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Your really have come a long way, Mac! Glad you’re doing so well.
Lori and Chen – I think you need to do some kind of consistent meditation or mindfulness practice in order to begin to grasp what it means to separate YOU from your thoughts and emotions. You can’t just intellectually understand this. You have to EXPERIENCE it. I’m sure if you google meditation and mindfulness you’ll find tons of resources out there. In the beginning, it’s much easier to follow a guided meditation rather than just trying it by yourself. Once you start focusing completely on one thing and noticing how your mind drifts away, you will have the EXPERIENCE of how your thoughts have a life of their own which are separate from you and that you have some control over.
To do this takes DISCIPLINE. Odinsky worked very hard at this and it was not easy for him. At times his thoughts tormented him, telling him to even commit suicide. But through perseverance, he finally broke through. You can do this too. But you’ve got to make up your mind to do it first. Chen, you in particular, really need this. Your thoughts and emotions are completely taking over you and torturing you. You need to begin to separate from them or they will continue to torment you and could possibly lead you in a very destructive direction. Meditation or mindfulness will liberate you from them.
One of my favorite mediation teachers is Tara Brach. She has guided meditations on her website.
Mike – that’s right about thought noticing. With welcoming, it’s more like neutralizing them. You imagine them like a cartoon character and then they are funny or you feel sympathy for them. I didn’t have to use either method much because I knew how to get to the point of laying there in bed and doing nothing. What I mostly did when my anxiety got too bad was to get out of bed and write for awhile in my journal until my mind became clearer. I usually realized that I was “struggling” again. When I had that realization I would gently laugh at myself saying “There you go again.” Then I’d go back to bed and do nothing.
Wow! That’s a long time to have insomnia. That’s great that you’re getting better at “doing nothing” in bed. That’s the key. Once I learned how to do this consistently, then I started to fall sleep again. I had sleep onset and could go for hours without falling asleep. Yes it definitely sounds like you’re making progress.
Odinsky – Wow! You really had a major breakthrough! You had to go through a lot though. But it sounds like it was surely worth it. It’s amazing how sometimes the light bulb just goes on and we finally really “get” something. I’m glad you never quit and didn’t let those negative thoughts take over. And yes sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. We’re so tempted to give up, but the breakthrough is right around the corner if only we persevere. Thank you for being an inspiration.
Mike – it sounds like you’re on the right track! Glad you had a good night and fell asleep so quickly. Just one comment about mindfulness in case you don’t already know this. After you use mindfulness to let go of any anxiety then just lay there and do nothing. Because if you’re still doing mindfulness, you’re “doing something” and won’t fall asleep. Maybe you already know this. Just wondering, how long have you had insomnia and is it sleep onset, sleep maintenance or both?
Mac – how are you doing? Are you going to the office now? Has your sleep adjusted to this?
Just wondering, Odinsky. For the sake of others here who are struggling with anxiety, can you share your path to learning how to successfully mediate? Did you take a class, hire a teacher, or just learn it yourself through self-study and then stick with it consistently? What tools were helpful to you, i.e., mediation recordings, online stuff, etc? What does your meditation practice look like now? Thanks!
That’s so awesome, Odinsky! Thanks so much for sharing! Yes, once you have the EXPERIENCE thru mindfulness/meditation that your thoughts are NOT YOU, then it’s so much easier to let them go. I love ACT also because it helped me realize that it was anxiety itself that was keeping me awake. This helped me understand the importance of learning to relax and let go of the anxious thoughts, and then I “remembered” how to sleep again just as I had my whole life previous to insomnia. Now whenever I have a short relapse, they are always very short, because I don’t worry about them and then I’m fine in a night or 2. Like you, sometimes I might not sleep for an hour or two, but I let go of any worry and it’s no big deal because by the next night or so I’m back to sleeping normally.
Thank you for being such a strong advocate for meditation/mindfulness, Odinsky. I think if those here who are struggling with their anxiety really set their minds to learn it and practice it, they would overcome their insomnia too, just as you have.
Hi Mike – here’s my take on your questions. It’s natural to worry that it might not work. Like many of us, we’ve tried different things and didn’t get any better and got discouraged. So we wonder if this is actually going to work this time or not. But sometimes we just have to put our faith into something and do it even if we’re not sure we’ll get anywhere with it. So just try to put your faith in this and let go of your attachment to the outcome on a night to night basis.
Next, do whatever you need to do to be able to relax in bed. If noting your thoughts is not helpful and just causing anxiety, then don’t do that. Remember the case study of Carlos, who took a couple weeks just to learn to relax and bed and not worry about things. That’s your goal right now, just learning to relax in bed without struggling to fall asleep. if you can learn to relax, then eventually you will start falling asleep naturally, which I’m sure is what happened to Carlos.
For myself, I did not get up, even though the first night or two of doing ACT were very long. After that first night or two I saw that I was actually starting to fall asleep, even if for short periods. Or maybe the sleep was very light with dreams or I was in and out of sleep all night. The important point was that I was actually falling asleep, which was progress. So I kept it up. Over time, the sleep lengthened and deepened and eventually I was sleeping normally.
So I encourage you to stay in bed if you can. But if your anxiety is too much, then get up. When you’re ready to go to bed and to do nothing but lay there, go back to bed again. Eventually you will start falling asleep and it will get better over time.
Hi Mac – haven’t been on here for awhile. I didn’t get any emails from this thread. It’s 3:30 and I can’t sleep. First time I’ve had a night like this in a long time. I attribute it to messing up my sleep schedule while my husband has been gone. But he came back tonight so hopefully I’ll get back on schedule. Glad you got back on track after your zombie night. Did you start back at work again yet?
Chen – how are you doing? It was good to talk to you on FaceTime and meet you face to face. I hope your weaning off your sleep medication is going ok.
Hi Steve – \Very sorry to hear about your stroke. Well, at least now you have an explanation for what’s been going on with you. Wishing you the very best!
Nao – Glad you’re sleeping much better!
That’s great Jill! If you have any questions about it, just write again here or on the ACT thread. It can be tricky and is not as straight forward as CBT-I. Good luck!
Have you heard of ACT? I had sleep onset insomnia too, lying in bed for hours, and ACT helped me recover from it. If you haven’t heard of ACT (most people haven’t including sleep doctors, psychiatrists and therapists) then check out “The Sleep Book” by Dr. Guy Meadows. There’s a thread here completely devoted to using it. I had insomnia over a year and now I’ve been sleeping very well for over 3 months, many times sleeping 8 or 9 hours (I don’t have to get up early.)
Have you tried ACT yet? Some of us here have had good results with it and there is a thread (a very long one) devoted to it. I did Martin’s course first and got better but not all the way. Then I found ACT. Read “The Sleep Book” by Dr. Guy Meadows to learn about it. Its focus is on learning how to reduce the anxiety so that sleep naturally comes. I’ve been sleeping very well now for over 3 months, many times sleeping 8-9 hours (I don’t have to get up early.)
Heat has definitely kept me awake. Can you do anything about it? Turn up the air conditioner, turn on a fan, etc.? In the meantime, try to let the anxiety go. Worrying about not sleeping will only make it worse and is the cause of chronic anxiety. So “chill” out if you can!