Ep. 25 How Austyn Left Insomnia and Got His Life Back

Mar 20, 2024

Working with Austyn to get beyond insomnia was such a pleasure and now he’s sharing his story to help others.

In this heartfelt interview, we dive into:

  • the role of OCD in insomnia
  • how the brain latches on to an intrusive thought
  • the connection between health anxiety and sleep anxiety
  • the loneliness of insomnia

Austyn gives us an honest portrayal of his recovery trajectory and how the concepts of courage, self-compassion, mindfulness, trust, and acceptance come into the picture.

Nothing about insomnia is easy. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t silver linings.

It brings me immense joy to witness the transformations of my students. This episode is a must listen for anyone struggling with OCD or sleep anxiety.

You can learn more about Austyn and his music HERE.

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About Beth Kendall MA, FNTP:

For decades, Beth struggled with the relentless grip of insomnia. After finally understanding insomnia from a mind-body perspective, she changed her relationship with sleep, and completely recovered. Liberated from the constant worry of not sleeping, she’s on a mission to help others recover as well. Her transformative program Mind. Body. Sleep.™ has been a beacon of light for hundreds of others seeking solace from sleepless nights.


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Beth (00:11):

Hello everyone, and welcome to the show. I am extra excited for this episode because it marks my first interview with one of our students from the mentorship, and I have been looking so forward to doing these episodes because not only do I learn a lot from everyone who comes through the mentorship, but I think there's so much power to a story no matter what you're going through in life. It's always so helpful to hear the experience of another human, and I think this certainly holds true for insomnia. So today I am very pleased to welcome Austin to the podcast. Welcome, Austin.

Austyn (00:53):

How are you doing? It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me on. This is awesome.

Beth (00:57):

Yeah. Well, thanks so much for coming on when you reached out recently. I was so glad because it was just such perfect timing for the podcast. And so how have you been? I know that you are a man of many talents, but music is pretty up there, so how have things been going with your music lately?

Austyn (01:16):

So I just wrapped up a song recently, a couple weeks ago. I put it out, it was called Smile, and the type of music I make is sort of like alternative hip hop kind of alternative rock as well, and a lot of sad elements. There's a lot of sad material within my music. Most of my music is rooted in heartbreak and pain. So this song was a little bit different. I kind of had more fun with it, and it's been going great. Everything's been well, but aside when I'm not writing music, I'm kind of have an entrepreneurial type of outlook on everything. So I've been trying to get into many different things like sales copywriting, and that's just kind of the different avenues that I branch out into, aside from music. But music is going well, and I'll be back into recording actually next week. So I'm looking forward to that.

Beth (02:11):

Oh, amazing. I know we've had several conversations about your music and I actually went on YouTube last night to just see how things are going and listening to some of your latest stuff. And I see that you've got quite a big following now.

Austyn (02:29):

Yeah, yeah. I'm 24 now, so I've been doing this since I was about 16, 17. And it started out where when I was that age starting, I was recording on my phone and I would send it to the audio files to a friend of mine who lived in, I believe South Carolina at the time. And he wasn't by any means an engineer, a music engineer. So he really didn't know what he was doing, but he was the only person I and trusted with making music or helping me make it. So he would just take my recording and then try to line it up with the instrumental of the song that I was writing and singing to. And it's safe to say, looking back, yeah, it was pretty bad. I mean, I've definitely come a long way since then and God willing, I've just been put in a lot of different positions where I've just so happened to meet people that have kind of got me to the place where now everything's more professional sounding and it's just kind of like synchronicities, I guess kind just happen as you go.

Beth (03:35):

Yeah, exactly. You just got to take the steps that feel right and follow the breadcrumbs and land we your land. I'm very similar over here. I mean, I started blogging on my phone at work as a flight attendant, and it ended up turning into a business, so there you go.

Beth (03:55):

Okay, let's go back all the way to the beginning — how did insomnia start for you and what was that like?

Austyn (04:08):

I might go off the rails here a little bit, but I want to make sure that I'm kind of explaining this the best that I can. I've been thinking about this a lot, and this is really interesting, and this might be different for a lot of people, so I definitely want to make that clear. My insomnia is heavily rooted in me having OCD, and for those of the people that listen to this maybe who have insomnia, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have OCD. And for the people that don't know exactly what OCD is, I want to really explain really quickly what that is, because I think that's really important to understand because a lot of people think OCD is just, oh, I need to make sure everything is clean and neat and in a certain order, and it's like a small fraction, a branch of on the tree of O-C-D-O-C-D, for the average person you have, I believe, around 50,000 intrusive thoughts a day, and these thoughts come and go.

