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  • Writer's pictureAli

RIP: How to Rest in Peace • Monsters! Freaks!

Dearly be-loathed, it is indeed a rare privilege to meet you here again, in this spooky-scary space of working through hard emotions, recognizing our lack of sleep patterns, and making improvements to heal ourselves. To commence this ceremony, and deliver this post in non-yawning form, we put the slime in the coconut and drink them both up! I now pronounce you...

Monsters!

Freaks!


This week's witch's brew:

slime + mental health conditions + low self-esteem = a monstrosity


This week's phrase to hold onto:

"We have to give them a chance. Get to know them. We have to win them over."

-Gomez Addams



If you've been following my journey for some time, you're probably familiar with the up-close-and-personal aspects of my mental health struggles. For those who aren't as familiar, my battles and diagnoses with mental health conditions have been a very real, sometimes a life or death fight. Telling my story and writing these posts have given my pain a true purpose, and it enables me to write from a place of vulnerability and strength. My biggest gift is the ability to share the parts of my life that are often glossed over by society, and sometimes have been dismissed by people I love. While I realize that talking through our unseen battles has the potential to stir up deep emotions, I also realize that it has the power to heal. If you feel like your struggles are shrugged off, thrown to the wind, or that you've been belittled because of your struggles, know that you aren't alone, and your battles are never unseen or dismissed by me.


My suicide ideations started when I was sixteen, a sophomore in high school, just after a break-up that provided zero closure. I was ghosted (in real life), which wasn't the first time that someone just stopped talking to me out of nowhere. The rejection was deeper than a high school break-up; it resurfaced painful memories of a friend I once had in elementary school who suddenly stopped talking to me, and still to this day, never gave me a reason. Simply put, rejection hurts, and these rejections led me to question if I was worthy of life.

As life progressed forward, I still hadn't adequately dealt with the unseen hurts of my past, and it eventually caught up with me. My suicide ideations haunted me from sixteen to twenty-eight; 12 years of wrestling to find a true reason to live. I went through a court battle with my dad, a divorce, two subsequent relationships that left me devastatingly heartbroken, workplace trauma, unhealed childhood wounds, and it all caused me to believe that life was less like an opportunity and more like a liability.

Eventually, my suicide ideations escalated to the point of immense fear, staring it down with deep honesty, and admitting to my therapist that I desperately wanted to die. I wanted the pain to make sense. I wanted revenge. I wanted justice. I wanted my life to be more than other people's excuse to beat me down over and over again. As hard as I tried and had been trying, my unresolved hurts and pain kept knocking on my heart begging me to believe that I'm unworthy, I'm not good enough, and I'm never going to conquer this battle of contemplating suicide.

Once I was voluntarily hospitalized the first time, I was finally diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While I don't think that labels and diagnoses are the end-all-be-all, I truly believe that they can give us insight into our struggles. Mental health diagnoses aren't meant to keep us confined. They are meant to help us have compassion for ourselves, and ultimately, find freedom. They help us see what we need in order to move forward, and they give us a deeper understanding to potential hangups that can come from each of these disorders - one of which being rest - mental, emotional, and physical rest.


In the first post of this series, RIP: How to Rest in Peace • An Empty Cauldron, we talked about sleep stages and the affect this has on our mental health. Adequate REM sleep restores our brain function and directly impacts our emotional processing. According to an article by Sleep Foundation, stages in our sleep help our brains to think more clearly, and our learning and memory are improved with quality rest. The article further explains that a lack of REM sleep can lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In their words, "there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health." Listed below are Sleep Foundation's mental health conditions that are closely linked to sleep disturbances:

  • depression

    1. an estimated 300 million people throughout the world have depression. 75% of those with depression show symptoms of insomnia.

    2. previously, sleep disturbances were seen as a side effect of depression, but further research suggests that poor sleep and sleep hygiene can exacerbate depression.

    3. since the symptoms of depression can cause a "negative feedback loop" in causing a lack of sleep, it is proven effective to focus our attention on rest and sleep first before shifting our focus to combatting the symptoms of depression.

  • seasonal affective disorder (seasonal depression)

    1. SAD is a subtype of depression that can occur during times of the year with limited daylight.

    2. this condition is coined by our body's internal biological clock, or circadian rhythm, that helps control our biological processes, including sleep.

    3. many people can experience differences in sleep patterns, like sleeping too much or too little.

  • anxiety disorders

    1. it's recorded that 20% of adults and 25% of teenagers have anxiety disorders, such as, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    2. people who experience these disorders and conditions are more likely to show signs of insomnia.

