Things That Go Bump

Last night I read something that made an interesting, though somewhat disturbing connection for me. I was reading volume one of Virginia Woolf’s diary and after February 1915, the editor (her nephew’s wife) writes that Woolf went mad and didn’t keep a diary again until 1917. None of that was a surprise for me because I’ve read lots by her and about her. It’s that the editor took time to note how this episode of madness was heralded by nights of sleeplessness and days of anxiety before Woolf completely lost her mental health.

I have to digress for a second to say that reading what Woolf writes in 1917 and comparing it to previous entries is fascinating. After her madness, her topics aren’t as deep. (In fact there’s lots about weather. Yawn.) Her sentences are stilted. The writing shows her mind slowing re-awakening and re-grasping her craft. Pretty incredible…and the only thing getting me through reading about days of pelting rain and farmhands gathering corn.

Back on track…. Reading about the sleeplessness before her collapse tweaked something in me. Having had bouts of insomnia for about the last two years, I could completely understand that tenacious, yet fragile connection between sleep and mental well-being.

I have the type of insomnia where I often wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. Sometimes I feel like a different person during that time because I can have really loco thoughts or worries that I’d never have during the day, even if I’m bored. However, if I don’t get enough sleep for a few days in a row, I can feel the night worries trying to creep into the day-lit hours.

A couple of weeks ago when I had whiplash and some other old injuries were re-ignited, I could feel myself coming very close to being depressed. Sure I wasn’t close to mad, but I definitely was not a balanced, happy camper. You see, the pain from the injuries woke me up and gave me something else to concern myself with. It was one more layer too much.

Thankfully I managed to get myself reined in. I shushed the negative night-time voice that said nothing was going to work. I did some breathing exercises to get back to sleep. At first they felt futile but they eventually worked. And yoga got the injuries calmed down so that they stopped waking me.

But it still creeps me out to feel how close I was to getting into an even worse spiral. The insomnia is bad enough. That’s why I’m finally going to try and conquer it. I’ve signed myself up for an intensive meditation course which starts in February. I’m determined. Whenever I get that way, I succeed. Fingers crossed.


About gwenamon

bookworm, confidante, creative director, cyclist, global wanderer, music lover, shutterbug, shoe shopper, snowboarder, writer, yoga geek. i'm also a very proud mama of a lil mister named james.
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One Response to Things That Go Bump

  1. gwenamon says:

    I’ve gotten some great emails about this post that have really touched and helped me, as well as struck a chord. I’m posting them here anonymously since sharing is good.

    “Anyway, there is a reason why I’m writing you and I hope that I can be of help…I read your most recent post and I’ll not beat around the bush: are you having generalized anxiety?
    Based on what you describe, there’s an eerie similarity between what you’re going through now and what I went through years ago. And honestly, the longer it went untreated, the worse it got. The more I denied that’s what it was, the worse it got. Not to say that’ll happen with you…just want you to be aware and if you see these thoughts, worries, sleeplessness, getting worse, to talk to your doctor about it.

    Ok? Promise? Don’t let it get out of control…

    For me, I had something similar…waking up at night. Mind racing. My mind would latch onto thinking I was sick…among other things. Ridiculous stuff. But at the time it felt very real. And usually those thought were triggered by something I saw on TV, read in a book, overhead in conversation. But during the day, like you I seemingly held it together. Seemingly, but it was exhausting. Not sure if you remember what I was like during that time…. Ugh it was AWFUL. Nightmarish in some ways. But if I did my job right…I suspect no one could tell. :)

    And oh…did I resent it. I thought I was weak. I was angry at myself that this was happening to me. Outraged. I ALWAYS thought I was the most sane one out of anyone I knew. This happened to other people. Not to me. But that’s a BIG part of anxiety. The need to control. To always feel in control. I suppose that’s the irony of it all. Then you kinda feel depressed to because you feel like a failure. Does any of this sound familiar?

    But there’s a lesson there. It changes you this stuff. And this may sound trite, but usually its for the better. Did you notice a shift in me just after that? I dunno probably I surprised a lot of people with some of my decisions. And in some ways I disappointed them I’m sure. But in the end…it’s been good.”


    “I’ve had trouble sleeping on and off for a few years, but it got really bad after a couple of very stressful events followed by working 40+ hours and going to school 14 hours a week. I totally know what you mean about waking up in the middle of the night and having “crazy” thoughts. I would usually ruminate on some trivial thing and get all worked up about it. Occasionally, I would work myself into a rage and would be furious at what/who had awoken me.

    In traditional Chinese medicine a physical condition is considered to be the root of the lack of sleep and over-thinking. When I learned more about the theory, it made perfect sense and also gave me more peace of mind, knowing that it wasn’t my “fault” as the over-thinking had a physical root.

    Basically, there’s a type of insomnia characterized by falling asleep easily, but waking up prematurely and having trouble falling back asleep. This type of insomnia is attributed to “yin deficiency”. Yin refers to the body’s fluids, and in this case, it specifically refers to blood. In Chinese medicine, the theory is that the heart and mind are interconnected. If there is not enough blood to nourish the heart, then the heart is unable to counterbalance the mind, resulting in overthinking, disturbance of the mind, and insomnia.

    Other symptoms would include delayed or sparse menstruation, dizziness when you get up suddenly, dry skin, possible nightsweats, dry lips especially around the corners of the mouth. I had a history of not eating much protein (especially animal protein) for about 10 years and as a result was borderline anemic which is the same as “yin deficiency”.

    I started taking iron, b12 and folate supplements as well as getting acupuncture and taking herbs. Also, I removed the stress from my life and find I’m sleeping quite well lately. I would highly recommend seeing an acupuncturist to help with the physical causes of the insomnia and it sounds like you’re right on track for the meditation classes to address the mental aspect.”

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