Vetiver Oil: A Grass Roots Therapy For Better Sleep

One of my most consistent problems with sleeplessness is that I can be totally exhausted, but still unable to actually drop off to sleep. 

That’s mostly because of my fibromyalgia, but it is complicated by back pain on those nights when my pain relief medication fails to cut the mustard, as it sometimes does. 

Because I know from past experience that prescription sleeping medication causes my whole system to lag, and because of the strong pain killers I need to take for my back as well as my fibro, I feel very strongly about not having those other drugs in my regime. 

So, I recently visited my friendly local alternative health practitioner and asked, “What can you suggest to help me sleep?”

She suggested Vetiver Oil, diluted in fractionated coconut oil. The instructions say to apply it under both big toes and to the wrists, to inhale deeply on going to bed, and to reapply on waking through the night. 

Extracted from the roots of vetiver grass, vetiver oil is useful for calming emotions and relaxing the body.

The first night, I did doze off more easily. I also smelt like I was sleeping in the very damp leaf litter on the floor of a forest that didn’t get enough sunlight. Inhaling it deeply wasn’t anything I needed to do consciously — that was unavoidable! It is not an offensive smell, but it is distinctive and perhaps a little strong. 

On the second night I decidedto just go with it under the big toes, and I added a dab or two on the inside of my ankles instead of my wrists – I figured the circulation is near the skin there, too, and I wouldn’t find the smell so strong there. I found that it still helped me to drift off and the smell of the oil was not so pervasive. 

On the third night, I followed the same routine as the previous night. I also used some lemongrass oil on my fingers and hands for pain management, as I often do through the day. It wasn’t my intention, but I found the lemongrass balanced and lightened the vetiver quite effectively. That was a happy accident! 

I have been following that routine for a couple of weeks now, and while I still don’t fall asleep quickly, I have observed that drifting off is gentler and generally doesn’t take as long as it has done in the past. 

Having experienced difficulty falling asleep for as long as I can remember – even before the onset of fibromyalgia, it’s fir to say that any improvement is welcome. 

Fibro-my-Sunday.

Image by Jordan_Singh on Pixabay

My plans for today are not optional. That is a luxury rarely available to me.

When I woke up, though, I realised my body has other ideas:

Me: “Come on, legs. You can do it!”
My legs: “No. We can’t.”
Me: “You have to.”
My legs: “Fine. But we’re going to make you suffer.”
My back: “I’m with them.”
My fingers: “Us too!”

I got up and showered. I needed the hot water for my back, but the water hitting my skin was painful.

I dressed, but then had to change into something made from softer fabric that didn’t hurt my skin so much just by being against it.

I downed my medications, hoping they would work quickly. They didn’t.

I drank my coffee, hoping the caffeine would make a difference. It didn’t.

I can’t take any more pain killers for hours. I can have more caffeine, though, so that is definitely happening.

This is one snapshot of one morning. One morning that is complete typical of many others in my life, and in the lives of other fibromyalgia sufferers.

And now, I am off to a full day of rehearsals that I have to attend because I am the director.

Today is going to be an exercise in perseverance and in drawing upon my actor’s craft. The role I play today needs to be motivated and excited, and able to project that motivation and commitment into my cast and crew.

I cannot fall over. I will not fall over. That is, at least, until I get home.

Tell you what, though. I’m glad my other half is cooking dinner, because I’m already exhausted.

Fibromyalgia Friendly Salad Dressing

A locally produced hemp oil that I bought at Timboon Railway Distillery.

I’ve been making my own salad dressings for a while, but have recently changed up one of my recipes with a new ingredient: hemp oil, also known as hempseed oil. 

Hemp oil is not the same as cannabis oil. The variety of hemp from which the oil is obtained doesn’t contain any of the interesting qualities that some people seek in the leaves of some of its cousins, but it does possess enormous anti-inflammatory properties due to its high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6 fats. It’s also really good for your skin

I have been using hemp oil instead of olive oil in my balsamic salad dressing, which I use for my lunch most days. The balsamic vinegar and mustard help to balance the flavour of the oil, and combine with the oil to produce a delicious dressing that gives my salad and my body a boost. 

Some people make larger quantities, but I prefer to work with small amounts and make it more often. I don’t think that there is any particular health advantage to that – it’s simply personal preference. 

It’s a very easy and straightforward recipe: 

  • 3 tablespoon hemp oil
  • 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon whole grain mustard 

Simply put it all in a jar or jug, and stir with a fork. Some people might like to shake it to mix it, but shaking a jar causes me pain in my arm for some time afterwards.

