D is for Dreams

DisforDreams

Waking up completely exhausted is common among people with depression. I usually have more trouble getting up when I sleep during the night than when I am battling insomnia. It’s because I dream. I dream a lot. They aren’t good dreams either. I wouldn’t call them nightmares, but they are realistic and stressful. Sometimes they are repetitive dreams. I often think in the dream oh no, it isn’t a dream this time, it is happening for real! I often can’t tell that I am dreaming. Even upon waking, I am not sure what was real and what wasn’t. I wake up feeling like I’ve had a long stressful day at work and now, I have to get up and do it all again in waking life. Ugh.

Do you dream a lot? Do you have repetitive dreams? Have you ever had trouble telling the difference between your dream and reality?

tired

It sucks, but I just accepted it. I figured everyone has these dreams. Most people do, but not every night, and not to the same intensity. Sleep studies have shown that people with depression dream up to three times more than the average person. Dreams contain more intense emotions and negative themes than average. Dream sleep occurs during the Rapid Eye Movements (REM) phase of the sleep cycle. It is often referred to as Paradoxical Sleep because although you are asleep, it is not the kind that leaves you rested and restored. During REM, all kind of stress hormones are released into your system. Dreams are usually thought of as good things. They tend to be exaggerations of the truth, but dreams tend to be metaphors for your life. Unaddressed concerns get played out in your dreams, leaving your brain free for dealing with the events of the next day. Too much of a good thing though, is always bad. Over-dreaming leaves you stressed and deprives you from the “deep sleep” that you really need. Waking too early is common among those with depression. This is actually the brain’s survival mechanism to prevent the stress from over-dreaming. Why do depressed people dream more? Apparently it is because we have more worries and emotional arousal that has to be worked through.

I don’t know if a completely dreamless sleep is possible, but you can at least find sleep where you don’t remember your dreams. I have come across a few tips I am going to try to see if I can mute these stressful dreams of mine.

  1. Don’t go to sleep stressed. Give yourself time to cool down
  2. Keep regular sleep times, even on weekends
  3. Don’t eat right before bed. Meats and cheeses can increase the likelihood of having nightmares
  4. Decrease alcohol and caffeine consumption
  5. Keep a dream journal or join a dream-sharing group in your community
  6. Research has shown that good smells can affect dreams positively…aromatic oils, lotion, flowers.
  7. Have some sort of moderate exercise during the day and not right before bed.
  8. Don’t sleep on your back. That can induce sleep paralysis which causes you to feel like you are awake and alert, but cannot move. People often complain of a heavy feeling on their chest.
  9. Read something not too thrilling, but not work or school related stuff either.
  10. Don’t stress about not being able to sleep. Worrying about it, will just make it less likely to happen.

Some of these I already do (#3, 4 and 7). Some, I’ll be honest, I’m just not going to do (#5). The others, I’ll give a try.

Share Your World 2015 – Week 12

This is Week 12 of Share Your World 2015 from Cee’s Photography. As always, thanks for great questions Cee!

When was the last time you sat on a park or garden bench for more than ten minutes? Describe the occasion.

I can’t remember exactly when, but I am pretty sure I know the “where” part. There is a park Hubby and I like to walk..or run in. It is a rather large park in the next suburb over. It has a pond in the middle a and a trail that goes around it. It is special to us because that is where he took me on our first date. He took me to see the fireflies in the forest there. It was breathtaking. During the summer months, we often go and walk around. If it gets really hot, we’ll sit on one of the benches by the pond and just chat. We did some jogging there last summer, I can’t remember if we walked and sat on a bench though.

Would you ever be interested in observing a surgery or do you turn away when the nurse brings out the needle? 

Both! If it is anything to do with me or someone I know and I get squeamish. If it’s a stranger though, I can handle it. I have always thought seeing an autopsy would be kind of interesting. During undergrad, I taught a systemic anatomy lab to other students. We used human cadavers and human parts. You get past the creepy/gross factor pretty quickly when you have to teach. The one part I never got comfortable with was the sagittal head section. It’s basically a head cut in half right between the eyes. They kept these specimen all together in a bin full of what we referred to as body juice. I’d try to grab one that was floating around with the skull portion above the juice. That part is easier to grab, less fleshy. You never knew though, if you were going to pull it up with the back of the head facing you, or the face side. The face side was always little unnerving, no matter how many times I’d see it.

