The Finish Line Feels Closer Than It Is

I’m tired and sore today. I didn’t sleep well. I went to bed too early because I was exhausted and falling asleep on the couch, but then I struggled to actually fall asleep in bed and I kept waking up. My joints were throbbing too much and my body wasn’t regulating temperature well. Resultantly, I spent most of the night listening to Gilmore Girls and praying that my pain would subside so I could fall back asleep. At least I stayed calm and relaxed, didn’t fret about the restless hours I lay awake, and gave my musculoskeletal system an extended horizontal rest.

It’s not easy to train yourself to not panic over restless hours in bed. We often are inclined to anxiously calculate how little sleep we can still get if we fall asleep immediately. I used to fall prey to that unhelpful tendency every night that I had difficulty falling or staying asleep. It wasn’t until I retrained my brain to forget this habit and build the new one of staying calm and providing repeated affirmations that simply lying in bed and resting is still restorative for the body. It’s a hard-earned, important step I’ve made at mitigating sleep-related anxiety and optimizing health. Because I have chronic sleep issues, it was imperative that I developed these nighttime relaxation skills and adopted the “what will be will be ok” attitude about how much or how little sleep was achieved. Otherwise, I’d be worked into a counterproductive tizzy nightly and further push sleep out of the realm of attainable possibilities.

Tomorrow, I start my first self-directed therapy session. Instead of doing the single 45-minute session per week, I’m going to do three 30-minute sessions on my own. These will involve reading the resources I’ve procured, thinking through the various topics and feelings I’ve planned to focus on, and writing reflective responses. I may also try to practice some mindfulness meditation and relaxation techniques. I’m also planning to read the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. It is praised for being a helpful tome about understanding and remedying the impact of traumatic stress on the various dimensions of a person. Although I’m not planning to focus on trauma-related work in my therapy yet (and I definitely don’t feel competent to do so on my own), I’m hoping that adding this hefty book to my reading list may start planting the seeds of ideas and emotional readiness to best address this Pandora’s box in professional therapy in a few months. The attempts over the fall and winter months proved that I’m not yet ready to handle those feelings and terrifying nightmares. I’m thinking the book may better prepare me for such emotionally-upsetting and stability-shattering, but necessary, work. The heft of the book at 465 pages has deterred me from taking a crack at it in the past couple of years though I’ve had my eye on it since reading outstanding reviews. I suppose it makes sense that such a weighty, complex subject requires quite a lengthy manuscript to be adequately covered in the impersonal format of the written word. Hopefully, the pages will pass quickly if it’s as well-written and informative as it’s lauded to be.

As the cold rain continues to fall in sheets outside this morning, I find myself longing for the warm sun that bathed my face yesterday. Just 24 hours ago, spring felt tantalizingly close and I felt myself kicking in the final sprint of the winter marathon. Today, it feels like I’ve been saddled with a heavy dose of reality; the end is still a ways away. It’s much like the type of race course where you pass the finish line with teasingly close margins, but have a whole additional loop to do before entering that final chute to the finish line. In the moment, it feels defeating as I am routed away from the immediate finish and steered further along my winter path. Fortunately, endurance has always been my strength, on and off the running course, so while today’s miserably wet and cold weather feels like an impossibly long tack-on, I’ve budgeted my energy for the true duration of the season so I can persevere with continued strength. I’ll get through this; there may even be some surprisingly beautiful parts of the last phase of this course.

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