If you’re storing leftover dressing in the fridge, make sure you stir or shake it well before using it on your next salad, just to keep the ingredients mixed and distributed evenly. 

I use this dressing on a salad full of fibre-friendly foods: dry slaw, mixed leafy greens, capsicum, beetroot, cucumber, roasted pine nuts, and a few cherry tomatoes. I generally add some cold chicken, or occasionally switch that up with some tuna or other fish. And because I love dill pickles and pickled onions, there’s usually one of each of those chopped into the mix for a pop of delicious tang.

How can insomnia be a good thing?

This post struck a chord with me. I hate my insomnia, but because of it, I have written some incredible poetry at 3am.

I do try to manage it, and to practise good sleep hygiene, but sometimes my pain levels and my brain conspire against me.

On those night when I am not able to write, I find listening to talkback radio, a podcast or an audiobook helps me to relax and and least rest while I am awake.

I’d love to know what works for you.

Fibromyalgia Explained.

Since I began posting about my experiences of Fibromyalgia, a number of friends have asked me to explain what it is. I always start with “I can really only tell you what it’s like for me…” 

I was recently introduced to a video by Dr Andrea Furlan, a pain specialist from Toronto, in which she explains the symptoms, possible causes and treatments for Fibromyalgia far better than I ever could. While some GPS are still fairly dismissive of this disease, Dr Furlan explains with empathy and understanding of both the physical and mental effects of Fibromyalgia on those who endure it.

Even though everyone experiences it a bit differently, it felt as though she spent most of the time actually talking about me. This tells me two things: she really knows what she is talking about, and she is a very good communicator. 

So, if you want to know more about Fibromyalgia, take the time to watch this video and find out why the people you know with this condition I find it so debilitating.

Things I Am Thankful For Tonight

After two ridiculously hot days –40C or 104F–and a busy first week of the school year, my fibromyalgia pain is going nuts.

It’s currently 11.35pm and still warm out, even though a cool change came through a few hours ago and dropped the temperature by ten degrees in as many minutes. It’s also pouring rain – and I’m not going to complain about that!

I am lying in bed listening to the rain, hoping my pain meds will work quickly, and trying to focus on positive things instead of feeling miserable.

So, in no particular order, here is my list of things I am thankful for tonight:

  • Pain medication
  • Ceiling fans
  • Cool changes
  • Rain
  • Three seasons other than summer
  • My bed
  • Total adoration from Abbey the Labby
Abbey the Labby: so clever, she’s on Facebook.

Painsomnia and sleep deprivation

The term ‘painsomnia’ is perfect for describing the impact of chronic pain on the sleep patterns of those who live with conditions like Fibromyalgia.

This post touches on so many aspects of my life with both Fibromyalgia and back pain.

I’m thankful to The Brainless Blogger for writing so clearly and honestly what many people struggle to explain.

If someone you know has a chronic pain condition, you need to read this and share it with everyone you know.

Brainless Blogger

So I’m going to start with this tidbit: The brain literally starts eating itself when it doesn’t get enough sleep.

AHHHhhhhhh!!!!!!! My brain is EATING itself. WTAF!

Not cool.

Painsomnia and sleep deprivation

Other issues with sleep deprivation can include:

  1. Impacts short-term and long-term memory
  2. Concentration becomes impaired along with problem-solving abilities and even creativity
  3. Mood instability- obviously lack of sleep can make a person cranky as all hell. But long term it can be comorbid with anxiety and depression and make depression more intense
  4. Less than 5 hours a night can cause your blood pressure to increase
  5. It increases your risk for Type 2 Diabetes
  6. It increases the risk of heart disease
  7. It can lead to poor balance and increase the likelihood of falls
  8. Affects immune system and it may take you longer to recover from illness
  9. Increases the chances of obesity (source: Healthline)

And if that were not enough there is…

View original post 1,360 more words

FibroMyFriday

The aim of this post is not to complain. My spirit is still quite positive, albeit a little weary after working hard to tick things off my “do or die” list this week. Instead, my purpose is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with Fibromyalgia. 

People cannot see my illness. It’s easy to feel sympathy for someone in a cast, a wheelchair or a hospital bed. I notice an immediate difference in people’s responses on the days I need to use my walking stick. Some are kinder, and most are more physically careful around me. 

Of course, there are always some who couldn’t care less about someone with a cane, but there is no point losing time or sleep getting upset about them. Their attitude only highlights the good in others’. 

