Life seems to swing wildly between exuberant and hellish for me, with what I’ll refer to as “dead periods” occurring from time to time. The swings mark my transition from a flow state (in the zone, usually helping a client with something and feeling like I’m winning at the same time) to ground zero (feeling like I got hit by a truck – physically or mentally – and wanting nothing more than to lie in bed all day and watch cat videos on my phone). The dead periods sometimes occur in between – they’re like meh on top of blah. And even worse, if I am going through a dead period and am conscious of it, I get into this hopeless place where I feel like I’m going to be stuck in it forever. Eventually I do pull out of it, but it’s usually because I’m distracted by something shiny (it’s dinner time! a new client just called! I’m going to Target!), not because I’m making a conscious effort to pull myself up and out of the abyss.
My husband’s response to everything I complain about lately (a complaining wife? I know, how odd) is to say, hey dummy, you’re depressed! Call the doctor already! I find this amusing, so I have started making up complaints to see how he reacts: “My head hurts, and I can’t stop taking Advil.” Depression! “I’m too tired and unmotivated to feed the cats.” DEPRESSION! “My stomach is upset – was that mayo I used in the tuna still good?” YES, the mayo is FINE. Your problem is just TEH DEPRESSION!
Just kidding though, because I’m not diagnosed with depression despite what my husband suspects, and actually, things have been pretty good in the past few days, albeit busy. I started to realize that most days when I get sad, I’m really just … tired. Sometimes I’m anxious too, or experiencing a combination of worrying what’s happening next (who’s waiting for a follow-up call from me? what email did I forget to respond to last night?) and being exhausted from all the worrying I did yesterday.
In the past couple months or so, I spent some time configuring my diet (pseudo-Paleo at this point), and then my exercise routine (then: weight training! now: nonexistent!), and now, my sole focus is this:
I need to be getting more sleep! Quality sleep would be good too, but let’s not get carried away just yet. How about shooting for 7 hours a night, instead of like, 5?
Simultaneous with this realization, I also considered the following: (a) People who get up earlier in the morning seem to get more done and be more successful and satisfied with their lives; and (b) The real problem with waking up early is not the waking up part, but the going to bed early part.
My simple resolve: to go to bed at 10:00 every night, and endeavor to wake up at 5:00.
Amazingly, and possibly aided by a head cold I had this week that made early bed more enticing than usual, I am proud to report that I have gone to bed at 10:00 three nights in a row so far. Waking up at 5:00 is another issue. The first morning, I woke up around 7:00 – we were all late to school/work. The second morning, I got up at 6:30 – I had already showered the night before, and managed to get the kids to school just on time, and myself to work fairly early. The third morning – today – I was up at 5:18, before my alarm went off at 5:30. I had to shower, and didn’t get much done besides the usual: get myself, a toddler, and a preschooler up, dressed, fed and out the door by 7:45 a.m. to go to two different schools before my hour commute to the office by 9:30. But I did it! And I was not sad ALL DAY! Just had low blood sugar from working through lunch, but that’s another story. Yay!
Other factors relevant to the above narrative:
- This is the first week we tried putting the two-year-old in her own big girl bed in her sister’s room, rather than letting her fall asleep at the breast (mine) and nurse all night in our own bed. Because we took the co-sleeping thing a LITTLE too far.
- I still get up once or twice a night, including the past few nights, to soothe one child or the other. The four-year-old often requires assistance stumbling her way in the dark to the potty at 1:00 a.m. The two-year-old now realizes that her big girl bed is big enough to fit mommy, who can keep nursing her to sleep.
- Although broken sleep is therefore still an issue for me, I seem to do better with this in the girls’ room than in my own room. So does DH.
It is pretty embarrassing for me to be this vulnerable on this forum. I basically just admitted to needing to sleep train myself, because clearly I have been doing sleep very wrong for a long time. I can’t believe how much this small change has improved my mood, frustration tolerance, and ability to focus throughout my day. I still need to work on the diet and exercise and not being a workaholic thing, but for now, starting with sleep feels really good. Thanks for reading my story as I continue to figure out how my brain and body works in my new role as a parent, as I gradually begin to accept that life is drastically different now, and that I can’t keep doing things the same way I’ve always done them.
Image via WikiMedia Commons.