And for the average person, you just don't really hold onto. It doesn't really hold any merit or mental real estate for someone with OCD, you can have a thought and that thought can instantly be the most real thing to you, even though it's the most irrational thought you've ever had. So what happens is you become obsessed with a thought, and it could be anything. It could be just it plays into your fears and your doubts. So here's an example I'll just give you and then I'll get back into that, install it. I knew I had OCD at a very young, and I got diagnosed by when I was a teenager, but I didn't understand it yet until I got therapy for it. And then they kind of explained it, and then I realized how prevalent it actually is in my life and how many areas it's affected.

So, one area was health, OCD. I had this one time I was driving home, I was probably like 17, 18, I think I was around 18 probably. And I had to go home a specific way because in my mind, if I didn't go home that way, this is incredibly irrational, but something terrible would happen to me. I would come down terminally ill, this is the most crazy thought. And so I would do that. So essentially you have a thought, your brain tells you to compulsively do something to prevent that thought from happening, and then you do it. But then you just end up in this cycle searching for reassurance, and then it brings you back to more compulsions and more thoughts, and then it just continues to branch out. So all that to say essentially how OCD kind of branched into insomnia was I was going through a rough patch with an ex-girlfriend.

The first bout was, I have to say, it must've been now this upcoming summer, it'll be two years. When it first started, I went through some rough stuff with an ex-girlfriend. She essentially moved on and I was left confused and with a lot of questions, and I don't want to put that fully on her, but I just want to paint the picture of a lot of stress going on at the time. Then a few days later had a tattoo appointment that was, I had to be there at eight in the morning, so it's an hour away, so I have to get up at six. I went to bed that night with the stress of everything. I was handling it rather well I thought, but I had a lot of pressure on me because I had to go to this appointment. And for those of you who don't know or haven't been tattooed, it's not the most desirable thing for you to go to a tattoo appointment without having slept. At least they say six hours. So there was a lot of pressure. I'm like, okay, well, I have to sleep. And the reason being is that if you go and you're not well slept, you're not hydrated. There's a lot of factors you can essentially pass out, especially if you're getting tattooed for a while.

And this was something that actually happened. I almost passed out one time, and that's kind of what triggered the, okay, well, now I need to make sure I get rest thing. So I tried to go to bed that night and I literally just laid there all night with my eyes closed. I just ended up getting frustrated. A couple hours passed, I would check my phone and I'm thinking it's already been that amount of time, like three hours, whatever. I don't remember what time I went to bed, we'll say, just because for the story around midnight. So I laid there for literally two, three hours. I check my phone, I'm like, I can't believe it. I still can't sleep. I'm still up and I'm getting frustrated. I'm talking to myself. I get up, I go to the bathroom, I come back, lay down. I'm just like, I can't fall asleep.

And I just feel like my heart is, I can't get it to kind of calm down. It's like racing with the anticipation of needing to sleep. So eventually six o'clock rolls around, I haven't slept at all. I ended up just saying, all right, well, whatever. I haven't slept, I'm going to get up and go anyway. I don't advise anyone do that ever. Don't ever do that. Just maybe take the day and just chill. But if you have to go somewhere and it's important, so be it. But for me, I was just kind of, I wasn't really thinking. So I was just like, all right, well, I want to get this tattoo, so I'm going to go. I drive an hour, get on the highway, get there. My artist sees me, I'm kind of talking to him and I tell him, yeah, I haven't slept, I didn't sleep at all, whatever. And he basically said to me, listen, I can't answer you. You got to just go home. We'll pick up at a certain point. So I went home.

I actually did lay back down in bed for a little bit, and I did fall asleep for about two hours, and then I went to the gym, and that's something I always did. I've been working out for three years, so there's never anything that will keep me from doing that unless I'm severely injured. But I went to the gym and then I was pretty much okay. I mean, for the most part, the rest of the day I just kind of felt I was tired, of course. And with that, sometimes you have more anxiety, I would say.