Where’s your favorite place to take out-of-town guests?

I guess it depends on who the guest is. Some people would really enjoy going to a maple sugar shack which is in season here in Montreal about now, I think. Others, might prefer shopping trendy Montreal designers or seeing the Old Port. I think the one thing I like to do with everyone is go to the little village around the corner from where I live. It is really cute, especially at Christmas or in the summer. Not so much at the current time of year. The buildings are mostly historic ones and there are all kinds of little shops with different things in them. This is an old house that has been turned into a rather fancy restaurant.

le gourmand

The lake is only one street over too. The lake is best seen in the summer with the boats and the wind surfers out, or in the dead of winter, when the lake is frozen and the kite boarders are zipping around. Unfortunately, the kite boarders are done for the year. This is the lake at this time last year. There was less cold and white stuff last winter.

lake

If you had an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, which one would you choose? Why?

Right now, it would have to be a local scrapbook store, Scrapbook Centrale. They carry everything I need for art journaling and drawing. I was there over the weekend and bought a few things; a book on portraits, some paper for art journaling, a spider web stencil, some portrait watercolour pencils and a funky science/steampunk stamp. I could have spent so much more in there!

2015-03-22 15.18.01

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last Week: Last week, I was stressed and my mood was really weird. There is less stress this week, but my mood still isn’t right. I guess I am just thankful last week is over.

This Week: I signed up for an art journal class next weekend at the store I mentioned earlier. I am looking forward to it, but I am also having some social anxiety over it. I’m hoping it will be ok once I get there and get settled.

If We Were Having Coffee….

If we were having coffee, I’d say let’s go to the coffee shop down the street. The street I live on ends at a little village. It’s a really cute place in the summer because you can see the details of all the old stone buildings and the water lies just behind them. In the winter, I start to miss it. We can drop into Bilboquet. It’s primarily an ice cream shop, but during the winter they get most of their business from coffee and treats. I usually opt for a mini cupcake…or two. They have such fun flavours.

bilboquet

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how your week was. My week was relatively stressful and I am exhausted, but it was a good week overall. The stress was brought on by my boss’ great time management skills. She gave me some instructions, sent me a list of references and asked me to make a presentation. Normally, I enjoy this sort of thing, but I got all out of sorts for a couple reasons this time.

  1. I hadn’t read most of the journal articles on the list yet which meant a lot of reading
  2. The journal articles were old and I couldn’t access a lot of them
  3. Her instructions and the content of the articles were conflicting
  4. The presentation was to be long, an hour at least.
  5. She gave me less than two days notice so I had to drop all the things I was supposed to be doing in order to get this done.

Being the head honcho, I think she sometimes forgets how long it takes to put things like this together. Plus, I am a perfectionist so I make a lot of trouble for myself. That part isn’t her fault. I finished making the presentation with enough time left over to go figure out how to plug my laptop into the big screen TV in the conference room. Anyway, the presentation was a hit, so much so that I’m going to be presenting it at a conference in the fall for continuing education (CE) credits. This is awesome. When your talk qualifies for CE credits you get your flight, conference registration and two nights in the hotel paid for. While we are on the conference topic, I’d also add that I completely lucked out and was awarded an ARVO travel fellowship! ARVO is the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. They have a huge conference every year that I go to. I always apply for the travel award, but never get it. This is good. Really good.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I spent one night this week on FaceTime with one of my dearest friends. Even though we live about 6 hours apart, she has been one of my best friends since the 6th grade. It was nice to catch up with her and her daughter. I helped her set up a blog on WordPress. She has decided to try blogging as a way to cope with all that’s going on in her life. She is one of the few people from my real life that knows about my blog. Her blog is Sparkles and Darkness. I’m sure she would love it if you stopped by to say hello.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that #1000Speak took place yesterday and it gave me the warm fuzzies, lol. I know people value compassion and wish there wasn’t so much hate and violence going on in the world. Despite this, I still see so little empathy, nevermind altruism. I was comforted to see all these bloggers, people like me, who are conscious of the lack of compassion and try to practice it as often as possible. It has restored some of my faith in humanity. I learned a lot doing some background research on my post, It All Starts With You. I focused on human compassion in society, but other posts talked about self-compassion, which I think I needed a reminder on. How can you continue to be compassionate towards others when you are being so hard on yourself? You can only give so much before you have nothing left. Being kind to yourself prevents that reservoir of compassion from getting too low.

