Insomnia

It’s 2:30am and I’ve been awake for an hour and a half. I’m going to be wrecked tomorrow and it’s Saturday, which means the three children at home and the husband, all needing me to not be wrecked.

I woke up, mid-dream, when my 5 year old came in asking me to find his teddy. Then he wanted a drink. By the time I was back in bed my brain was in full-on analysis mode and sleep has been impossible.

Here’s what’s keeping me awake:

  1. A stomach ache. We had a takeaway curry for dinner and I overate. I noticed yesterday in the playground that my reflection in the school window showed a very unflattering fat stomach. I look about 4 months pregnant. I’ve put a couple of kilos on since cutting out the sugar and all weight piles on my stomach and nowhere else. I need to eat a bit less.
  2. Yesterday morning when I got home I found a blob of what looked suspiciously like semen on the floor outside the kitchen. So my husband must have had a wank before leaving (I left first), which is his business, but why there and why the fuck didn’t he clear up properly?
  3. The fences are rattling. Our neighbour had concrete post and wood panel fencing fitted a couple of years back and even the slightest amount of wind shakes the panels back and forth in the posts. It is so fucking irritating as our bedroom faces the tiny back garden and every time I start to relax I get a fence-shake in my ear to wake me up again. It wouldn’t be sane to go outside at this hour and hammer some planks into the fences at one end to bolster them against the lawn, but that’s exactly what I feel like doing. 
  4. The heating system/radiator is quietly whistling. I’ve tried to turn the fucking thing off overnight but we have a “weather compensator” which basically means our heating system does whatever the fuck it wants.
  5. Our neighbour has left his conservatory light on, which makes our room light up. It can never be dark enough for me at night, so having the room all lit up isn’t helping either.
  6. You know, my parents never, ever touched or hugged me as a child. How exactly do you get over the feeling that you are just not someone anyone would like to touch? It doesn’t help that I have married a man who is exactly the same. He has never been touchy-feely and never comes anywhere near me.

So there we go. Stupid stuff that normally doesn’t keep me awake but tonight it’s all just really, really irritating.

And once you get annoyed about not being able to sleep – well, you’ve had it. Insomnia has been an ongoing problem for me since my first son was born 7 years ago and it truly, truly sucks.

Wish me luck, it’s been two hours now and I’m going to give sleep another go.

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Homocysteine Test Results

My results came back and they are fine. My level is 9. Anything above 9 is considered a risk, so I am right at the top end. Patrick Holford advises anything over 6 is less than optimum. So all in all, I might have slightly higher homocysteine levels, but considering I am a 42 year old coeliac with osteoarthritis and I am permanently exhausted, that’s not too bad, right?

After this, and the breast clinic visit, and my reasonably good blood results from December, I have had a bit of a think. The mind-body connection is a phrase bandied around a lot, but maybe in my case a lot of my ill health really does stem from my mental health, not my physical condition. The negative effects of stress and depression on the body are slowly being accepted by mainstream doctors. My mental health has been poor, pretty much since I became a mother seven and a half years ago.

Part of it was the realisation of my own parents under-parenting (which I had just never really given much thought until I had my own children), and part of it is the absolute exhaustion of being a mum with no one to help out – no family, no friends. I have found the journey so hard, and I have often felt so completely spent, but still had to pick up and carry on day after day. I have a perfectionist streak and criticise myself constantly.

And of course, when your mind is not right, you don’t do the right things when it comes to eating and exercise. I seek solace in chocolate and wine and pick at food instead of making myself proper meals. The long term effect is vitamin deficiencies and tiredness.

So I need to clean house – mentally – in order to make this journey work. I have finished searching for weird things that might be wrong with me (I think this is partly a hangover from three years of miscarriages with no attributable medical cause ever found). I need to focus on making the steps to clean up my diet, but also on making steps into the dusty, crowded, dark and neglected warehouse of my brain and putting things in order. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do that just yet.

Going Backwards

I can’t even seem to get off the ground any more with healthy changes. There was a time when I could stick to something for weeks or even months. Now I fail after less than a day or two.

Maybe I have tried and failed so many times that I have used up all my staying power and I am destined to eat crap and feel awful for the rest of my days.

I have consumed a ton of sugary stuff today and feel not only yukky for doing so, but I have all the guilt and self-judgement for not being able to control myself. Again.

It really is ridiculous, how I can want to do one thing, but then do the complete opposite just for a few moments of pleasure. I’ve said it before but I do wonder if my sweet addicion is so desperate and dire because there is so little sweetness in my life. This, of course, is a conditioned, subjective view that I am ashamed of. I have plenty of wonderful things in my life and I know I am very lucky. I feel horribly guilty about feeling that life isn’t full of sweetness.

But daily life IS tough. We have no family or close friends nearby, and I have been parenting 24/7 for seven years with barely a break and only one night off (during which I was celebrating my 40th birthday, but simultaneously miscarrying, so not quite as carefree as we would have liked. Not to mention the anxiety I carried of leaving the children alone when it is something we had never done – and haven’t since). On top of being on call to three small people round the clock, every day of the year, I have had to pull myself though a birth that almost killed me (I lost 2.8 litres of blood with my first), a miscarriage that almost killed me (I haemorrhaged for hours after the sac got lodged in the neck of my womb, and I ended up with a three day hospital stay and blood transfusion), the death of two grandparents, and several long-term psychotic episodes from an immediate family member.

