Having to get up and do stuff after not having as much sleep as I need doesn’t sound like it should be a big deal. People do this every day…waking up to an alarm clock or to loud noise in the street, getting out of bed to answer the door when the buzzer goes off for the post, starting work earlier than usual due to a temporary change in shift patterns, having to go somewhere or do something that isn’t part of a regular routine.
Cause my M.E.-related pain tends to be a lot worse at night, even going to bed a sensible number of hours before I need to get up doesn’t generally guarantee a good night’s sleep, or enough sleep. I usually find it difficult to get to sleep because things hurt, and am often awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night for the same reason. Being able to function the next day relies heavily on being able to get back to sleep for a reasonable amount of time after these pain-based nocturnal interruptions. When this isn’t possible, chaos ensues.
This is what happens when I have no option but to get up and get on with things after not having had enough sleep…
Everything hurts. A lot. It’s not just the usual dull ache and throbbing in my back and legs. Lack-of-sleep hurting involves that, plus sharp blasts of pain in just about every part of my body when I move or anything touches me, including clothes or the furniture I’m sitting on.
I am utterly uncoordinated. Getting out of bed becomes falling out of bed. Walking becomes an awkward combination of shuffling and stumbling. I trip over my own feet, walk into walls and doorframes, and generally do a really bad job at remaining upright. I get hurt. The picture below is what happened one day last year when my body decided that it didn’t want to walk across the bedroom and I fell face-first onto a wooden bedpost.
Even comparatively simple things become very complicated. I have spent mornings sitting on the kitchen floor knowing that there is a kettle, some coffee and a cup within reach but genuinely not being able to get my head around what to do with any of them in order to create something to drink.
Anxiety attacks. My body seems to go into fight-or-flight mode as soon as I wake up after not having had enough sleep. I have no idea why this is but it results in intense feelings of panic, hyperventilating and massive bouts of crying. It’s really hard to explain, but this is never an emotional reaction. It feels very physical and there’s no rationalising my way out of it. It even happens when I’m getting up to do something I’m really looking forward to. Everything just goes haywire and weird things happen in my brain as well as to the rest of my body.
And that’s just the start of the day. Everything that follows is ten times more difficult than usual, more confusing, more painful. Thankfully this isn’t every day, but it is a lot of days, and unfortunately it’s pretty much unavoidable. I do my best to give myself plenty of time to sleep as much as I need to (even with interruptions) and arrange my days so that I don’t have to rush anywhere shortly after I get up, but sometimes life doesn’t allow that to happen.
It’s a difficult thing to explain to other people beyond “I’m not very good with mornings”, which is often translated as “I’m lazy and don’t like to get out of bed” or “I’d rather stay up late at night doing fun things than get up early”. The reality is that I’m just trying to avoid situations where I’m likely to start my day with an anxiety attack and getting my face smashed up on a bedpost.