“Watchman, what of the night?”

I cannot sleep tonight. It’s the first night since I’ve been better that I haven’t just drifted off in peaceful bliss. One rough night doesn’t mean that you have slipped back into depression, but when depression has been such a constant in your life, one night can bring back so many reminders.

My mind is like a floodgate. Once the gates of self doubt or anxiety or depression or feelings of worthlessness open, the thoughts come bursting forth like giant waterfalls flowing along the well-worn paths they have carved in the landscape of my mind.

Half the time, I don’t even know what I’m thinking because I’m thinking so much that I can’t even process it. My thoughts choke me. They suffocate me. I gasp for the peace and reassurance I felt just a few hours ago. Where did it go so quickly?

There’s this scripture I love in Isaiah that says, “Watchman, what of the night?” It basically means, “how long will the night last? When will the morning come?” Sometimes the night seems to last so long, but morning always comes. Tonight, I am asking, “when will morning come?” But I know that it’s there, just on the other side of the darkness.

Lessons of Pain

Pain teaches you things. Sometimes, the more intense the pain is, the more it teaches you. Today I have been in excruciating pain, and I have been thinking about the lessons pain has taught me.

  1. My body is amazing. Sometimes we tell ourselves how much we hate our bodies because they are not what we want them to be. When it becomes hard to move because of pain, you realize just how amazing your body really is.
  2. My body needs just as much love as I do. I learned this by  unintentionally starving my body. Eating causes me pain and time is a short commodity, so I simply did not eat meals for two weeks. By the time I realized what was happening, my body needed a whole lot of love to get back to normal.
  3. Everyone suffers. Most of the time, no one knows I am in pain. I resist the urge to slide to the floor and curl up in fetal position when I’m talking to someone. It has made me wonder how many other people resist similar urges and what unseen pain they may be suffering.
  4. You may never fully understand the power of a hug. When I am in intense pain, physical touch can sometimes be unwelcome. But a hug is almost always something I want. A hug releases some of the tension, alleviates some of the pain, and above all, let’s me know I’m not alone.
  5. Compassion and empathy. Everyone experiences pain differently, but because I know what pain feels like for me, I can sympathize when you describe what pain feels like for you.
  6. Gratitude. When I have a good day, when I feel well enough to do something extra, when pain doesn’t describe my state of being, I am so grateful. It makes me grateful for the little things like being able to stand and able to eat and sleep, etc.
  7. Pain is temporary. Even though I am almost always in some kind of pain, I have realized that the intense pain is temporary. It may feel unbearable in the moment, but eventually it will become bearable again.
  8. Sleep is my friend. Sometimes I delay sleeping because of depression. Sleeping seems like a darkness that I do not want to enter, but sleeping almost always helps me feel better.
  9. People care. Pain didn’t really teach me that people care, people taught me that they care. But pain made me realize and notice people caring.
  10. Service. Pain makes you realize the frailty of life. It helps you realize what is most important. To me, what is most important is other people. If I can make someone’s life better, if I can make them a little happier, if I can help someone, I want to do it. My pain does not disqualify me from trying to help someone else.

Weighted Blankets

It’s amazing what a few extra blankets can do. In the summer, I usually sleep with at least 3 blankets. Two comforters and one soft blanket. When I am not feeling well or it’s a little colder, I can sleep with up to 10 blankets.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized it is not the heat, but the weight that makes the difference. I do get cold more easily than most, but the reason I need extra blankets to help me fall asleep is the weight.

Sleeping with enough blankets that they press upon you is like being hugged all night long. Some people think that people with autism don’t like hugs, but the truth is most of us probably do like hugs. We just need to expect them and be prepared for them. If we are not ready for the hug, it can feel more like abuse than a gesture of love. It has gotten better for me over the years, but before if someone hugged me unexpectedly, it felt like it would leave bruises from the force of it. However, if I expected it, it was the most amazing feeling in the world. It is like a relief from the sensory overload I experience all the time.

I don’t get nearly enough hugs, but I am very grateful for the ones I do get. I am also grateful for blankets that feel like hugs and help reduce the sensory stress so I can sleep at night.

