My original plan was to write my next blog post as a follow up to ‘So do you sleep a lot then…?’ with details of supplements that I use, but to be honest I simply don’t have the focus at the moment to look up all of the supplements I’ve tried and relate how they’ve helped or not helped. I want to get that info right so it can wait until another time.

Plus writing about ‘tired and wired’ is pretty topical at the minute because it is exactly how I’ve been feeling for the past couple of weeks. The Optimum Health Clinic have named the 2nd stage of CFS/ME as Tired and Wired – when your body is shattered and needing good quality sleep, yet your nervous system just won’t allow this to happen. It describes perfectly how I’ve felt for much of the past 6 years.

Feeling tired and wired isn’t nice. It can kick in at any time even when caused by good adrenaline. Setting up the business and feeling motivated and excited has definitely upped my nervous system a fair bit. Doing nice stuff with the family will also do it. Yesterday I took two of my girls to Friendsfest in Bristol (hence the photo!). Long term and huge Friends fans we were all excited and I knew as soon as I woke up at 5am that my system was wired to extreme. However on this occasion I focused on the positives of being wired – that the adrenaline would keep me going through the day! Taking supplements helped and walking round the event drained some of the energy from my nervous system. By the time we came home I was physically exhausted but even with more supplements it still took a while for my body to calm enough to sleep. Totally worth it though and on this occasion being Tired and Wired might have actually been helpful!!

So how does this feel for me, this feeling of being Tired and Wired? The first and most significant sign that I’m in this state is my sleep.  Like I described in my last post sometimes I struggle to fall asleep – my system becomes finely tuned to sound which becomes amplified and can cause my body to jump. If I start to fall asleep in this state, again my nervous system will jump me wide awake as if it doesn’t feel safe to be asleep or relaxed. Other nights I fall asleep ok but then wake up wide awake at any time of the night and struggle to go back to sleep. It also affects my ability to rest during the day – even when my body is crying out for a daytime nap.

Apart from how it impacts on sleep the best way that I can describe being tired and wired is feeling ‘buzzy’. My head is busy and my body and brain feel out of synch. I forget things and am more clumsy, like my body and brain aren’t co coordinating. In extreme cases I talk more quickly and perform tasks more quickly usually with bad results – spills, breakages, bruises, typos on my laptop are all a sign that my brain and body aren’t talking.

It also seems to affect my digestive system which makes sense since the nervous system and digestive system are really closely linked. I have more reactions to food than I would if my nervous system was calm.

There are also a number of other symptoms that I get which may well be a result of a hyped nervous system – tinnitus and noise sensitivity is particularly unpleasant and definitely gets worse when I’m feeling wired. I get headaches and a sensation of pressure and tingling on various points of my face and head plus I’m sensitive to wearing glasses or hats. My skin becomes itchy and prickly too.

Looking back over the years this feeling of being wired isn’t particularly new. I can remember times spent in hospital after having my girls or after various ops when I have literally been awake all night with the feeling of adrenalin pumping round my body. When things were busy with work I would ramp my activity levels up a notch – multitasking badly and completely fuelled by adrenaline. I’d drive into work completely shattered and often tearful and once I got into my classroom I could literally feel the adrenaline flooding my system. On my last day in work last year having had a couple of really difficult weeks I can remember working for several hours in the evening on lesson plans and timetables and then the next day taking these plans around the staff. I could tell that I was walking and talking more quickly and that I was purely being fuelled by adrenaline. To onlookers it probably seemed like the ‘old Ruth’ was back but I knew that I was heading for a huge crash which inevitably happened the next day and floored me for weeks.

It seems that my body historically would draw on extra adrenaline when there was any sort of challenge. I often seemed impulsive and reactive to situations because adrenaline would kick in too easily and demand immediate action. Looking back this is not a sustainable way to live life.

I guess the next thing to share is how I react to this ‘tired and wired’ sensation? What have I tried that helps (or doesn’t)?

  • Meditation – I’m honestly not sure about this one. I sometimes spend mediation practices with such a busy mind that I come out of it exhausted. Body scans seem less helpful than simple breathing meditations. I feel like meditation should help but I definitely need to find the right practice.
  • Relaxation – this does help. A 30 minute relaxation in the afternoon using the Calm App (I do their Deep Sleep Relaxation) will calm my system and possibly end in me having a short nap depending on where my nervous system was to begin with. The same relaxation practice at night will often help me to drop back to sleep eventually.
  • Walking by the sea or in the countryside. As I shared in my Puzzle Pieces post this definitely calms me. Big views, quiet, fresh air all help to bring that nervous system down a little. Plus physical activity (in the right environment) seems to divert nervous energy into physical energy which also calms the system down.
  • Epsom salts bath – good in the morning not so helpful in the night for me.
  • TV – sometimes becoming engrossed in something can help. A good episode of Friends can distract me which in turn calms me. Equally watching the wrong sort of programme late at night can be disastrous!
  • Being mindful. Sometimes I just need to slow down. Be aware of my feet on the floor as I walk round the house. Even light housework can bring me back into my body and out of a wired state if I can get into a mindful place whilst doing it.
  • Being by myself – this is sometimes the only way to calm myself down.
  • Taking a minute – stopping, breathing, feeling the floor under my feet is sometime enough.
  • Supplements – I honestly think that some of the supplements I’ve been on to calm my nervous system have had the biggest impact on the CFS. Megamag Calmeze, Glycine, Phosphatidyl Serine have all helped massively at various points. I’m currently back on these three along with a new one Neuro S with the main purpose of calming my system and my adrenals and helping me sleep.

What remains a mystery to me at the moment is why my body gets into this state in the first place. I think I always assumed that when I was in this tired and wired state it was because I’d put myself there through becoming stressed or anxious or through unhelpful thought patterns. However I’m realising that this state can also occur because the body isn’t functioning properly in some way. Working with the Optimum Health Clinic we’re looking at hormone imbalances, adrenals and at stress. There’s a really helpful video on their Facebook page about the four types of anxiety and fatigue which goes into this a little.

It’s taken me a long time and lots of input from others to actually be able to recognise all of the signs that my system is wired. Listening to your body is key in both management of and recovery from CFS/ME. But it’s not easy and you often think you get what your body is telling you only to find out there’s something else going on. It’s frustrating and confusing and there often seem to be no fixed rules. But each time I feel my body calming because of something I’ve done or something I’ve changed it feels like an accomplishment. Like I’m giving my body back the chance to heal itself. Another part of that puzzle.

This short Youtube clip from the Optimum Health Clinic explains Tired and Wired.