So night comes around and I don't know what possessed this thought, but aside from it being partially the OCD, I would say, because this is kind of how, for me OCD works is you have an intrusive thought I was mentioning before, and most people, it's irrational, so you don't think twice about it, just, oh, that was a weird thought, and then you move on with your day. But I grabbed onto this thought, so I didn't sleep well. And then I had the thought later when I was going to bed that night, and I was like, well, what if I don't sleep tonight? And then all of a sudden that thought became so real that I couldn't sleep that night. And I believe, yeah. So I ended up talking to my family about it. I was panicking in the morning.

There was another girl I knew who was a friend of mine at the time, and she was aware of what was going on. So I was talking to her in the middle of the night, and it was just this big thing, this big, it was horrible. So I never dealt with anything like this before. I believe I called some sort of a hotline too at four or five in the morning. I was just super upset. I was crying. I thought I, I was going to die. That's literally where my brain took me. So I ended up in the er, I want to say, what's it in the morning? It must've been like eight o'clock in the morning. I remember I couldn't go. My mom actually drove me. So we went to the ER and they brought in some people and they talked to me there, and they prescribed me hydroxyzine, I believe it's called, which it's, I don't know if it's an antihistamine or something. It's supposed to help kind of relax you. So I took that and I don't, sorry, were you going to say,

Beth (13:12):

I was just going to pause you there because you covered, I mean, you had so many insights. Thank you so much for just being so open about this. I know there's going to be a lot of people that can really relate to this path. And you described it so well, how you've had these thought patterns since you were young and how those thoughts can feel so real and you can become obsessed with the thought and the brain can latch on to it. And for you that you maybe had never gone a night without any sleep like that, is that maybe some people think, oh, I didn't know this was possible, or I didn't know that you could go a whole night with no sleep. And then to go to your appointment and have those consequences where you couldn't go through, and then that put more emphasis on, well, you didn't sleep, so we can't do this appointment. That can feel a little scary, like more pressure. And then of course, the next night, yeah, having that thought, well, now what if I don't sleep again? Which is what probably just kicked off that fear cycle. So, it makes a lot of sense. And so then what happened? That was probably the point where your relationship with sleep started to change a bit.

Austyn (14:32):

Absolutely. Yeah. So sleep became something that was a passive thing that I didn't have to think much about. You just do it every night to something that was more like a controlled, I need to make sure that I can. And it became my whole day revolved around wondering if I was going to be able to that night essentially, and nobody could relate to that. That was the scariest. I think the scariest thing about that whole time was that everybody that I taught, I felt like the only person. I just didn't know anybody. And that was just hard. It was like, something's wrong with me. What's wrong with me? That I can't just go to sleep? What's going on? I'll lay there all night. And I had people say to me, oh, you'll fall asleep eventually. It's like, no, I won't though. I can't. So what happened after the appointment, I came back to the house and I think I told myself I was going to try to work out.

I really, I can't exactly remember what the rest of my day looked like, but I do know that it was still rough for a little bit. And I want to say that that first bout lasted anywhere from two to three weeks. And it wasn't consecutive. It was, I came out of it rather quick for the amount of pressure and trauma that it was kind of giving me the whole experience. And I think part of that was I ended up, there was the girl I mentioned, and she was a friend from the gym at the time, and she's now my ex, but that's later in the story. But she was kind of there through a lot of it, and I kind of had a lot of support and I got super into journaling at the time and breath work. I thought that would help. And the issue was, I hadn't met you yet, Beth.

So what I was doing was basically what the doctors would tell me to do. And for anyone that listens to this, if you ever thought about going to the doctor and you haven't want to, or because of insomnia, I'll save you the trip. What they'll do is they will tell you, sleep hygiene, make sure you're in bed at the same time every night. Make sure the room is completely dark, put your blue light stuff away. They just give you this routine. It's very rigid and the rigidity of it causes 10 times more pressure now because when it doesn't go your way and you're doing everything they're telling you to do, it just makes it even worse. And they genuinely do not understand what insomnia is. So I would advise anybody that's looking for answers to that, just keep that in mind. Of course, everyone has free will, but it was a waste of time. It really was. So, I was doing a lot of that, but somehow I did come out of it.

A lot of time passed. I didn't have my second bout until, so that was in the summer two years ago. I didn't have my second bout until after New Year's following. So literally it was already over a year. It was last New Year's, not this past one, of course, the one before. So it's already a year ago. I don't remember exactly what day it was in January. It started probably a couple days into January. The girl that I had mentioned prior that helped me through the struggle of insomnia was now the reason that I had it again. So, now my ex, and this is actually really interesting because aside from music, I really don't, don't get super personal, but I don't really mind getting super into detail about certain things that kind of triggered this. But I was with this girl for, I don't know, a while.

