Illness · Uncategorized

How sleep has saved my life

Olivia Epley

Founder of Millennial Girl, Interrupted, a senior in a small Connecticut high school. I've been through many treatments and recoveries and am eager to share the lessons I've learned!

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There are a few things that have really made the difference in the fact that I haven’t once seriously thought “I want to die” in four months, or a record for me. After my departure from the hospital, my dad and I underwent a series of lifestyle changes that, in conjunction with medication changes, have revitalized my life and gotten me ready for college.

 

I’ll talk more about them in the coming weeks. They range from doing academic work of some kind, every day of the week, to working out a few times a week (such that my therapist approves of), to seeing the outdoors at least once a day, to making small advances towards cleanliness in my own space every day. I started a second sleep medication and upped doses on my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-targeted medication. Most importantly, though, I intentionally crafted a healthy sleep schedule.

 

Anyone can do it; I just hadn’t done it. A year and a half ago I was staying up until 5 am talking to a sociopath I loved every night. Two years ago I was writhing on the floor of my bathroom until 1 in the morning, picking my skin and sobbing into a towel. That was a habit many years in the making. I’ve never had a good sleep schedule. There had always been more important things to build in therapy sessions, so I thought.

 

My dad was very scared by what happened in April. It was the closest I’ve ever come to dying, he was there minutes after it happened, he came with me to the hospital, and he had to talk to perhaps his least favorite person- sociopath dad- on the phone in order to help me. He swept me from the hospital down to visit his mother, and we walked the beach and discussed surviving. We build a plan that emphasized stabilizing my sleep schedule, and I didn’t quite understand the significance of it, but he told me that if I wanted to stay alive that this would be important. I trusted him, and here’s where we are!

 

Sleep medication is very powerful, and there’s something for everyone. I take two sleep-targeted medications now- Trazodone and Clonidine– in conjunction with the maximum daily dose of Fluvoxamine (OCD) and sometimes Xanax, all four of which induce tired-ness and sleep. I take my medication at 9 – 9:30. By 10:30 – 11:00, or sometimes earlier, I’m asleep. I wake up at 7:30 – 8:00 fully rested and ready for the day.

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My ridiculous self and my ridiculous dog (her belly, really), in my bed.

But it isn’t just getting those hours. I had little concept of how important getting the hours was to my mental health. 

 

In DBT- a therapy method I prefer less than others that I’m actually being treated with, but it has value and I digress- there is an acronym (of course) for keeping one’s body healthy. It’s in the emotional regulation module, and it’s called PLEASE.

 

PhysicaL (yes this acronym is garbage, utilize TIPP to deal with it) Illness: Treat any and all physical ailments as quickly as possible.

Eating: Maintain balanced and healthful eating habits.

Avoid substances: Avoiding illicit drugs and alcohol, within reason, will keep the mind at its best.

Sleep: Stay on a regular sleep schedule.

Exercise: Engage in the appropriate amount of exercise for your body.

 

It’s said that this skill will help create a baseline of physical wellness such that you will only have to work on mental challenges once these are taken care of. It can sometimes be hard to distinguish between a physical need and an emotional one. 

 

Take babies for example. When they have physical needs, like a desire for sleep or food, they will cry. Crying is an action typically associated with emotionality, but in the case of babies, they just have a physical need. Adults aren’t all that different; our emotions are played with by our physical needs, and everything negative, emotion wise, is exacerbated by a physical inadequacy. 

 

If I’m not being intentional about my sleep, in other words, I’m not giving myself a fair shot at getting better.

 

For a long time, I didn’t want to get better. I felt so overwhelmingly about everything, all the time, and I wanted that to be a part of my identity. I want recovery from illness to be a part of my identity, now, and I can proudly say that I’ve come a long way towards that, relapses and all.

 

It’s 10:28 pm. GO TO BED. I am!

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One thought on “How sleep has saved my life

  1. I’m glad to hear that you found a system that works for you. Honestly, sleep is so important and so integral to being able to feel better and I wish everyone was able to get a good night’s sleep. I know that’s not always possible though. Thank you for sharing your story <3

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