I’m an insomniac, get me out of here

Posted on January 16th, 2013

You haven’t really lived until you’ve experienced insomnia. As in, really felt the darkest, loneliest, nothingness core of existence that really only strikes around 4am when sleep eludes and sunrise is an hour away.

As in, descended to such a pit of wall-punching, stomach-clawing despair, and then risen again as the currawongs emit their forlorn caw, thoroughly aware of every fibre of yourself, the person next to you, the neighbours, and, in fact, all of humanity. Honestly, I feel closer to insomniacs than good sleepers because of the shared experience of this particular despair.

Image by Julia Fullerton-Batten

Image by Julia Fullerton-Batten

I’ve been an insomniac since I was 21. Actually, I was eight when I first became scared of the night – not of the dark, but of the task of switching gears to sleep. When I was 21 insomnia sent me mad. I was living in Santa Cruz, California, and….oh, there were things going on…and I wound up spending five months grabbing no more than 3-4 hours a night. They were the good nights.

Most nights it was a 15 minute snatch of delirium around 5am. Fifteen minutes in which I was able to give in to the night. Or, rather, the dawn. It was anyone’s – God’s? – guess as to whether I even got that snatch. I was at the mercy of…God? Fate?

This kind of vulnerability is particular to insomnia. You’re imprisoned, defenceless. You can’t control your destiny. You’re denied the freedom to “turn on sleep”. And why? A reason doesn’t seem to exist. And so it all seems so unfair.

At 4am you oscillate between anger (“This is unfair”) and grief (“I must have done something terribly wrong to deserve this”) and loneliness (“What am I missing? What handbook to life didn’t I get???”).

The extent of the madness back when I was 21 is for another story. Suffice to say at the end of the five months I no longer functioned and George, a loved one, came to collect me and take me home. I got my first auto-immune disease off the back of this, actually. Read more

Question: how do you travel and not fall apart, health-wise

Posted on August 16th, 2011

Every now and then I answer a question that crops up a lot from you lot. This week: how do I travel so much and not fall apart at the seams?

I do travel a lot. I fly from Byron Bay to Sydney or Melbourne every week or so. Sometimes it’s a day trip. Sometimes I have to stay a few nights and I stay in air-conditioned hotels and friends spare rooms that aren’t always ventilated etc as I like. It’s really very disruptive to my health. And I DO fall apart at the seams a bit.

Don’t know about you but travel also grinds my digestive system to a halt. I don’t go to the loo. Plus, I get puffy and lethargic. And tired. Plane travel is so bad for us. Ditto air-con (which is everywhere when you travel). It’s hard to eat well on the road and we have odd timetables and sleep patterns.

And so I’ve had to learn ways to make it work for me. It’s taken some trial and error, but I have a flow now. Of sorts.

My key advice is to create routine. As much as possible.

To replicate what you do at home, on the road, as much as possible.

And lesson the toxic load at all turns.

So a list of the routines and toxic-reduction tricks that work for me:

In hotels:

* You’re going to think I’m bonkers: As soon as I arrive I go around and turn off all powerpoints in the room. All of them, including the one to the fridge. The EMF load in hotel rooms is crazy – fridges, phones, alarm clocks, internet…plus the load from surrounding rooms etc. I do what I can… (and am sure to turn them all back on when I leave…. although I do feel bad I stuff the clock radios).

* I request a room away from the lift well and away from the power room. Again to lessen the EMF load.

* I wear earplugs and an eyemask. Again, bonkers? Nah.  It’s all about minimising interruptions and stimulus wherever you can.

* I go to bed early, as much as I enjoy sitting in bed watching news channels to all hours.

Exercise:

Exercise is key. You really have to make sure you get your lymphatic system moving – to flush toxins and to help facilitate routine (bowel and otherwise).

* If there’s no gym and/or I arrive late at night: I run up and down the firestairs in the hotel. I know it seems mad. But you do what you have to do. I came across others doing the same after arriving in HongKong when we filmed MasterChef. We laughed as we passed each other. Just make sure you remember what floor you entered from and that the firedoors allow you back out. Read more

new health trick: “the fuzz”

Posted on September 8th, 2010

Sometimes health needs to be explained in nonsensical, onomatopoeic language. Yuk! Goob! Stodge! If you’ve been unwell for a while, or get gut aches for no discernible reason (and you’re told you’ve got IBS), or you go around in circles with complaints, or if you have some sort of auto-immune disease, then you totally know what I mean. Health, once you’ve gone past the level of taking a pill or getting a cast put on a broken leg, is nebular.

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Or fuzzy.

Melbourne naturapath Gill Stannard alerted me to this youtube link with Gil Hedley talking about The Fuzz, a case for stretching in the morning. Totally pervy and visceral. And totally geared at anyone with inflammation issues (hello, auto-immune disease!!!).

This much you need to know: if you have inflammation issues, stretch in the morning, get massages, move.

Other ways to deal with inflammation:

1. Avoid processed foods - trans-fats, high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals, additives and other “non-food” ingredients. Sugar is highly inflammatory.
2. Eat healthy fats such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut, avocados, nuts and seeds.
3. If you drink alcohol – an occasional glass of red wine is best.
4. Eat coloured vegetables and fruit. Eat more veggies than fruit (5-6 servings of veggies, 3-4 servings of fruit).
5. Only eat non-gluten grains – quinoa, amaranth and brown rice.

6. Eat turmeric. Here’s why.

Read more