It was definitely a while after all the insomnia stuff. We ended up seeing each other. She went off to college at one point, so we were doing long distance for a bit, but long story short, essentially I was just put in many positions where I did not know if I could trust her. She was lying about where she was. She was talking to her ex. She was living a double life, essentially, her family. I didn't meet her family until one day I literally just drove to her house because I couldn't figure out where she was. And this was literally the first time they met me. She had lied about where she was saying that she had to take her brother to the er, he hit his head and he wasn't doing well, and he did have a concussion at the time, but when I went to the door, he was one of the brothers that answered the door.

So I was like, I thought you weren't here right now, so this is really interesting. And then the mother came out and it was this big thing. It was just this huge orchestra of just chaos, and it was really upsetting and it's a lot of manipulation. So yeah, I went through a really hard time and then when we finally ended it, it was right after New Year's, and I just right back in, I couldn't sleep. Also, part of it was I saw there was a horror movie trailer I saw, and I went to bed thinking about it one time, and that also kind of triggered it too, but also major part of it was just the breakup and the stuff that I had to go through during that breakup. And then it just became, over time, this bout lasted my longest, which was seven weeks, and that just ended up becoming started about the breakup and the movie thing, and then eventually became a cycle of just, now it's just sleep. I don't even care about her anymore. I don't have the energy to, I just can't sleep and I don't know what to do. Yeah,

Beth (21:15):

It's so common for that to happen where a life stressor will come on the scene, even if sleep has been okay for a while and then it starts to, there's still some fear left in the mind around not sleeping. It can then bring that to the surface and start to amplify that fear again.

Austyn (21:37):

Right? Absolutely. Yeah. So I honestly thought, and that's the funny thing about it, I thought I was over it and I still didn't understand insomnia. I had no idea. I knew the more I got obsessed with sleeping and worrying about it, I just couldn't. But I didn't know. I thought I had to do sleep hygiene again. I thought maybe I fell off of meditation, and that was the problem. I started to analyze what I was not doing, and that's what I was thinking. So all this stuff started happening and it was just complete chaos. I don't remember the exact date, but it wasn't January. I went public about what was going on because I wasn't really able to be on social media like that for my career. So I posted on my story that I was struggling with insomnia at this point. I must've been a couple days or so, and it just started, and I didn't really know what to do at that point.

So I just wanted to be upfront with everybody of what was going on with me. I got a ton of messages from people that say that they've also experienced this before, and they were lending out advice, and I got a message from a girl who's my significant other now. Her name's Isabella. She's from Germany, and she's incredible. She literally stayed on the phone with me through this. Literally, there's six hours ahead in Germany. She would stay on the phone all night just to make sure she could try to help calm me down. And I honestly feel like without that too, just having anybody that was some sort of angel type of a situation. I just needed somebody to talk to and just understand, I guess. And ironically, she had actually a year prior or so gone through insomnia on her own, but she beat that, and I was trying to understand how, but I just couldn't, and it was taking so long.

So I began to get a bit desperate because there was nights where I would try to sleep and then I would eventually get sleep around seven in the morning, and I would wake up at eight, fall back asleep again, wake up at nine. So I'd get two hours, but they were broken up, so I wasn't really getting rest at all. For the longest was a four day period of two hours a night, and it was early morning. I was falling asleep at seven to nine broken up, and I had a panic attack the fourth day in a grocery store. I felt like I was, I was tripping. So that was hard. And when I say tripping, it's because I actually did when I was younger, I'm jumping around a little bit, but when I was 15, I had a really bad experience smoking weed that might've been laced, but might've not, I don't know.

But essentially it felt like I was in that high again. I was tripping, and I haven't felt that in a long time. So it freaked me out, but I just completely collapsed that night. 10 hours. I think I got that night or something when I went to bed and I was shocked. I guess my body just gave up. It was just totally over everything, but this just kept persisting. I would make a little progress. I remember I read texts back then with Isabella, and I was looking at it, and remember, I would say every couple days I'd be like, oh, I got a couple hours last night. I feel okay, I got four or five hours. And then the next night, boom again, nothing. And then I would kind of have a couple a good night and then a bad night again. And this went on for seven weeks. I was like, I'm never going to get over this. This is just like, it doesn't end. And nobody understood. So this kind of led me to start searching online, and I don't remember exactly how I found you, Beth, but it was something on Instagram. I think it was the OCU recovery page.

