Seeing a Sleep Psychologist

Sleep is a very important part of my mental health recovery, and I’ve been having trouble getting good quality sleep for a few years. I spoke to my psychiatrist about it, and he referred me to a sleep doctor. I went to see her, but I don’t have any of the symptoms of disrupted sleep due to a physical problem. She referred me to a sleep psychologist.

I saw that person last Saturday. We talked about the cycles of sleep, and how my anxiety may disrupt good quality sleep. She gave me a good breathing technique for alleviating my anxiety. She had me place a hand on my upper chest and one on my belly. I discovered the hand on my upper chest was rising and falling with each breath, meaning I was anxious. When we’re anxious, we take shallow breaths. It’s at these times, we should consciously breathe from our bellies and get more oxygen into our bodies.

The sleep psychologist also gave me a sleep diary to keep for two weeks. I’m writing down when I drink anything with caffeine, when I take any medicine, and when I get exercise, as well as noting when I sleep.

All this feels good. I feel like I’m doing something good for my health.

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Future Forward

Today feels good. I’m thinking about the future. That’s a really good sign. Instead of ruminating about issues that I’m experiencing today, I’m dreaming about good things I hope are coming. This is a change of perception for me.

I’m not fixated on any present problem. I have hope.

I don’t think this happened overnight. I think this is the result of many years of practicing some simple ways of making each day a little better.

Those things I practice are seeing my doctor regularly and taking the medicine he prescribes, meditating on a daily basis, talking openly about all areas of my life to a therapist, eating food that is good for me, getting good sleep, and exercising regularly.

To put it simply:

Medicine.

Meditation.

Therapy.

Diet.

Sleep.

Exercise.

I’ve paid attention to these things for many years, and the result is that I have fewer days when I don’t feel good due to mental health. I had a bad day Wednesday, but in the middle of it, I concentrated on the tools, because it’s become a habit. That habit saw me through, and Thursday I felt completely better. Today I’m back to dreaming about good things in the future.

My habits started with a desire to feel better. Years ago, I was depressed and often had suicidal thoughts. I searched for ways to rise from that malaise, and that led to habits that help me feel good about myself and my life. At the time I didn’t know I was forming good habits. It just happened on its own.

Stability

This afternoon, an old friend arrives to stay for a week. I’m really looking forward to seeing him after eleven years. It will be fun. I have to work while he’s here, but we’ll have evenings together and one weekend.

I was thinking this morning about how quiet my life is right now. I’m really happy with that. I don’t have a lot of stuff going on. I wake early and meditate and exercise and go to work. I relax when I get home from work.

My sleep is not the best, but it seems to be adequate. I’m limiting my caffeine to two cups of tea each day.

I have some good friends that bring me joy. My children are all doing well at the moment, so that feels really good.

My ex is slowly becoming not-an-ex. We’ve only been on one date because of his schedule, but I’m not worried about it. The right thing will happen.

My meditation is good these days. Years ago I used guided visualization, and I highly recommend it. I’ve evolved to something closer to traditional meditation where I just concentrate on my breath. My mind wanders naturally, but I don’t judge it. I just calmly bring it back to my breath. I do it as often as necessary.

My life is quite boring right now. I feels really good.

A Question

Grief comes in waves, and yesterday, I was experiencing a wave of grief for my relationship that ended 2 months ago. I chatted with my best friend about it. I had questions about my ex-boyfriend and his feelings that, of course, my best friend could not answer. I didn’t expect him to. I simply wanted to express my thoughts. He answered with a question:

Why is everyone broken?

And it stopped me in the middle of my stream of thoughts. It was the perfect question.

We are each one of us broken. We have all experienced pain.

My next question is more important:

What are we doing about our brokenness?

Being broken is not the real problem. What we are each doing about it is. I have been actively working on my brokenness for more than 30 years. It has been a long process. I can honestly say that I’ve healed some truly big traumas. I can say to anyone who needs to hear it that healing is possible. It really is. I did it. The work is worth it. There were times the work was painful, but the reward is so good. I feel whole today.

I’m still healing more broken bits that I find under the healed places. It never ends, but it truly does get better.

My healing comes through meditation, therapy, medication, exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet. Your healing will come through ways that are appropriate for you. If you need guidance about how to start, I recommend talking to a doctor or therapist first. You’ll know what’s right for you. Use that.

Walking Through It

In my last post, I wrote about my recent break up. I’m still experiencing varied moods due to the end of that romantic relationship. I have good days and bad ones.

I’m happy to say I’m using the tools I have, and they help a great deal.

My most important tool is meditation. I am able to release a lot of difficult emotions very quickly and thoroughly by doing some simple meditative techniques I’ve learned over the years. I wrote about one technique in that last post.

I’ve used medication, too. I have some medicine I can take for anxiety. I have used them occasionally. I used them daily just after the break up.

I’ve spoken to my therapist often, and that helps give me clarity.

I’ve chatted with my best friend multiple times each day. He’s a rock in this situation, and I’m grateful for his love and support.

I’ve exercised a lot, too. I’ve walked and walked. I enjoy speed walking, so I do it daily these days.

I’ve been careful with what I eat. I allow myself some junk every once in a while, but I’m careful. I eat an almost completely vegetarian diet. It feels like the right thing for me to do.

I’ve been getting good sleep most nights, which is an enormous help. Sleep resets me, so I can start fresh every morning.

Yesterday was a rough day, but I used the tools, and I survived. Today feels better except for the fact I didn’t get enough sleep for some unknown reason. I’ll be fine.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Enduring Difficult News

The news is full of difficulty these days, and it’s unlikely to become easier in the very near future.

In good times and in bad times, my first priority is my recovery. In difficult times, I must concentrate on the steps I take to maintain my stability.

  • I take my meds as prescribed, because they work for me.
  • I have increased the frequency of my visits to my therapist to weekly. Talking to my therapist is a valuable tool for me to use to keep my mind clear.
  • My meditation has become more important than ever. I use it to clear negativity, and I meditate multiple times each day.
  • I exercise. I speed walk 2.5 miles a minimum of 3 times each week. I am convinced exercise helps me stay stable.
  • I eat food that is good for me. A year ago, I drastically cut the amount of processed sugar I eat on a daily basis. It has made a wonderful change in my mood, and I’ve lost 45 pounds (20 kg). I eat a lot of vegetables.
  • Finally, I do my best to get good sleep. It’s the only time my whole body is shut down in order to refresh itself.

When the news is full of difficulty, my most important response is to maintain my own recovery. I cannot be an effective advocate for my mental health peers if I’m out of sorts. I am my #1 priority.

Nineteen Years

Today, I celebrate nineteen years of sobriety. A friend reminded me that’s a long time. At first I thought about the fact that it’s only a string of single days all put together, but you know what? It is indeed a long time, and it’s a big deal.

It’s easy to live through the single successive days and lose sight of the larger picture. In that string of single days, I’ve built up a lot of really good stuff. A lot has happened that was truly good. There was some bad, too. I remember the bad, but today, I feel the good more.

The best is that I healed. I drank because I was broken. Sobriety helped me know how important it was to reach out and get the help I needed to heal. I did that, and it worked. Read some of the past posts on this blog to understand how I’ve used therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, and sleep in my recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.

And today I celebrate nineteen years! Hooray!