical sleeping pills I have procured (because it is okay to ask for help sometimes), and hopefully start sleeping again and therefore winning at life (and winning doesn’t always mean doing battle, sometimes [like right now] it simply means surrender).
Namaste, y’all. Namaste.
Just sending love and support your way Maddie. I know life can just suck so bad sometimes and I’m sure if you aren’t sleeping well then that always makes things way worse. Hang in there, it will get better…and until then it’s okay to not be fine, and to tell people you are if you don’t want to talk about it! Big hugs!
Thank you, Kim!
I hope you feel some resolution soon. I understand the pain of not sleeping well (why else would I be writing to you at this hour?) and I wanted to offer this little thought in case it helps: the 8 hour sleep schedule is a cultural construction. Seriously, what new mama has that? I think our bodies are actually much more flexible than we think as far as our sleep needs go. I don’t know if this will work for you, I just wanted to offer it up: consider going to sleep super early (that helps me pretty often), and if you do wake up in the night at least hopefully you’ll have a few hours of that deeper sleep already. LIke tonight I fell asleep with my little around 8 pm, and stayed asleep for awhile through a sleep cycle before thoughts of everything I need to do got me up. I’ll feel ok tomorrow though – I should get some more sleep before morning. I have more thoughts on things to help, but I don’t want to make a super long list of advice that might not suit your situation, so just ask if you’re curious.
i find the falling asleep the hard part. I lie there for hours, thinking. But the sleeping pills seem to be helping, so hopefully they can get things back to normal for a few weeks and then I can gradually stop using them altogether,
Sleep is a great cure of many things. Hope it all gets better soon… xx
Sending you strong thoughts Madeleine. You deserve as much time and space as you need. Your blog is such a tremendous source of support for new mamas – I wish we could give you a little of that in return! You are an incredible mother and a wonderful writer. Stay strong. Xx
I appreciate that so much. Thanks, Catherine,
Try Bach flower remedies – white chestnut for the restless mind……works wonders xx
I had Rescue Remedy from a few years ago, so I have been taking that, but I remember seeing the chart of delightfully detailed uses for their remedies, and wondered if there was a more specific one I could take. I will try and hunt down some white chestnut. Thank you!
Bravo for being real! That is what is so attractive about you. There are so many planetary events happening this month. 2015 promises to be a great year. One of my favorite teachers http://www.enlighteninglife.com sheds light on why we feel the way we do. You are not alone! Sleep well. xo
I am ready for a great year. Seriously, SO ready for a great year! Come at me 2015! Ha. I will check that site out, I love things like that,
Peace to you… and sleep. Thank you for sharing, even in the vagueness, which is totally okay and should be okay.
Not being able to sleep is the worst. Let me know if I can help in anyway. Hugs.
I will. Looking forward to getting the munchkins together. Maybe we can attempt the chaos of making a gingerbread house?
I had insane insomnia seemingly out of nowhere too. It was sooooo hard not to be able to do something so basic, to see the toll it took on my family, not be able to care for my tot well. I still struggle with it in cycles. I did the whole valerian, melatonin, bath, yoga, lemon balm, magnesium, lavender capsules, lavender oil, hypnotherapy, etc thing. With the sleeping pills it helped me to take them, then take a half, then a quarter for a few nights, then a homeopathic like Calms Forte the next night. Ambien and others have potential rebound insomnia so it helped me to taper off of them. It sounds like the book you’re reading has a mindfulness theme, which helps anxiety and depression. Hope you get some relief soon.
Thanks, Andrea. I am always a champion sleeper until something external like this happens and then my mind turns into my worst enemy. I will get through it. Thanks so much for your advice.
So many reasons why we can lose our equilibrium, modern life is hard and parenting harder still. Agree with Andrew about mindfulness, but also consider some basic medical checks like is your thyroid function ok?
I had my thyroid checked a month or so ago and that’s fine, but my kidney condition can definitely play a role in this. Trying to get some sort of balance there is very difficult.
On Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 1:03 PM, Sweet Madeleine wrote:
Hi M, Sorry to hear of the lack of Zzzs….and associated circumstance.
If you don’t already meditate, maybe it will help:
Here are some meditation websites / apps that I have found that are not annoying:
JKZ series 2 has a meditation called Body Scan for SLEEP! 🙂
– this centre also has a podcast you can subscribe to with more meditations:
(Diana Winston is a good one)
Also for something even more hippie (and yet not) via Brain Pickings: Tara Brach:
I’m wishing you peace and sleep my online friend. I really am. Quotes are great in time of need. My mum always says “Shit Happens”, which is true, and Dad always says “Life isn’t fair”, which is also true. They sound like very negative nancy’s but they’re not! I use these to help accept that life can sometimes be ” a bit of a bitch”. I hope you’re spending time looking at quotes on Pinterest… although it might not help you sleep! x
Your parents sound just like mine 🙂 Thanks, Sam.
What book by Pema? Sounds like I should read!
It is cheerily titled “When Things Fall Apart”
“Unfailingly, the moment I stop fearing and resisting it, the pain changes. It becomes smaller, more manageable and docile, like an enraged wolverine morphing into a fuzzy hamster.” – Martha Beck
“You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it, and this paradoxically, alters reality. Try it and see.” – Margaret Atwood
“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”
“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein”
“Be gentle with yourself, you’re doing the best you can.”
“There’s always going to be bad stuff out there. You can stick a candle into the dark, but you can’t stick the dark into the light.” – Jodi Picoult
“Feelings are like waves. We can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which ones to surf.” These past few years have been some of the most challenging in my life to date, where churning thoughts left me wide awake at night, although I was completely powerless to change any of it anyway. In the end I had to accept what I couldn’t change (the other party) and focus on what I could (me). Easier said than done, and a work in progress. The other thing that helped me was Eckhart Tolle’s main message – which I take to be “Right now, in this moment, everything is ok. And this moment is all that there is”. I take great comfort from that, I take a deep breath and silently chant it – it helps me to stop rehashing the past and worrying about the future. All the best Madeleine.
Thank you so much for this thoughtful and kind comment, Natasha. Those two quotes are perfect. I’ll add them to my list.
Also, check out Dr Amy Johnson, she makes a whole lot of sense xxx
Aw man, sending hugs and love your way. I’m the same, always trying to put on a front, saying ‘I’m fine’. Your words are beautiful though, and it is always cathartic to release it into the world.
I have never left a comment on a blog, but felt compelled to write to you. I went through a similar experience last year…just know it will get better and that as shitty as it is, you will grow as a result of this.
The nights are bad, and it’s scary how crazy the mind can quickly become without sleep. One thing that helped (& continues to help) me is just counting to three on the in breath then same on the out. And telling yourself (at night) – I’m not going to solve any problems tonight…I’ll think about it in the morning. (Ok – you won’t listen to yourself straight away…especially at 2am).
Anyway, I really like your blog. Written with such honesty and humour (admittedly not so much with this last post ;)… so you have a friend in Australia. Xo
I keep returning to your posts about coming through struggle when I need guidance and support in my life. They have been so inspiring and helpful for me. I admire how you have dealt with your struggles and I am so happy to have you as one of my role models. I wanted to let you know that your past posts are still being read, and are so very helpful. Thank you.
Paula, thank you so much for leaving such a kind hearted comment It’s strange how much reassurance can be gleaned simply from knowing that someone has gone through it before you- It’s the only way I was able to get through the tough times myself.
I hope things are ok, and that you’re able to lean on those around you if you need it! And I’m so so glad that anything I’ve written has helped.