Friday, April 27, 2012

In the Haze

I woke up this morning with the idea that I wanted to describe what the haze of living with sleep deprivation is like for me. If you've lived like this, then I would love to hear about your experience too.

At first, I thought about it in the same way I thought about fog: thicker and thinner in places, obscuring my view of what I normally know is around me. I knew that writing was there. I knew that running was there. And sometimes I attempted it anyway. A lot like driving when you know that the road is there, but can only see about 15 meters ahead of you.

I hate that kind of driving. Living that way isn't great either.

But that was what it was like in the beginning of my sleep deprivation. As time wore on, it was more of a haze in the mind. Haze takes over everything. It made thinking and planning harder. My concentration was gone. I lived in the moment, planning for not much more than I could see in front of me.

The effects of sleep deprivation have been compared to alcohol consumption, and the comparison is not pretty. If this is a concern for doctors who work long shifts, what does it do to ordinary people who are driving, cooking, and managing their lives? How does a person work?  I can tell you that it's not easy. As a freelancer, I've watched as my business falls to pieces around me, because I can't plan and pursuing clients is almost impossible.

In this haze ideas flit away very quickly. Words that were once easy to access are stuck in the hazy brain. As a writer, without words and ideas, I am not able to perform for my basic tasks. It would be like an accountant who can no longer remember how to add.

There have been days where I stood there, telling my kids to get ready for school and couldn't remember the word toothbrush. My sentences dying in my mouth. Not being able to access basic vocabulary is frustrating and scary.

It's not just an ineffective way to write, it's an ineffective way to live. This is haze. This is four years of sleep deprivation.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Returns and the Story of Sleep Issues

It's not just that I haven't been blogging. I've been avoiding blogging.

It seemed like life was full of crazed, but mundane life happenings. Sometimes funny in the moment. Sometimes sad. But nothing worth blogging about.

The big thing isn't that it wasn't worth blogging about, but that my drive and headspace to write in was gone. I've been elsewhere.

Yes, I have been dealing with growing boys. I have also been volunteering at both schools and with the Canadian Scouting movement. I do laundry. Sleep. Check email and facebook. Eat. The normal everyday things. But I haven't been writing, except in bits and spurts.

Here's the thing: I haven't had a decent night's sleep in about 4 years. If you've followed me for a while, you know that our littlest gave us all a hard time with sleep. He just didn't. Part of it was allergies and reflux, and part was conditioning. We managed to get over that with the help of a wonderful woman at The Sleep Doula group in Toronto.

I had PPD. It wasn't fun. And despite what has been suggested to me on occasion, it wasn't a choice I made or something I had time to indulge in. It made what was hard enough already, even harder, so I went on medication. The medications commonly used for PPD is from a group called SSRIs. If you are less than fluently medical (yeah, me too), SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors or Serotonin-Specific Reuptake Inhibitor. My doctor did explain how it works. And it did work. I was able to get through. It was like the difference between running in snow up to your knees or running on a calm, balmy day.  I went off them for a short while, I took them again. I've been on them for most of 4 years.

It seemed to be the solution. But still, I was not rested. Ever. I slept. Oh boy, did I ever sleep. At the drop of the hat. And I had vivid dreams. Wildly vivid to the point where I carried them with me through my waking day. But I was never rested.

In February, I went to a sleep clinic and the results eventually came back: I dream. Sounds funny, right? Everyone dreams. Except that I dream from the moment my head hits the pillow until the moment I get up.  This doesn't sound like a problem, except when you consider that when you are in REM all the time, you don't get any of the deep, restorative sleep.

Think about that: I've not had deep, restorative sleep for 4 years.


So, in that time I have given up bits of me, because they had sunk under the haze. The big two were running and writing. It was a bit at a time. Here and there. Until it finally dribbled away. I just couldn't manage the haze and to run and write. The running requires your body to be restored later and the writing requires clear thinking. I had neither.

I mentioned the PPD and the drugs, because my doctor thinks they are the key to my sleep problems. (The cure is sometimes another disease!) Sometimes this side-effect manifests as chronic nightmares. Mine weren't that at all, thankfully. On the other hand, had they been nightmares, this would have been solved sooner. I've changed the meds now, with the hope of some relief. There may be another change required in the future too.

And I am sharing all of this, because we are all far too quiet about depression. And even quieter about the drugs to treat them. So I am sharing. This is what has happened to me. I miss running and I miss writing. I struggle right now, so stay with me a while. I'm working on sorting this out. And I am hoping that there will be restorative sleep in my future.

The good news is that I no longer remember all of these vivid dreams. It's hope and I will take it.