Am I Crazy?

“Mental wounds still screaming. Driving me insane. I’m going off the rails on this crazy train.” - Ozzy Osbourne

When it comes to “doing life” with a spouse or significant other, clients often ask me to reassure them that they have not plunged off the edge of reality and entered into crazy town. The unfortunate outcome of an unstable relationship is the experience of feeling like one is standing on the verge of insanity. When negative communication and interaction patterns flare once again, pestering questions such as “Is it me?” or “Am I the one that is the problem or is it him/her” emerge once again. However, what they really are trying to communicate is that they feel stuck in their communication cycle. What’s worse it that each partner knows exactly how to trigger the other so, when one verbally or emotionally wounds the other, instead of saying, “I feel hurt by that…,” they up the ante and attack back, turning each other into people they never wanted to be (while blaming their partner for it). Therefore, the dance of hostile dependency continues while each partner believes that if only the other person would change, they wouldn’t be so “crazy.” This negative cycle forces them to spiral down, continues to make them feel worse about reacting in hurtful ways and creates resentment towards their partner for feeling like they’re “setting me up for failure.”

There is hope however. You’re not crazy. You just don’t know how to stop the crazy train.

Honey, We’re not in Kansas Anymore: Lack of Sleep and Relationships

A brain without adequate sleep can make for a grouchy kind of day.  However, a relationship without sleep is like “Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh my!” Allow me to explain…do you remember The Wizard of Oz?  And more importantly, do you remember the scene where they chant this classic movie line?  It’s an accurate portrayal of the risk to your brain and your relationships when you miss a restful night of Z’s:   

Dorothy, Tin Man, and Scarecrow are entering the ominous woods on the way to the Emerald City, nervous to say the least.  They link arms and gallop down the yellow-brick road chanting “Lions, Tigers, and Bears. . .” scanning the shadows for something that might jump.  Enter the Cowardly Lion – ROOOAAARR—super scary at first, until later we discover he’s only a big ball of nerves. 

Studies suggest that –much like trying to find your way through the woods in the dark—a night of broken sleep alters your brain so that it gets stuck on high alert.  Suddenly, you can’t distinguish between what is significant threat and what is not: every sound of a twig snapping, or leaf rustling, or minor blip in your plans, must be a lion, tiger, or bear.  Limited sleep also reduces the ability to read a partner’s emotions while increasing one’s own negative emotions. In other words, after a night of insomnia, your partner might look and sound scarier than they really are;  the slightest scowl, frown, or growl can read like an angry carnivore.

Needless to say, when one or both partners are lacking sleep, it can be a recipe for increased and unnecessary conflict!  We wake up exhausted and feel as friendly as a flying monkey.  But what can we do about it?  Here are three tips to keep a poor night’s sleep from sabotaging your good relationship vibes:    

  1. Ask for support.  Let your loved one know that you didn’t sleep well and put it out there as gently as you can:  “Hey, Babe, I didn’t sleep well last night, so bear with me today.” Asking for help and accepting that it was a difficult night supports a more positive attitude in general. 


  2. DON’T talk about the tough stuff.  For the most part, avoiding conflict isn’t helpful, but the rules change after a sleepless night.  Tell yourself, “I know this mountain of dirty clothes on the floor (when we just talked about cleaning up) feels like a Supreme Court case – but I’ll give it a few days.  If I still feel miffed after a good night’s sleep, I’ll mention it.” 


  3. Take a criticism detour.  You can’t change that you had a rough night, but you can make it a goal to steer clear of the negative things your sleep-deprived brain are more apt to see.  Swear off any form of criticism.  Instead, choose to thank her when she brings you coffee, or when he fills your gas tank. The more appreciation you can express, especially after a night of tossing and turning, the more positive you’ll both feel!