Beth (26:04):

I think I remember, well, first of all, I was going to say, I'm so glad you have this angel, Isabella that helps so much. Absolutely. Yeah. I'm so glad. But I think it was because when you were talking, I was like, how did he end up in the program? And I think it was a single post you saw on Instagram and you were like, oh, there's something to this, it makes sense to me.

Austyn (26:27):

Yeah, yeah. So I think I remember now I was following the OCD recovery page, and I think they reposted something of yours maybe. Yeah. Or something. And it was just you wrote just a quick text thing on the screen, and I forget what it said, but it was something along the lines of probably when you stop trying to control sleep, that's when it comes to, I think maybe. And I saw that, and that kind of just even reading that alone brought some ease to my mind. And I remember actually that night when I saw that for the first time, actually, it was like one or two in the morning, I was out playing pool with a couple of friends I went to high school with. I just didn't want to be at home, and I wasn't sleeping, so I just tried to go out and distract myself. I was just like, I don't know what else to do. But I saw that, and I started, when I first saw your post, that's when the dots started to connect. And I was like, okay, maybe this makes sense. Maybe the issue is I'm really just obsessed with this thing and that's preventing it. Yeah, well said.

So that's kind of what happened. And then eventually I subscribed, I went to your page and I found the email list and I got subscribed to that, and I still wasn't sleeping. And then finally I started getting your emails, and I was just sitting in bed. I couldn't sleep. It was like four or five in the morning. I'm just reading your story. And I'm like, okay, yeah, no, this is definitely me right now. This is exactly what's going on. So then I joined eventually, and then the rest is kind of just a year. We are, yeah,

Beth (28:26):

Yeah, yeah. I'm so glad you did. And I was trying to think of back when that was, and it must've been early last February, early 23 maybe. Yeah.

Austyn (28:38):

So I know by March I had finished the program, I believe, I think it was mid-March around. I finished the program. The reason I know that is because Isabella came here March 17th for the first time, and I met her and I just finished and I was doing better, still having some issues. And when I would change certain factors in my life, I remember I talked to you about staying at an Airbnb, and I was like, I don't know if I can sleep there because I don't really sleep anywhere but my house. And then I was going to be there for a week with her, and I didn't know what was going to happen if I was going to be able to calm down and sleep. And that first night I really, I didn't sleep great. I fell asleep, sticks in the morning, and I just slept in till 12 or something. But the rest of the stay, I think I was completely fine. Actually, I slept great. So this was just me just kind of putting myself in a crazy situation right after the program.

Beth (29:47):

Yeah, I mean, yes, I remember that. And it was good though because it was a little bit of a primer for some of the bigger things you did later on, which I definitely want to talk about because I think it'll be really helpful for the people listening. But so if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about your recovery process, maybe some of the elements that really resonated with you, or just the general trajectory of how that went once you came into the mentorship.

Austyn (30:26):

So I remember when I first joined, I was super hopeful, but I was really struggling still, just constant relapses and I'm sorry, obsessing over the relapses. And then it was just horrible. So once I got in, I couldn't wait to just finally start the course. And I remember when I started, I remember watching the videos and sometimes I wish that I could have just kept watching them. I would just sit there and just try to soak up everything that you were saying because I really was just like, I need to understand this. And you really go into detail about exactly what is going on in insomnia, what exactly it is, how the body is reacting, and why it's affecting your ability to sleep. And it's just the way that you say it makes so much sense. And that's when I realized the more knowledge you have about this, the more it kind of puts your mind at ease about what's going on. And I know for anybody that might even have insomnia right now, hearing this, it's probably the most confusing thing. You just don't feel like you can put your mind at ease. But it's really, it's like this strange detaching from the outcome almost. The more you start to just allow it let go and detach super hard to do, and it's almost something that takes time. You can't force that kind of a thing almost. It just happens over time. But the more I watched your program, it was an eight week program, I believe. So

Beth (32:26):

I remember think it was eight weeks back then, and I ended up pushing then creating a three month just more to support people through speed bumps. But yeah, I think it might've still been eight weeks back. Yeah,

Austyn (32:39):

