Bad night recovery: my CFS RESET button

Conclusion of what isn’t a whine: I’m putting this up for two reasons: first, to clarify it for myself while it is still fresh; and second, in the hopes it may help someone else. (First part here; second part here.)

3) How I hit the RESET button to get back to ‘better.’

I knew I had lost control of the sleeping process – and was powerless to stop the avalanche I had set off, even as I started dimly realizing I had brought a lot of it on myself.

I finally dragged myself to bed at 3am. I twitched and turned and breathed and counted deliberately for hours. I got up once, dimly remembering something from a sleep hygiene book about not staying in bed if you can’t sleep. I had a small protein snack. I took first one, and then a second dose of the drug that relaxes the muscles (but which makes me groggy the next day). I talked myself off the cliff.

I fell asleep around 6:30 – and got up with all my backup alarms to calm MY mind about daughter being up (she was – but I had made it MY business, and that was what had to be satisfied).

I had to hit the CFS RESET button.

I futzed about doing nothing intellectually challenging. I had First Coke and took my pills. Think FC is a bad idea? Yes, sort of, but the reset button consists of going to the panic mode of ROUTINE.

AS SOON AS I start being able to.

And that means doing everything and anything that feels like routine – pills, Coke, breakfast, checking email – in the kindest, gentlest possible way with myself – and then shortening the awake periods and lengthening the nap periods until I regain some control. Take First Nap. Usually the problem is somewhat resolved by First Nap being two hours long as my body compensates. Not this time: I manage to stay horizontal with my eyes closed for most of 45 minutes.

It does no good to berate myself for another failure. Believe me, I’ve tried that route. I treat myself with the kindness of a mother with an overtired toddler.

I have nothing else that ever works. So it will have to be sets of stay up (shortened from 2-3 hours to 1.5 hours), with as long a rest as I can force myself to take.

So now I will take Second Nap. Because that is the only thing which will bring back control. Eventually.

Report back after Second Nap: it lasted over two hours. I woke up feeling almost human. I will be extremely careful tonight not to set it off again – two in a row makes for deadly – and the ‘perfect storm’ of pleasures should not repeat.

But it cost me a complete day of writing, minimized the pleasure I got from those phone calls, and left me feeling like the aftermath of a binge. It may cost more – I’m ALMOST at what passes for ‘human’ with me, but haven’t gotten anything done in the time I’ve been up.

I am very glad that I have a CFS Reset process that (eventually) works for me. I am very glad I had nothing urgent to do today, nor do I have to leave the house today or tomorrow. It is difficult to express how crappy I’ve felt, starting with that first phone call, and continuing for 20 hours so far. Anyone who has gone through the horror of not being able to sleep when tired, not knowing when you will ever sleep again, and doing it in the aftermath of the flu, would have an approximate idea, but they’d also understand why, when something similar happens to DH, and he blithely goes off to work the next day, and confesses to be slightly tired the next evening, at which point he manages to just go to bed earlier – all gifts I would kill for sometimes – he is (not literally – this is a blog!) taking his life in his hands.

Just pray I get a bit smarter every time this happens – it’s getting very wearying to be so smart afterward (sometimes) and so fuzz-headed during.

Do you have strategies that work for you?

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6 thoughts on “Bad night recovery: my CFS RESET button

  1. Circe

    The only thing that works for me is to go to bed earlier than my default bedtime of midnight. Then I wake up earlier and can sometimes successfully take a sleep concoction to go back to sleep. If food is part of that mix, carbs seem to work better than protein for me. Right now I am back on the 12-6am routine, which leaves me with a burning headache. My version of First Coke keeps me up too long to sleep until afternoon. So I have to choose between going around in a fog–better for winter days or rainy days–or trying to live with it. Too easily stimulated, it takes me an hour or more to unwind from any evening activity and then additional time to practice my all-important, intentionally unexciting, bedtime routine. Tonight I will attend a small work-related group that is important to me, so I will not cancel, but hope for a late-afternoon nap. It would be fantastic to also have a mid-afternoon nap! Today my day is full, but not of appointments. Do you derive any benefit from lying down but not sleeping? I’m not sure I do. Now for another cup of strong English tea.

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    1. desdemond

      I know it helps me unwind and reset a bit if I lie in a dark room with no stimulation for 20 min. or so even if I can’t sleep. I also drink a lot of tea, about 5 cups a day of blueberry green tea, though lately for days I know I’ll be busy I allow myself 1 cup of half-caffeine coffee in the morning.

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      1. ABE Post author

        I call them ‘Naps,’ but am only occasionally lucky enough to fall asleep: they are really ‘Rests’ – and for me, 35 min. is the minimum that really helps: 5 min. to settle down, and 30 to rest.

        I’ll take 5 min if that’s all I can get, but stability is 3-4 35 min. naps a day.

        When I have to drive somewhere, I fit the minivan out with a horizontal sleeping place by taking out a seat. That way I can take those naps every two hours on the road. I’ve slept in more parking lots than I care to remember – flat, with an eye mask and earplugs, dead to the world. You wouldn’t want me on the road otherwise!

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    2. ABE Post author

      I wish I could go to bed early – that’s one of my struggles: if I get to bed, I can’t get to sleep without Melatonin or something. And if I take something to sleep, the first two-hour period the next day, I’m groggy from the medication.

      My Naps are mostly lying quietly in a dark room – I usually just rest. Actual sleep is a rare gift – unless I’m on a Reset day, in which case I know at least one of the rests will turn into a two hour nap.

      We experiment – and learn what works for us. 😦

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  2. desdemond

    I am very happy you have such a positive routine down for recovering, and that you remember to be gentle with yourself. Very helpful ‘reset’ posts. I will listen and learn. My strategy is sleep, sleep, sleep day or night, with the help of meds, until I feel well enough again to take a shower 😛

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    1. ABE Post author

      It comes down to this: if I don’t take the recovery steps, or am not successful, I get no writing done. Nor the next day. You have to be in a good mental place to write.

      And not being very kind and gentle – as one would treat someone else – doesn’t even work. I didn’t ask for this, and I am not going to let it have any more of me than I absolutely have to. 🙂

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