    3. the connection between PTSD and sleep patterns are extremely prevalent in mental health research. PTSD triggers alarming memories in which anxiety is heightened, which creates the struggle to get quality sleep.

  • bipolar disorder (BPD)

    1. this condition involves a series of low (depressive) and high (manic) emotions, which can cause major disturbances in everyday life, including restful sleep.

    2. in people with this disorder, sleep patterns can change drastically given the person's emotional state. Sleep disturbances often occur between depressive and manic episodes, as well.

    3. there is research to conclude that altering sleep changes can worsen depressive and manic episodes in those who suffer from BPD.

  • schizophrenia

    1. this condition makes it difficult for a person to distinguish reality from fantasy.

    2. people with this disorder are more likely to develop insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders.

    3. some medications used to treat schizophrenia can cause difficulties with sleep patterns, which is another sign of a "negative feedback loop" created by the disorder itself and then the available treatment options.

  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

    1. this disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that is most known for its reduced attention span and increased impulsivity. It is usually diagnosed in children, but it can be diagnosed as an adult, as well.

    2. ADHD is known to cause sleep disturbances, such as, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

    3. obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (RLS) are more common in people with ADHD.

  • autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

    1. this umbrella term is used to identity several neurodevelopmental disorders within autism diagnoses. These disorders affect communication and social interaction.

    2. children and teens on the spectrum have a higher chance of developing or experiencing negative sleep patterns including, insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing.

    3. addressing the sleep disturbances first can help counteract other symptoms within ASD, such as, behavioral issues, impatience, and mood swings.


National Alliance on Mental Health provides a range of treatments and remedies to help those who suffer from the above conditions and gain a more healthy night's sleep. They include:

  • productive sleep habits (we talked about sleep hygiene in more detail in my last blog post, RIP: How to Rest in Peace • You Must Look Within).

  • relaxation techniques, such as, deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness can ease the struggle of nighttime anxiety before bed.

  • medication can be a great source for help in getting quality sleep. In my experience, medication can be used in the short-term until you've developed a useful sleep routine.

  • herbal remedies, like melatonin and CBD can also be a helpful resource for those who suffer from mental health conditions.

  • sleep restriction is proven to be an effective therapy technique used to train our brains and bodies when, where, and what time to wind-down and drift off. This can be used to treat depression and anxiety, in my case.

  • cognitive behavioral therapy can be extremely beneficial in learning our body's response to resisting sleep, especially if mental health conditions are at play.

  • light therapy is a type of therapy used to assist our bodies in learning when to be active and when to sleep (yes, like plants). It is especially helpful in those who suffer from "delayed sleep phase syndrome".

  • exercise is proven to release feel-good hormones in our brains that are connected to our sleep receptors. Moving your body can adjust your moods in a positive way and can help us get quality rest.


Therapy and counseling have been a vital part of my healing journey, especially my suicidal ideations. I realized - over time - that my self-esteem and self-worth were tied to the ways other people had treated me, and it led to negative self-talk patterns and inward unrest. It took a long time - years to be exact - to unlearn the cycle of unaffirmative thoughts, relearn my worth outside of my diagnoses and other people's opinions of me, and wade through what I knew to be true of me apart from my trauma. My mental health conditions don't make me a monster, a freak, an outsider, or a dangerous person to interact with. They made me human. They made me humble. They give me deeper self-compassion, and they help me have deeper compassion for others.

Once I was discharged from the hospital, I was placed on medical leave for several weeks, which required me to participate in roughly 10 hours of individual and group therapy sessions every week. Yes, it was exhausting. Yes, it was a lot at times - other times, too much. But most of all, it was liberating. It was exciting! I was taught skills I had never acquired before, and I learned that I wasn't alone when my trauma begged me to believe that I was. I had to admit to myself and to others that I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't mentally resting, and I hated that life was different than I had ever imaged it looking. Now, let me explain: I still struggle with triggers, unanswered questions, and unresolved emotions. I'm human, after all. But I've grown and wrestled through years of unrest, and I'm here to help you learn it, too.

Rest, sleep, relaxation, and winding down is going to look differently from person to person, and that's totally okay and normal. Ultimately, you have to find what works for you, and sometimes it's a lot of trial and error (sorry to bust your slime bubble). Regardless of the variations of schedules and patterns, my best advice to help you rest while navigating depression, anxiety, or any other condition is this:

  • learn your trauma

    1. big or small, trauma must be dealt with; otherwise it can manifest itself in many harmful ways. It can cause muscle tension, emotional outbursts, and contributes to low self-esteem.

    2. journal about your trauma with devastating honesty. Don't sugar coat. Don't wish that you were further along than you are. Just feel and write without a filter and without judgment.