speak for compassion

If we were having coffee, we would probably have finished our coffee and goodies a while ago. I’d thank you for the company, bid you happy weekend and we’d be on our merry way until next time. 🙂

(This conversational coffee post is part of a weekend link-up hosted by Part-Time Monster. Join in the fun!

Letting Go…

The 2015 Art Project – Week 3

Prompt: Letting go to be free…

Week 3 was the first part of a two part (I think?) “Letting Go” theme. We were instructed to focus on worry. Worry is something we tend to hold on to that prevents us from relaxing, enjoying, being ourselves and essentially, being free. At least, that’s what is does to me. It can make me physically ill too. I do have a problem with worry. I know I over do it, but it just comes so naturally. Part of the instructions were to write down things that we are currently worrying about.

Let’s see….

  • Hubby’s job situation
  • Hubby’s happiness
  • If he gets a job up North, should I go with him, or continue school?
  • Forcing myself to go to work
  • Finishing my Ph.D.
  • Getting participants for my dissertation research
  • Making time for everything that needs to get done everyday
  • My mental health getting worse
  • My mental health never getting better
  • Coping with group therapy
  • Deciding whether or not to have kids
  • I can’t speak French and I live in Montreal
  • I don’t exercise enough
  • I can’t sleep properly
  • What is my medication going to do to me in the long term?
  • Financial
  • 30th Birthday trip planning
  • Doing a good job on everything I do
  • Making everyone happy
  • My sick friends (one has a brain tumor, one has fibromyalgia, one has cancer and one has a son with a bad heart)
  • Touching base with family and friends often enough

Some may scoff at my list, thinking that’s nothing compared to their worries or they may think some of those, like planning a birthday trip, are frivolous and that’s fine. I get it. In the grand scheme of things, my worries aren’t nearly as dire as those who worry about starving or not having a roof over their heads. I am grateful I don’t have to worry about those things, but does that mean I don’t worry, or don’t have the right to? No. Worry is intrinsic in human nature. It stems from the fight or flight response which evolved to protect us from danger and although danger has also evolved somewhat from wooly mammoths and saber tooth tigers, it’s not something you can readily turn on and off. If you are having feelings of distress or anxiety in response to something, those feelings are valid. It doesn’t matter what it is. Worry is different for everyone, everywhere, in every situation.

That being said, it’s important to check if the reasoning behind these feelings is valid. I often react to something and my mind gets all up in arms and stressed before I get a chance to look at things logically and rationalize the worry. That’s what my art journal page is about this week. It’s a reminder to myself to to slow down, to breathe and to think it through with a rational brain. By simply taking the time to do this, I can exhale some of those worries away.

Some worries are more difficult to deal with. These are usually the situations I have no control over. Control is a big comfort. I like to have a path set out in front of me with the detours mapped out ahead of time. I’m not a control freak, I just prefer to know what to expect when it comes to the big, important things. This is not always possible in life. So, the final part of week 3 asked us to pick three worries we have no control over that we’ll take forward into week 4. I’m choosing Hubby’s job situation, getting participants for my dissertation research and my mental health. I know I probably should have control over that last one, but I really feel like I don’t.

Now, for the art stuff….

I gessoed (can that be a verb?) the background white and doodled a girl (me, sort of) exhaling her worries over top.

2015-01-20 08.58.14Next, I shredded magazine recipes into strips. I used Modge Podge to glue them to the swirls of air she is exhaling. I wanted the letters from the recipes to be visible, but not legible, representing the irrational thoughts causing her feelings of worry. Next, I painted the background and the figure with acrylics. I used a Walmart stencil to get the white swirls in the background and then muted them with watered down blue acrylic. The big swirls are outlined in activated Neocolour II crayons. The lettering was done with a black Fude Ball 1.5 pen from Ranger Ink. I was told this pen would write on paint (no problem!) and would be waterproof (haven’t tried yet) so that I could paint over it without it bleeding. The silver bits are from a Sharpie paint pen.