Right. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm a hundred percent sure. Yeah, it was like an eight week thing, and I know every time I would get a new video and I would watch it. I would actually watch 'em sometimes right before I would go to bed, and I just remember, I would just feel like better. I don't know how to explain it. It was just the way that you explained and understood. It just made me realize this, I'm not some unique case. This just is something that can happen. And unfortunately, if you have a very worrying mind, it's just one of those things that just kind of comes sometimes. So I don't know. It's really interesting because eventually I just started to get progressively better, and it was one of those things I think where I was going from limited sleep maybe two hours a night. So now I'm getting three to four, and then eventually I'm getting five or six. And then it just kind of got to the point where, and it just kind of evened out a little bit, but I want to be very honest, this was a year ago in March last year, I was already, I would say done at this point with the program.

I felt better. I absolutely felt better, but I still had a lot of inner work to do because when I would put myself in a new position as someone that is coming out of insomnia, you still have that little fear that rooted fear and it will come back up. So like I said, I just finished the program and I finished. I was sleeping a little bit better. Now I feel good, I'm able to focus and I'm starting to feel like myself again. But I was sleeping in my house. Now I'm going to be at an Airbnb. Well, that's a foreign environment. I don't know anybody. I don't know if I'm safe. So now it took me a minute. I had to kind of settle in and anytime I would change something, maybe the location or whatever, that fear would kind of come back up. And even if I stayed up a little too late and I checked the clock, say it's like two in the morning, I'm like, I don't know. Something goes off in your brain, you're staying up late, and then it triggers the time that you used to, but you didn't want to be. And then, well, what if I can't sleep now because I stayed up too late or something? So it's not linear. I think that's definitely worth

Beth (35:32):

Noting. It's not linear, and you brought up so many great points there in that it's a very up and down process and it's a gradual process. And I think there's the tendency to think that there is some sort of finish line with insomnia that, oh, I'm going to get to this point and it's going to look like this and it's going to be great. It really doesn't unfold like that. It's much more subtle and sneaks up on you, but then can also sneak back unexpectedly. Absolutely. And it's really understanding what the program does is give you the education and the tools to understand those change reactions. So it's so common to have sleep, be stabilized in very predictable environments, just like you said. But then you throw a little wrench in there and that fear is going to interpret that as, oh, this is dangerous. I've got to let 'em know. I've got to let 'em know that this could happen. And so when you understand that that's very normal and it's just an act of love on behalf of your brain trying to keep you safe, then the relationship with that changes a little bit. And I remember you were so good about this, your views on acceptance and letting go of what you can't control.

I know that when, so the Airbnb, you did that. I mean, you were like, oh, I know this could be rough, but I'm going to do it. I'm going to dip my toes into that water. And you did, but then you kind of even took it to another level with some really big travel, some big trips to Europe, which I know had to feel pretty scary because if I remember right, those were your first trips overseas.

Austyn (37:25):


Beth (37:26):

So tell us a little bit more about that.

Austyn (37:29):

Yeah, so last year in March, like I said, March 17th for a week I was at an Airbnb. So then I kind of saw what that was like. And then by May, I had plans to go to Germany. And I remember leading up to that. I knew when she left, Isabella left, I remember dropping her off and I was just like, I got to go to Germany. I know it just something in me told me, you have to, I want to go see her again. And I want to go there and see what it's like because I feel like, I don't know who's religious or spiritual or anything, but I feel like this was put in my life at this time to test something like this. This almost feels like meant to happen. So I remember what happened was I was super, super nervous. I had so many thoughts.

So one of the big things was what if I don't sleep the night before going into the day I'm supposed to get on the plane and travel? How would I basically function at the airport and how was that going to look? But somehow I actually, that didn't happen. I actually slept completely fine the night before I was going to travel. Then I was worried, okay, well if I'm in another country, how am I going to sleep at a completely foreign environment at a totally different house around people? I don't know. You know what I mean? Yeah. It was just this completely, I couldn't even imagine a lot of variables. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I just kind of said to myself, what if I don't? I don't, but I can't. I'm going to really not be happy with myself if I don't choose to just live my life now.

