“I’ve been sleeping well again”, I explained to a friend during a long overdue catch up lunch. She stopped eating and looked at me questioning: “Since when were you having trouble sleeping?”
“Er, you know, since my Dad died”. She glared just a teensy bit at this. Without thinking I carried on and explained how the nightmares seemed to be well and truly gone and that I didn’t sleep with one ear constantly listening out for cries, people falling, or anything else particularly ominous. She gave me a questioning look again, this time with some concern thrown in. That was when I remembered I hadn’t actually told anyone this before, certainly not in so much detail.
Somewhere along the lines, I’d forgotten that sleeping like that wasn’t entirely normal but it became the new normal for me for a long time.
In a rare moment in which we had a truly insightful conversation, my friend and I talked about it properly. I explained how for a long time, I had nightmares, more flashbacks than anything about that night. How some nights, I’d hear every single noise and struggle to sleep. How when I did sleep, it never felt truly restful, probably because I didn’t sleep very deeply for a long time. She heard a little more about exactly how my Dad died. Her medical training helping some way, I think, in her realising just how badly it all went.
We didn’t talk about it like some huge heart to heart. We both kept eating our ridiculously oversized meals and I spoke very matter of factly. She responded in a similar manner.
I explained how I’d figured stuff out. How I was forcing myself to be braver and not shy away from stuff just because it seemed scary. I didn’t explain this part to her, but I’d realised over the past year that any kind of adrenaline made me want to run away. Even the good, exciting kind of adrenaline and I’d realised what I needed to do to sort out such triggers. I needed to suck it up and persevere.
I did tell her how once I couldn’t avoid one major trigger though. Not that long ago, my Mum was violently ill in the night (she’s been ill all year. It’s not life threatening but it is life limiting at the moment) and I was woken by the sounds of someone rushing through the house to be sick. I stayed calm under pressure and she had no idea how I felt at the time. I looked after her, cleaned things up, went back to bed a couple of hours later once she was ok to leave alone. Once I was in bed, I cried hard. It reminded me of that night far too much. The time of day, the lighting, the lack of control I felt about the situation. Everything. I didn’t sleep well that night.
For a few days after that, I felt on edge and constantly full of adrenaline. I didn’t realise fully why, as daft as that might sound, till a couple of days in I took stock of the situation and figured it out. Once I reminded myself why, I felt so much more in control of the situation.
I’ve always been one for analysing things but I always focused on the little things. The inconsequential things rather than the root of the problem. Somewhere over the past year, I figured out what I needed to focus on. What I needed to remind myself on those days that were tricky. Excluding a few minor blips, I reckon I’ve done very well.
I’ve been under a ton of stress this year. Work has increased (a good thing) and my Mum has been chronically ill since last November which has left me running mostly everything, as well as supporting her physically and emotionally. Loved ones have died, loved pets have died, and I’ve carried on. I’ve been the strong one. Not because I have to be but because I can be.
I accept, from the research I’ve conducted, that my brain will never quite be the same. I’ll always react to stress in a more heightened fashion than I once did, but acknowledging the issue goes a long way to helping me deal with that again. The constant reminder that we do get better is an important one for me.
I explained a bit of this to my friend and she summed it up the best. “Well, if you’re sleeping again and enjoying it again, I think that says all you need to know about your recovery”. She’s right. I’d genuinely forgotten how important sleeping properly was. I’m glad it’s back. Sleep and rest is awesome.