My disease is invisible, although some of its effects are not. I may look tired, or upset, at times. My emotions sometimes get a bit messy, although I am a good actor so most people don’t know that. 

After a busy and somewhat stressful week, my body is letting me know how unimpressed it is. 
My pain levels are in the “stupid” range. 
My legs don’t want to bend anymore. 
I have zero need to take my pulse because everything is throbbing. 
Even  typing this is slow because my fingers hurt too.

To anyone else, I probably just look like someone in a recliner, covered with a quilt on a cold night, typing on her iPad. The truth is, I want to go to bed but I don’t want to move because I ache so badly.

I have medicated, but it’s not touching the pain. That’s always good. 

In a further act of bodily insubordination, my very dodgy spine is giving me spasms— yet another an indication that I have probably (read: definitely) overdone it, yet again. 

I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want medals or admiration, or people telling me I’m brave.

What I want is for people to understand that Fibromyalgia and other “invisible illnesses” are not imaginary. They are not something we adopt because they are “trendy”. 

Fibromyalgia hurts. And it sucks. And it doesn’t go away. 

And if you think I “don’t look sick”? Just remember, you can’t see my superhero cape, either. 

Fibromyalgia And Me

I could have spent most of Fibromyalgia Awareness Month writing about my experience of this condition. I could spend a year writing what people don’t know or understand about it.

However, I plan for this to be my only post on that topic during this Fibromyalgia Awareness Month, because I don’t like to complain and I don’t want to sound like I am hiding behind my disease or making excuses. 

Fibromyalgia is a diagnosed medical condition— now. It wasn’t always. It has a wide variety of symptoms, although they basically all contribute to chronic pain and overwhelming fatigue. 

Because of Fibromyalgia, I have pain all the time. Think about that. 

Pain.
 All.
The.
Time. 

It doesn’t ever completely go away. The best I can hope for is that it will ease off a bit, and that I’ll have more good days than awful ones. 

When people present to the Emergency Department or paramedics with pain, the standard procedure is to ask them to rank it between 1 and 10, assuming that 10 is the worst pain they have experienced. I wake up most days to a starting level of about 4 or 5 for me. With medication, I can generally keep it down to about a 3. 

That’s why I have structured my working week so that I start a bit later in the mornings. It’s not because I don’t want to get out of bed: it’s because when I do, I am stiff and sore and it’s really hard to get moving. 
As the day wears on, my pain levels start to increase. My legs feel heavy and hard to lift when I walk. My feet  begin to ache, and that often turns into a throbbing pain that starts to work its way up my legs. It can take hours for the aching to subside enough to let me sleep, especially if I have been on my feet a lot. A similar thing happens with my hands and arms if I am using them a lot, and especially if it involves holding or carrying anything with a bit of weight in it. It’s not unusual to end each day feeling like I’ve been either beaten up or body slammed by someone or something a lot larger than me. 

Anytime I get stressed or anxious, or when my depression is messing with me, my pain levels flare. Overtiredness also increases my pain. Sometimes, I reach that level of tiredness by lunchtime and still have two classes to teach and a 40 minute drive home before I can rest. Add in a work deadline or two and things can get pretty horrid. 

All of this is completely separate from my back pain, which is a different thing and a different type of pain altogether, and which I am able to manage fairly effective for the most part.  

The problem with pain is that people can’t see it like they can if you have cuts and bruises or a cast. You can hide a lot behind makeup and a smile. 

When they call this an invisible illness, they’re not kidding. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “But you don’t look sick,” I could quit work and live very nicely on the interest. It’s such a shame I can’t bill people for their insensitivity or ignorance. 

I know it’s not a death sentence like some other diseases are. It is, however, a life sentence. As things stand, there’s no cure in sight. All I can do is keep up my painkillers and anti-inflammatories and hope for the best. 

None of this makes me, or anyone else with Fibromyalgia, weak. 

It takes strength and courage to get through each day, and sometimes that’s on a moment-by-moment basis. It takes resolve to blink away the tears and keep showing up for work or social or family occasions. It takes guts to say, “Actually, I’m not doing so well” when people ask, or to write a post like this one. In a world that prioritises health and beauty, brokenness is often an unpopular confession. 

I have Fibromyalgia. I don’t want sympathy or pity. I don’t want people to tell me I am strong or brave. You bet I am! 

What I really want is more awareness, better understanding, and more effective pain relief. And a cape. They can’t see my pain or my superpowers, but they’d be sure to know I have something if I were wearing a cape.