Much to Do

I feel like a new person. Between therapy, everything I’m learning and all my goals for myself- physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional, I am becoming better than I was and it’s been so amazing.

The past couple of weeks I haven’t been able to fall asleep when I go to bed. I keep thinking of all of the things I want to do and then I can’t sleep until I do them. It’s been good though because I’m doing so many more good things. I’m taking time to write letters and send messages and pray for people and just do all the things I was afraid of before. 

There is so much to do when you realize you can do anything you want. Luckily, I’m starting to catch up with everything I haven’t done so I’m starting to get enough sleep again!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The past month or so has been really hard for me. I’ve been struggling with breaking down, feeling of worth, and just generally doing what I normally do on a daily basis. I don’t exactly know why these things happen. I don’t know what triggers my feelings of depression and lethargy, but I know that when I feel like that it is almost like I’ve gone to sleep. It’s like a part of me is gone for a while, like I went to sleep and part of me just stayed in bed.

And then one day… I wake up.

I can’t explain how or why it happens but it’s like I come back to myself. Like another post I wrote a few weeks ago about a strange feeling I had when I wandered half asleep to the bathroom and felt like a part of me was lost. I felt scared that it would never come back and then it did and everything was okay again.  Only this time it took a lot longer for that part of me to come back.

This isn’t the first time this has happened and it probably won’t be the last. But it is interesting to look back and see the difference. It is interesting to see who I’ve been over the past month or so and who I am now. It is almost like I’ve been two different people.

And I feel bad. I feel bad about what that different person has done. I feel bad about the mistakes I made and the hurt I may have caused. And it reminds me of all the other times that this has happened and the brokenness it has left behind me. I wish I could go back and fix it all, but I can’t. Life just doesn’t work like that.

Maybe this time though I can learn something from it… Maybe this time I can find a way to fix it… And maybe next time I can find a way to keep Mr. Hyde from hurting the ones I love.

Finding Myself

I woke up this morning about 3 hours too early to use the restroom and had an interesting experience. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but I was scared. In fact, I was nearly terrified and for no physical reason whatsoever. I was half asleep, but the room was light enough to see everything and I usually go to sleep in nearly complete darkness. The house hadn’t changed and there was nothing in the environment that was scary. But I think it was that feeling of being half there and half not that scared me. It was a feeling of not knowing where I was mentally.

And then after dazing in and out of sleep for a while, I found myself. It was like I came back to myself and was whole again. And then everything was okay. I wasn’t scared anymore. It was like I had been somewhere else and I was scared that I wouldn’t come back, but when I did the world didn’t seem as scary anymore.

I don’t know how else to describe this experience and this post is very different from my usual posts, but because of the scariness and uniqueness of the situation I had to put it on here. I wonder if anyone else has had a similar situation or has any thoughts on the situation. The closest thing I can think of that may come close to what I felt is a near death experience, but this was definitely not a near death experience.

Anyway, if you have any thoughts on this, I’d be happy to hear them. Thanks for reading!

Reasons I can’t sleep

Studies have shown a correlation indicating that children with autism often sleep less than their peers. “Sleep monitoring studies have confirmed these reports, showing that children with autism take longer to fall asleep, are awake for longer in the middle of the night, and sleep for shorter periods than typically developing children do.” Although some people have speculated reasons for this, I will attempt to explain some of these reasons and give some of my own.

Some reasons I have realized for why I can’t sleep are that I’m thinking too much, that the environment is not conducive to sleeping for me, or that I haven’t followed my nighttime routine.

Nighttime is the ideal time for thinking. During the day, the world is too loud and crazy to think. Sometimes I can retreat to my room during the day to think, but it’s not the same as thinking at night. There is something about lying in bed in the dark and knowing that you don’t have any requirements for the next 8 or so hours. It’s finally a time away from people and loudness and brightness. It’s a time where you can think about things you haven’t had time to process during the day and to get things done so you don’t have to worry about them later.

