“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” ~Dan Millman
I have struggled with insomnia almost all of my adult life and have tried all the medications that my doctor could think of to help me sleep. They offer little help. My medical record (because we can see them online now!) literally, reads “patient doesn’t sleep.” Naturally, that is an overstatement. I do sleep, but not much. Unfortunately, I am not awake at 2am having a dance party or planning a great adventure. I am spending a lot of my time in the dark and dreary What if Land.
What is What if Land?
What If Land is the place in my mind where all the things that might go wrong play out in what if a variety of scenarios and at 2am it feels like my charge is to solve the problems before sunrise. This is when I work through every possible worst-case scenario until my mind is exhausted but I am still not asleep. Sometimes, I even wake up Mr. Beard to ask him his thoughts on a given scenario. I am sure that is buckets of fun for him.
In addition to medication to help me sleep, I have tried mediation, prayer, reading, writing, and watching television. Sometimes those things work but sometimes they do not. What does seem to help the most is reminding myself that I actually live in What IS land and to remind myself of What IS actually happening in the right now. Usually, it is that the house is quiet and my life is going pretty well. It helps to take several deep breaths and slow down. If there are problems I need to solve in the morning, I keep a note pad by the bed and jot them down.
This is a skill in mindfulness and staying present.
What if Land is a function of my anxiety. My anxiety is the main culprit behind why I don’t sleep. I have what some have termed a fiery amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for our survival and for some odd reason my anxiety tricks the primal part of my brain to go straight for What If Land and get to work at 2am.
We all have anxiety, and on a scale from 1-10, I am the type of person that consistently hangs out above 5 whereas plenty of the people I share time with float closer to 3. Now, if it is 2am and I’m wandering the streets of What If Land I am probably closer to a 9. This makes traditional methods of stress management a little more challenging to implement.
“A stress response is a natural part of our survival pattern. The amygdala is believed to be the part of your brain that processes basic feelings. The amygdala plays a big role in sounding an alert for threatening situations and triggers fight or flight behaviors. This works well as long as there truly is a threat that you need to run away from or defend yourself against. Otherwise your body suffers from being on high alert when it doesn’t need that reaction.” – Karyn Hall, PhD
I often wish that 2am Sissy and 2pm Sissy could sit down and have a chat over some chamomile tea. It seems that 2pm Sissy has a much better grasp on her anxiety and is better able to avoid What If Land.
I have accepted that sometimes I will find myself wandering around What If Land knocking on doors and peaking in windows. I think my knowing it is probably always going to be there makes it a little less scary because I always have the power to bring myself back to What Is.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
― Eckhart Tolle