I’ve been having a bad few days*. It’s tempting, oh so tempting to just give into to them – to just wallow and say it’s not fair. It shouldn’t be so hard. No one understands. No one cares. It’s even tempting to say I don’t understand why I feel so bad and I don’t know what to do about it. It’s not any one thing. It’s everything. My life is so hard. There’s nothing to be done. Waa, waa, waa and down into the pity party I’d fall. But that is not true. I do know why. I’m tired. Not just a little tired but bone dead haven’t slept well in over a month tired. If there was a color coding method for tired the way they do the terrorist threat alerts I’d be at red.*
I even know the reasons why I am so tired. It would be easy to say it’s because of Little Man but that would not be the full truth. The real reasons are: One, I have not been taking proper care of my body. I have skipped workouts, not been eating well consistently, and I have skipped my medication. Two, I haven’t been keeping my environment healthy. I’ve let the house, my office, and even my finances get out of control. Disorder in any one of those always throws me out of whack. Three, I’ve been neglecting my spirit. I have not been taking time to reflect and journal and pray. As much as I preach structure and schedule to everyone in my son’s life for him, I need to preach it to myself – for myself. I need to keep those things happening on a regular basis. A tired weepy mommy (or a cranky snappish mommy) is not good for any of us any more than an overtired disrgulated Little Man is. For both of us these unpleasant moods tend to spiral.
If Little Man gets overtired and disregulated not only does he have trouble with his speech, his coordination, and with his behavior, he fights sleep ever harder and harder. And so each day gets a little worse than the one before. When I let myself get over tired and slip into sad (or mad) then I let the things that normally keep me on track go even more. Who has the energy to work out, or clean, or write? But at some point my slide starts to affect him. And if I miss those warning signs then we can spiral down at warp speed. My being off kilter throws him off and then we just escalate each other down and around and down.
Last night was a warning sign.** Actually there have surely been some I’ve already missed because last night we had already hit the point where he and I start escalating each other. Little man has not been sleeping well again for a while. *** This in and of itself is not unusual. Sleep problems and FASD go hand in hand it seems. In fact, some of the writing I’ve been neglecting is ruminations on a couple of articles about sleep I ran across recently. But I’m not ready to dive into them just yet.**** His sleep disruptions invariably become my sleep disruptions. I know when he is having trouble that it is doubly important to keep myself on track so I can help him find it again but this time I failed at that. Well perhaps not failed, stumbled. I love the Albert Einstein quote “You have not failed until you quit trying.” I have not quit. But I was using ineffective methods.
I started with just trying to put him back in his own bed over and over each night, exhausting myself and then letting things like getting up early to work out give in response. Then when both lack of sleep and lack of exercise were wearing me down to the point I could not wake up each time he did I started pulling him into bed with my husband and I. I’m not against the “family bed” idea in and of itself but OUR family bed is way too small for our family to get any restful sleep. Further worn down I started trying to steal naps during my quiet time and writing time and skipping housework I usually do after Little Man goes down. The naps didn’t help because I was always tossing and fretful about what I was supposed to be doing or the increasing disaster zone of my house and thus accomplishing neither rest or selfcare.
Only when I was ridiculously far down my own rabbit hole did I think to ask Little Man why he could not sleep. When he said it was because his bed was too cold I went out and invested in new fleece sheets, a fuzzy blanket and heated mattress pad. These are not bad strategies, not the asking him directly or the material environment modifications. But I went badly wrong by waiting until I was exhausted before trying something different. Last night was the debut of the new bed AND … of course it did not fix the problem, last night. *****
No surprise that today I was even more a mess – but peeling myself away from the situation for long enough to sit and write – I can see it more clearly. This is not a problem of one night’s making and unlikely to be fixed in one night. Sensory issues may have started him off but he’s in a pattern now. Little Man can perseverate on a pattern like no one’s business. It’s my job to make sure the ones he settles in are healthy and productive. I dropped the ball a good while back when I stopped taking care of me. Last night I was stressed out, exhausted, did not follow our routine for bed and was way too invested in a magic bullet solution to our sleep problem. I was overtired all day and let him do activities that wind him up rather than insist on the soothing ones before bed. So of course we did not have a good night’s sleep. The best environment in the world was not going to overcome his being overtired, overstimulated, and stressed out by a cranky worn out mom.
Which brings us to today where I ramble on as I try to unravel the threads of this knot. I needed some time for me. Nana is taking Little Man on an adventure he will enjoy.****** I wanted to sit and stew and fret and yes waa, waa, waa with the time she is giving me. But I am the one that neglected the maintenance that made last night’s train wreck possible. So it’s my job to get us back on the tracks. I could have tried to force myself to dive into a work out, or a nap, or chores but I know that I needed this first. To sit, sip coffee and write, to see the big picture and make a plan. I have a bad, bad tendency to let myself go, to try and do more, be more for everyone else. It’s my own little perseverative pattern. I have to go back and tell myself again and again – it doesn’t work like that. You have to take care of yourself if you are going to be able to take care of them. I also have to see clearly that I can’t fix what has crept up on both of us over several weeks’ time in one night. I need to do a little today and then a little more tomorrow, first just to slow the downward momentum but then finally to turn that spiral down into an upward spin.
I’m ready I think. I’m going to close down the lap top. Get a coffee refill to go and head home to make dinner. And cupcakes. Little man will enjoy that. And it should keep us quietly occupied until time to start bed time routines. I will do the dishes after he falls asleep and then I will go to bed. We won’t sleep through the night. I’m not even going to think about that. I’m looking for peaceful, snuggly, reassuring awakenings and one step in the right direction. In the morning I will stretch. I’ll do just one of my work out exercises and take one more step.
*Or defcon 5 or whatever it is.
** More like an air horn shot directly in the ear.
***It’s a bad sign that I cannot pinpoint exactly how long right? Yeah I suck.
****Although unsurprisingly, just sitting down here and writing is helping my mood and I feel more interest in diving into that than I have since I first found them.
*****I did not handle last night well – let’s leave it at that shall we?
******Bless you Nana!!Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!