However, this time of thinking can also be a negative thing. Because the world is so quiet around you, the thoughts of inadequacy, failure, and uncertainty flood your mind. You may go through the entire day in your head contemplating over whether you were understood the way you intended or if you unintentionally offended someone or if you lost a potential friend because you said one thing and not another. You may be frustrated by things you didn’t handle the best way possible or you may come up with new ways to handle a situation that happened earlier in the day or come up with the perfect response to a question you weren’t able to answer the way you wanted.

If you’re not thinking about things, or if you’re done with thinking, you may still not be able to sleep because there are things around you keeping you awake. It can be the feel of your blankets or the unending ticking of a clock or the sound of crickets or the sound of someone breathing in another room or that the room isn’t dark enough or the room is too dark or things are too silent or a number of other things that make the room uncomfortable and sometimes unbearable.

If it’s not something in the environment that’s causing uncomfortableness, a medical problem could also cause sleeping problems. This could include suffering from indigestion or anxiety or some type of pain or sickness. If you can’t breathe right, it may be hard to be able to fall asleep. Or if your heart is beating quickly or you feel restless, it’s hard to relax enough to fall asleep. And you may not even be aware that you’re suffering from indigestion and may think that you’re just uncomfortable.

In addition to things that keep you awake, there may also be things that keep you from sleeping. For example, if you always follow the same bedtime routine but skip a step one night, you may not be able to fall asleep until you complete that step. I tend to go on the computer before I go to bed, and then brush my teeth, change into my pajamas, and then I read scriptures and pray and then turn off the lights and go to sleep. If I forget to read one night, I usually can’t fall asleep until I turn the light back on and read. Or if I forget to brush my teeth, I may lay in bed for hours feeling like something is off but I don’t remember what it is.

Once I finally do fall asleep, I may wake up during the night and have more problems with trying to fall asleep again. If I woke up because of a dream or nightmare, I may need to think about and process the dream before I can go back to sleep. If I got up to use the bathroom, by the time I come back I may not feel tired anymore or may need to re-relax myself in order to fall back asleep. If I wake up because of a sound, I may not be able to go back to sleep until the sound stops and even when it stops I may be too awake to go back to sleep. Sometimes I will also just wake up naturally and feel like I’ve slept long enough when I have only slept for about 4 hours or so. Sometimes I wake up because I’m too hot or my pillow is too thick, which can also cause me to toss and turn quite a bit in my sleep.

Although I sleep better now than I did when I was younger, I still have problems sleeping sometimes. One thing that helps me sleep better are the blankets I sleep with. I have a soft blanket and two comforters that I sleep with. Depending on how I’m feeling I switch which blanket is on the bottom or how many of the blankets I sleep with. When I’ve had a rough day, I tend to like the soft blanket on the bottom because it helps relax me. The other blankets are usually just for added weight, but can be cooler than my soft blanket so I sleep with them closest to me occasionally as well. One day when I have the money to spend I may also get a pillow that I can sleep on my back and on my side with, which would probably help even more with how well I sleep.

Another thing that helps me sleep is taking some time before I have to go to sleep to calm down and relax from the day. I usually go on the computer for a while and I read before I go to bed. This doesn’t always stop the excessive thinking in bed, but it usually helps with the anxiety like symptoms. I also sometimes sing a well-known and happy song to myself when I’m trying to go to sleep and this helps me relax and fall asleep. I always try to keep my thoughts positive before bedtime to help prevent nightmares or unrestful sleep.

 

I hope this post helped you understand a little about why it may be hard for someone with autism to sleep. There are other reasons that we can’t sleep sometimes (like that we just don’t want to sleep for various reasons) but the ones I’ve said are some of the more psychological and controllable reasons. If you’d like to look at more reasons why people with autism may have a hard time sleeping, you can check out this site.

Hopefully this post gave you some ideas about how to sleep better or how to help your child sleep better. If you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer them. 🙂

 

**I apologize for the use of pronouns in this post. When I say “you”, I usually really mean me and other people who may share the same thoughts as me. It’s just hard for me to know how to express that without making it seem like I’m only talking about myself or complaining about my specific issues. I want my posts to be able to be applied to many situations while still acknowledging that we’re all different and may not share the same problems, but sometimes I struggle with knowing how to do that. Thanks for your understanding.**