Through all of this I have had to manage on broken sleep, whilst dealing with tantrums, fights, bickering, illness, and what the fuck to cook everybody every single day NO MATTER WHAT. It’s no surprise I am a shell of my former self – and I wasn’t exactly a sturdy specimen to start.

People must notice how haggard and worn down I am. The greying hair that I rarely bother to brush (or even wash). The creases on my face from falling asleep crushed into the pillow that take hours to fade. The sagging jawline, the growing pot belly, the limp from my arthritis, the frightening rate of wrinkles, the tired, dull, emptiness in my eyes.

But no one ever says anything. Maybe they are too polite? My parents must be able to see me aging so rapidly, they must notice I always wear the same sloppy grey and blue outfits, they must notice the tired, grey pallor. They have never said anything. Neither have my friends. But then, would I say something if it was me?

Hey friend, I’ve noticed how tired you are. How you drag your body around as if it’s a burden. You’re looking older these days and your personal hygeine has gotten quite slack. Is everything okay?

Nope. I definitley wouldn’t say anything.

My son said to me today,

Mummy, do you go out and have lots of fun when baby F is at nursery and we are at school?

I laughed so much.

No, sweetie, I don’t. Do you know what I do? I sit at my desk and I work very, very hard until I pick you all up. Sometimes I even forget to have lunch! But I like the sound of your suggestion. Do you think I should just go and have lots of fun instead? 

And I thought about how much less tired and stressed and miserable I might be if I could steal the time to do that and remember any of the things that I did for fun.

You should text Mrs X (current client), and tell her you’re closed. You should do that on Monday.

Maybe no one else has noticed my decline, but my children have. And they want me to fix it.

Chronic Pain – Where I Am Now

It’s kind of hard for me to believe that I am where I am. The joint pain I suffer has been niggling on and off for several years, but now it is constant. It is my biggest health issue and it saddens and frightens me that it is as bad as it is.

I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in Oct 2016. I have hallux rigidus in my right toe, which means I can’t bend it properly anymore because of several osteophytes (little bony protusions that grow and reduce joint mobility so the inflammed joint gets some protection).

My left big toe is slowly getting worse – I am afraid of what this means.

I already walk with a mild limp and roll my foot outwards to avoid bending the toe joint. I can’t walk long distances and running is out of the question. The consultant recommended an orthotic, but my vanity has kept it away (for now).

My treatment options are cortisone injections and then a cheilectomy (osteophyte removal), and finally complete bone fusion.

What is scarier is that the pain is now in my thumbs, wrists, elbows, knees, hips and spine. Those joints all click and crack when just a few years ago they were silent. I can’t open jars, fixing seatbelts hurt my hands and when I bend down it sometimes feels like the shooting pain in my knee will bring me to the ground.

At night my hips feel locked and I have to shift around in bed until they settle, raising my knees to my chest and back again until I free the joint.

My spine feels like a tower of pumice stones that are on the verge of crumbling away.

Joint pain aside, I have the usual middle-aged mother’s complaints. Exhaustion, inability to sleep properly, irritability and a fair dose of anxiety and probably mild depression (over the state of my health, ageing appearance, and the state of the house mainly).

My body is soft and weak, and I am scared of physical exertion because for the first time in my life I can sense the underlying fragility of my structure.

A fall, a twist, could leave me broken.

Isn’t that how you’re supposed to feel when you are nearing the end of your life? Afraid of breaking?

Not at 42, surely.

I have also been suffering recurrent bouts of fever, chills and joint pain. I’ve had five episodes in the last 9 or 10 months. I deteriorate rapidly, going from absolutely fine to shivering and exhausted within around 4 hours. I am then bedridden for 36 hours, completely unable to do anything. I can’t eat and I shake uncontrollably. I recover in a day or two. The fever breaks, and my appetite returns. The exhaustion never really goes away. The last two episodes seemed to be triggered by physical exertion (a night without sleep at the hospital with my daugter and a full day of cleaning and gardening). I think I run at such a deficit of energy and my reserves are so spent that my body just goes into crisis mode to get the sleep it so desperately needs.

My weight is a few kilos over normal, so I’m not battling obesity. My blood test three months ago said everything was more or less okay (low vitamin D and low leucocytes). My skin and my jawline is increasingly sagging, my hair is greying, I have baby liver spots forming on the backs of my hands, a permanent rash on my legs, cracked heels and callouses on my feet.

But I am, as far as the medical profession believes, absolutely fine. With a bit of early onset arthritis.

But I am not absolutely fine. I am at the point where I am finding it hard to cope with my three children, and with the daily requirements of looking after them and the house (spare me the lecture on being an older mother – that is a whole other story for another day). The constant joint pain, shooting pains, exhaustion and slow-thinking I seem to suffer from are bringing me down.

I don’t believe that the body is meant to fall apart in middle age. So this is my quest to work out what I’m doing wrong and reverse it.