Just. Breathe.

Today marks the beginning of my third week back in classes. My course load is considerably heavier than last semester, which makes me unbelievably nervous. 

My favourite class last semester was Multicultural Counseling, which was also the most challenging class I was taking. Because I loved it so much (and because I did not know when this professor – whom I adore – would teach a class I could take again), I signed up for Advanced Systemic Multicultural Counseling. About a week before class, he sent an e-mail with the eleven-page syllabus for this class. I freaked. Actually, a lot of us did. This class overwhelms me a lot and last Thursday’s class was positively miserable. Most of the students in the class are second or third years in Marriage and Family Therapy, so not only do they have more education than I do, but they approach counseling from an entirely different theoretical perspective. I felt incredibly outsmarted in Thursday’s class and can only hope that my negative thinking cycles were due in large part to a lack of sleep.

My sleep over the past couple of months has gotten progressively worse. Waking up multiple times in the night, staying awake for hours at a time, inability to get my head to shut up long enough to even fall asleep. Last Monday I woke up at 4:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. By Thursday, I was dragging. I played the “everything is fine!” face as long as I could, but after class, my head was spinning with unhealthy behaviours I wanted to behave in and I didn’t know how I was going to make it safely through the night.

So I finally took advantage of my permission to do cardio. I hit the gym in the apartment office and pounded out a couple miles on the elliptical. I didn’t even spend my entire allowed time, only about half. But by the time I returned back to my apartment, my brain was slowed enough for me to actually use coping skills. My therapist and I had a long conversation last week regarding whether or not reintroducing exercise at all was wise, and she was not at all a fan of the idea. (My dietitian is the one who gave me permission to exercise again.) 

But Thursday night, I finally slept. Through the night. Thank God! I had done a handful of “new” things that night, so the rest of the week and weekend has been an experiment trying to figure out which of the three (or a combination) was the thing that allowed me to sleep so solidly. After a few days, it seems that ditching one of my pillows and taking one of my anxiety meds with the rest of my evening medications. I’ve woken up a time or two over the past two nights, but it’s usually just for a moment and I’m immediately back to sleep. It’s really delightful. The only kink in this plan is that my psychiatrist does not want to prescribe this medication for me – and I agreed with her initially, because I feel like it is more of a “crutch” and doesn’t allow me to actually work through the anxiety. However, if it’s going to help me sleep, I’m going to have to lobby for it. (I cannot take sleep medications due to a tendency to overdose and/or make “plans” with them, so I do not feel comfortable having them in my house.)

On the bright side, I am taking a class on music and the expressive arts and I am LOVING it. Unfortunately, it was canceled last week due to snow (it is a late night class) and this week I will be at a state counseling conference. I am truly bummed to be missing it. The class is so laid back! (Our syllabus is a list of books and ideas – no quizzes, no tests, no papers. Everything is experiential.) And the professor is amazing. In just three hours, he made me fall in love with music all over again. He retires after this semester, so I’m glad I’m having the opportunity to study with him now. (And – bonus! – he is also listed as faculty for our summer expressive arts institute, so I’ll get to have one more week of class with him.)

And now, I should return to schoolwork. Basically every moment of my day is scheduled this semester and I need to stay on top of things. The moment I fall behind it will snowball and everything will be off schedule. This is exacerbated that I just got an assistantship (10 hrs/wk), though on that note, it is extremely flexible, so I am hoping that it is just a good way to get my head off classwork.

Oh, and one of my semester-long assignments is to zentangle three to four times a week. I’m literally being graded on this. Twist my arm, will you?

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3 thoughts on “Just. Breathe.

  1. Whew! Lots here! Great update! I’m glad you jumped into Advanced Multicultural and I’m sorry you’re feeling so overwhelmed by it. I do want to point out two things: 1. These students DO have more experience in this field, so try not to be too hard on yourself about that. 2. As much as it sucks, sometimes being out of “your” (meaning a person’s) comfort zone can be an experience of tremendous growth. 3. You probably aren’t as “out of your league” as maybe that negative voice lets you think.

    I really hope you’re able to convince your psych to keep prescribing the anxiety med. I’m so sorry about the sleep :( Fatigue just amplifies everything in life and makes everything a challenge. I’m glad you’re finding solutions and hope that keeps up! Good job on not pushing the cardio beyond what your body was okay with, and then using other skills!

    Glad you’re loving your expressive arts class!

  2. Expressive Arts sounds amazing. Love hearing about what you’re up to! Sleeplessness is the pits; I hope you have better rest this week. I’ve had success using audiobooks (familiar, gentle, lovable audiobooks…like James Herriott or Hank the Cowdog stories) to lull me to sleep when rest is elusive. <3

  3. Pingback: I Said “Breathe,” Not “Hyperventilate” | A Wilderness Love Story

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