I don't want to be bound to, that's what it was. I didn't want to be bound to insomnia forever where essentially you're recovered, right? Everything's fine, you sleep fine, but you're not really recovered because you don't do anything. You just stay in this comfortable space where you don't take any chances because you don't want to risk relapsing. So it's like, yeah, you're not sleeping, but you're also preventing yourself from being in a situation that could trigger you to not sleep maybe, but that's not living right? So I don't like to be controlled in that way, especially when it's me. It's like it's my own mind. That's what really pissed me off about it. It was like, I'm doing this to me. So I got on the plane and they're six hours ahead. So I knew that this was going to trigger something. I was going to feel something about this because now I got to adjust to a completely different time zone.

So now when you do that and you have the fear of insomnia, it's like, well, what if I can't? Don't know. When am I going to sleep there? Am I going to be sleeping during the day? Would I be able to sleep during the day? You know what I mean? It's just everywhere. So I remember I got over there and I was actually pretty okay when I landed and I was excited and it was just a completely new environment, new experience, and I was trying to really soak everything in because if anybody listening has never traveled and you're from the states, it's very culture shock to go somewhere different. It feels like a movie or a game. It's the weirdest thing, the architecture, everything. Everything is just so different. So we got to her apartment and I remember I got super anxious when we first got there.

I was like, I don't think, I don't know if I can sleep here. That was the first thought. And I got super quiet. She knew I was not feeling good. And yeah, I was just very nervous. I was like, I don't know if I can sleep. I started calculating in my head it was like, what if it's too hot in here to sleep? What if I sleep with a fan on too and there's not a fan here? How am I going to sleep without that? So there was just so many different thoughts and I was there for 17 days I think. So yeah, so I was there for a little bit and the way it kind of went, I mean she is great super understanding and most empathetic person I think I've ever met. And I think that helped a lot. Just having that I feel safe, that's good.

But I still did have some problems, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. But I did make it worse sometimes in my head than it had to be. Most of the time I was there. I would wake up frequently. Now something to consider is that insomnia? Well, maybe, but also you're jet lagged, so you're not going to sleep through. It's just not going to happen. So I wasn't getting six hours through and through. I was getting more like two, and then I'd wake up and then maybe two again and then wake up and that would go on until the morning, maybe two to three. But I didn't feel I was tired. I was definitely tired, but I didn't let that destroy me. I guess. I tried to just be and tried to really live and experience being there. So really that's kind how the trip, that was the first trip too. I went again actually.

Beth (43:52):

Yeah, I mean I remember I was just so proud of you and I hope you do really acknowledge how it takes a lot of courage to do that. At the point that you were in and you did it, and I know it had to have been hard, but you really did apply all those things we talked about. And then when you got back, I think that somehow that can shake out a little bit when you're there and you remember the things like you're talking about, well, I'm tired and I'm waking up a lot, but this isn't actually because even people without insomnia experience that. And then you got back and how did you reconcile it when you got back? Because I think it took a bit of time. Tell me more about that. If I'm remembering right.

Austyn (44:48):

Actually, from what I remember, I don't think I had that big of an issue when I had gotten back. I remember, I actually think I adjusted pretty quick back to the time zone. I remember I would go to sleep, I think. So the first night I got back I landed, and it must've been around three or four EST. So for them they're six hours ahead. It's already almost midnight, so I technically would be going to bed, but I ended up staying up until midnight my time. And so I ended up going to bed and I think I woke up around six or seven in the morning here. So what happened was essentially for the first couple days I got back, I was just waking up a little bit earlier than I normally would, and it kind of just ended up going back to now I'm waking up at eight, nine, sometimes 10.

And I was pretty much okay for a little bit. I don't really remember if I had too many issues after, but she did come back in July and we did stay at two Airbnbs. One was the same one. I don't know if I had any issues there, but I did have slight issues with the second one because the second we got there, I'm just very anxious and paranoid sometimes. So I'm checking, I don't know, I'm just very on guard with new environments and everything. So it takes me a couple of days sometimes to kind of sink in and allow, but eventually, and there was nights I was up, we were watching movies or whatever till three in the morning. So then when we go to bed, I was just thinking to myself, well, am I going to sleep and whatever. But eventually, yeah, I did and I would just sleep in late. And

Beth (46:58):


Austyn (47:00):

That's kind of how that went for a while.

