Monday, 11 April 2011

Night terrors and self-care

So... I've been having these weird nighttime experiences, and I didn't realise that they might be connected with the autism, or that they were common enough in people with ASD.

I have these experiences, where I am not awake, but not asleep either. I believe myself to have woken up, and I KNOW that I am living a lie, and that I am pretending to be someone that I am not to everybody in my life. It's hard to describe, but it's an absolute and sudden recognition that this is a fact, and it leaves me feeling completely terrified. It's as though I had been hiding this fact from myself, and have suddenly realised it.

I cannot put into words the horrendous anxiety that I feel during these experiences. I don't seem to wake up properly after the experience, I think I go back to deep sleep. I think that these may be night terrors, although I know that the sufferer is supposed to have amnesia about them. I have partial recall of these experiences, which sometimes come back to me in a vague way when I'm waking up in the morning.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that my unwillingness to 'come out' about my Aspergers at college/work may be connected to these night terrors. I seem to be feeling an increasing level of anxiety, which in fairness, is probably the reason why I'm having the sleep problems, and is related to the Midwifery course I'm doing, which is a high stress experience.

I'm actually coping really well with the course, keeping up to date with course work, and mostly enjoying my time on placement, learning how to blend theory and practice, and developing clinical skills. But I can't ignore the anxiety levels, I need to remember to listen to my body, and deal with emotional crises before they arise.

Self-care is so important for us autistic types, I have learned over the years to recognise the symptoms that my anxiety levels are rising. Here's my checklist:

Jaw clenching/teeth grinding - jaw pain at the end of the working day, and lockjaw when I wake up
Hairtrigger temper - Husband can't do anything right (lol)
Hyperactivity and inappropriate humour - my subconscious way of dealing with anxiety (doesn't help)
A sense of rising panic when I think about my coursework that's due in before end of year

I've found out that I'm entitled to free counselling through the NHS, and I will be calling the service tomorrow to get an appointment. That's another lesson I learned years ago:

Only I can ask for help for me.

1 comment:

  1. The sleeping problems related to stress happen to everybody. I have noticed if I have unsolved issues when going to sleep, it will hunt me in my sleep and I will wake up feeling really tired.

    I noticed when my daughter goes to sleep really stressed, she will have nightmares or insomnia. So I try to avoid everything that can cause stress before going to sleep, like watching TV or reading terror stories or stuff. She drinks linden tea every night before going to sleep (a psychiatrist recommended this for its relaxing properties), and I play relaxing music for her while falling sleep. This helps a lot!

    My husband used to have the same vivid dreams you describe, not awake but not asleep either. He says he could talk to you but continue seeing the dream like in a transparent layer in front of his eyes. He used to feel very afraid about it. He just learned to relax. Now he knows it's happening and he just let it be. Nothing bad will happen, after all. He says: they won't go away, the only thing you can do is deal with it the best you can. Now that he is not afraid anymore they disappeared. It's been a while since the last time he had a vivid dream.