    3. while you write, notice where the tension is in your body. It can be in your face, your neck and shoulders, your hands or your stomach. Wherever it is, notice it. Don't try to fix it. Just notice it.

  • talk it out

    1. find a therapist or a counselor that you connect with. Having a skilled professional help you process through memories, thought patterns, and trauma is much more beneficial than venting to a friend. Your therapist has training to help you navigate your pain. Your friend might not.

    2. talking it out is different than ruminating. Emotional processing is healthy, while ruminating only exacerbates the trauma. Talking to a professional will help you navigate boundaries on when to share and who to share with.

    3. ask your therapist or counselor for activities to help you process your emotions and manage your triggers outside of therapy sessions.

  • identify your triggers

    1. this one takes practice. Sometimes, the trauma is so deep and the wound has been untended to for some time. That's okay. Be patient with yourself. If you think it might be a trigger, write it down.

    2. one of my triggers involved light switches. Yes, light switches. It doesn't matter how mundane or silly it might be, identify it by noticing your body's and mind's reaction to the suspected trigger.

    3. keep a notes tab open on your phone to indicate triggers you notice while you're on-the-go. If you pass a restaurant that makes you think of someone who hurt you, write it down. Nothing is too small.

  • practice mindfulness

    1. throughout the day, take a moment to notice your body. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste?

    2. meditation can give you deeper insight as to where you are holding the tension in your body, and where your mind goes to while attempting to concentrate.

    3. meditation is known to lower blood-pressure and muscle tension. This can help you catch all the good Zs.

  • set boundaries

    1. at first, this might not feel like this brings you rest or relaxation. If anything, it might feel like the exact opposite. I struggle too, friend. You're not alone.

    2. journal about those people who push or test boundaries that you've tried to implement. Reframe the boundary by asking yourself, "is it kind? Is it honest? Does this boundary need to exist in order to preserve my energy or the relationship?"

    3. even if the other person does not acknowledge or accept your boundary, that doesn't mean that it's not necessary. In fact, that shows you that it likely is necessary.

  • pick your bedtime

    1. we talked a lot about this last week, but I want to reiterate how important it is to have an effective wind-down, sleep routine. It's a boundary that we can grow confident in with ourselves, and it'll help in so many other aspects of life, too.

    2. remove distractions while you're trying to relax. If you need something to help you turn off the mental reel, read a book, read an article, read another one of my blog posts. Reading can help our minds and is shown to be an effective way to get rest.

    3. encourage your senses to engage in your sleep routine. Find a lotion, a cream, or a scent that you love that relaxes you and reminds you of peace. For me, Bath & Body Works' aromatherapy body creams are so relaxing! If you have allergies or sensitive skin, Aveeno has a skin-friendly line to help you unwind.

  • connect with your purpose

    1. if you're not sure what this is yet, that's okay. Think about the one thing that you love to do that gives your life meaning.

    2. don't let money be an object. You don't have to quit your job, donate everything you own, or take drastic measures. Start small and be intentional with how you spend your time.

    3. schedule that thing that gives you purpose everyday. Even if it's for 5 minutes, make it a part of your day and something you continue to come back to. Eventually and with time, you will begin to see your life as something that holds meaning and value, and you'll learn to mentally rest and take pressure off of yourself.


If you need any other reason to keep pressing on, to lean into who you are, and learn to give yourself deeper self-compassion it's this:

you and your pain serve a purpose. Your mental health struggles aren't meant to keep you bound in a world full of unrest and distress. Your life is beautifully broken, and you are worthy of redemption and grace. You're not a monster for having made mistakes. You're not a freak for asking for help. You're not discardable or replaceable. You are a reflection of the Creator of the Universe who has the power to make wrong things right, and restore you to a place of healing and hope.


And friend, there's always hope.


 

Sources:

[1] Suni, Eric. “Mental Health and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, 18 Sept. 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health.

[2] “Sleep Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness.” National Alliance on Mental Health, www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Sleep-Disorders. Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

[3] Crutchfield, Ali. “RIP: How to Rest in Peace • You Must Look Within.” TheAliWaytoHealing, Ali Crutchfield, 19 Oct. 2021, www.thealiwaytohealing.com/post/rip-how-to-rest-in-peace-you-must-look-within.

[4] Crutchfield, Ali. “RIP: How to Rest in Peace • An Empty Cauldron.” TheAliWaytoHealing, Ali Crutchfield, 9 Oct. 2021, www.thealiwaytohealing.com/post/rip-how-to-rest-in-peace-an-empty-cauldron.



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