Beth (47:05):

And I think at your stage in life, that's actually pretty common and just always remembering that your sleep system is very resilient and dynamic and can make those changes, especially at your stage. And I remember one other big thing that you did was when you went to get another tattoo,

Austyn (47:30):

Right? Yeah. Which

Beth (47:33):

Was kind the birth of when this all started,

Austyn (47:36):

Right? Yeah. And I remember I talked to you about that. So I actually got the one that I was supposed to get that triggered it all. I was going to get a portrait done of Mac Miller on my arm, and it just didn't work out since I didn't sleep that night. But then it all came full circle and I remade the appointment. Now it's over a year later or something. And then I remember I talked to you and I was like, I don't know how this will go. This is kind of what start where it all started and I got it done. So that night I didn't beat myself up too much. I did only probably get around four hours. It was definitely harder with the pressure of that old pressure came back. So it wasn't the worst thing though. It was just that I couldn't really relax enough to get enough rest. But I still ended up managing to get some, and it was fine. I ended up getting everything done. And after that, I think sometimes even then, if I had a bad night, I would sometimes think, okay, well I don't want to have another bad night. So then that kind of comes back up. That's very normal to have, I feel like. And even recently, I've actually once in a while had that and usually it just doesn't ever get to that point. Already kind of been through the worst of it,

Beth (49:17):

Those kinds of thoughts. They just slowly fade into the background. And even when they do show up, because I'm years out now and I took a trip recently and I was sleeping in different places every night, and some of those fears kind of came forward and I was like, oh, how fascinating that this would be the case after so long. But you just don't get wrapped up in them as much, and you realize it's just some residual fear coming to the surface, and that's just means you have a normal brain,

Austyn (49:51):

Right? Yeah, no, absolutely. That's the thing. You don't want to get too hung up on it. And I think after the tattoo for me, I think I talked to you, I ended up getting a job at a store nearby at the CCB D store. And so when I started that, this was very new, so I actually didn't get great rest the first night, but then I ended up just kind of falling into it and it was fine. It was just an adjustment. So it's like sometimes you just put yourself in situations where you need to adjust to certain things and then once you do your brain kind of just, it'll calm down everything.

Beth (50:40):

Yeah, I remember you were concerned about getting up earlier, right? It was like an earlier shift. Yeah. Yep, absolutely. And again, I think even people without insomnia have to have that adjustment period, which is very Okay. Alright, well I have one last question for you, Austin. What absolutely some, well, first I want to say, would you like to share your information about your band and where you are and where people can find you?

Austyn (51:12):

Yeah, sure. So my artist name is Who am I? But I'll spell it because me saying it is not how it's spelled at all. It's spelled W-H-X-A-M-I. It's one word and instead of an O and who it's an x, I just swapped out the syllable. So it's just one word, W-H-X-A-M-I. And you can look that up on Instagram and it's W-H-X-A-M-I underscore on Instagram. But just the name everywhere else on any streaming platform, my music is pretty much everywhere you can hear it. And I think I've written a lot actually about even stuff like this. I had a song called Black Cats was essentially about out going through everything. I don't mention insomnia specifically in the song, but it was written about that whole thing that time. So I talk a lot about things that I go through, mental struggles, health, all that stuff. It's very deep and personal. It's almost like an online journal type of thing.

Beth (52:28):

Amazing, amazing. Okay. So for our last question, what were some of the silver linings that came with insomnia for you?

Austyn (52:40):

So one big one I think was meeting Isabella. I think definitely it's like she's a living angel in my opinion. It's like she's incredible. And so that's the interesting thing. Insomnia. It seems like it's the worst thing, but when you go, and this is for all of life, when you go through anything really bad, sometimes it takes you getting out of it to see that it's not necessarily all bad. You don't really know if something is really bad or good until you've really gone through the whole thing. So aside from that, I would say it definitely was quite a spiritual experience. I learned a lot about myself and I feel like the old me died and I mean that in a very beautiful way. I changed a lot and I feel like I'm closer to who I actually want to be. And without having gone through that, I don't think that I would be as close. You just get really mentally calloused to certain things after you go through a lot. So I got closer to God essentially, and closer to my higher self and that was one of the most scary experiences ever. But also it's beautiful. It's just everything is perspective. So I would say that's the major silver linings of silver, my personal experience with it,

Beth (54:29):

Getting the goosebumps, got the goosebumps. Austin, I can't thank you enough for being here today and for any of the other MIND BODY SLEEP alums out there. If you would like to come on the podcast, reach out to me and I would love to have you. Until next time, I'm Beth Kendall and this is the MIND BODY SLEEP Podcast. Bye for now.

Austyn (54:53):

Take care. Thanks so much for having me.

Beth (54:55):


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