2015-01-22 11.44.54Here is the quote. I can’t remember who it is from. I got it out of one of my old journals, thought it was appropriate.

2015-01-22 11.44.42And here is the full spread….

2015-01-22 11.44.13

Current Plan of Action and a Bit of Ewok

It is a really cold day! I’m in bed with a hot tea right now. Why am I in bed in the middle of the afternoon? Well, for one, it is THAT cold!! Second, it’s because I wanted to hang out with my cat, Ewok. Within the last few days, Ewok has discovered how comfortable it is to nap on soft cozy surfaces. Her spot of choice has been at the end of the bed burrowed into blankets. No matter how many times I bring her in the other room to spend some time with me…she ends up back in her burrow. So I have given up and decided to do things her way. So here we are in bed in the middle of the afternoon.

This may not sound strange to a lot of you, but it is definitely strange behaviour for Ewok. She normally doesn’t like soft spots, she likes to lie on hard surfaces. Even as a kitten, she would usually fall asleep on the floor or the coffee table, never the couch. We later found out this was because she was peeing on the couch. Poor confused kitten. Don’t worry, we were able to clean it! Eventually, we moved and got different furniture, but she still preferred hard surfaces. Her napping spots were usually the coffee table, a stiff carpet or on top of the printer. When she got older, she started sleeping by my head in bed, but only if I moved the pillow and blanket to make room for her. So finding her the last few days lying on the bed, sinking into the mattress surrounded by blankets has been a weird sight. I hope everything is ok with her. I think she’s fine, she’s eating and drinking and happily snorting away over there.

2015-01-08 11.46.042015-01-05 11.28.21

The reason I want to be around Ewok is because she is a great comfort to me. I’m not sure how to describe how I am feeling right now and listening to her snorting or purring or seeing her cute little smooshy face makes me feel better. I am definitely feeling better than I was in the fall. I’m not overwhelmed and not having the suicidal ideation, but I’m not great either. My sleep is so-so and I feel sort of paralyzed. I have to force myself to do everything, otherwise, I just get lost in my head. Thinking about work. During the holidays I was preoccupied with the dread of going back to grad school full time. Now that I know I’m going to start back part time, I’m not feeling panicky and having nightmares about it. I’m still dreading it though.

The plan is to go back two days a week. I’m going to make a detailed schedule for the next two months and have it approved by psych. When the two months are up, we’ll evaluate and see if I should continue as is or take on more. I think that is fair. Hubby does too. He thinks I always jump into things and take on too much. Maybe he is right.

I hope I can finish my Ph.D. I’m not sure if it’s the depression talking or not, but I think I hate it. I like parts of it. My supervisor is great, I’m learning a lot. I like reading, brainstorming, gathering information, sorting it, teaching it and writing about what I learn. I don’t mind managing students and volunteers either. It’s the constant trouble-shooting, working around barriers, asking for money, trying to find people who qualify to participate and then begging them to participate. When working with human subjects, research depends a lot on the cooperation of other people. It’s not that others don’t want to cooperate, they just don’t want to take on extra work (no matter how minute) or disrupt their routines. I don’t just mean potential participants, I mean doctors, receptionists, technicians, volunteers and other hospital staff. I am always friendly and polite with these people. I even bring them treats, but they are never happy to see me. I am a symbol extra work, change or disruption to their routine. It’s not a pleasant work environment for me. Research is also a lot of rejection and a lot of work for very little success or progress.

Now that I have gotten all these studies through ethics, all I am doing are the things I hate. Thinking of going in fills me with dread. I really hope I can get through it. As a more senior researcher (someone with a Ph.D.), I wont have to do this part anymore. I can send students (like me now), research associates and volunteers off to do it for me. I just don’t think I’ll ever get there. If there were an end in sight, I could probably force myself through, but there is no end. I have lost faith in my project and it feels like I will be a student forever.

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