My Recent Trip to Italy…
This year, I celebrated ten years of The DIY Playbook. To celebrate this milestone for my business, I decided to organize a trip to Italy with a group of readers. I posted about the trip last fall, and to be totally honest, I was very nervous about the entire thing. What if no one signed up? Was I silly to think that this was a good idea? It’s a big ask to have someone spend a lot of money and leave their life and family for over a week to travel halfway across the globe! Would anyone actually come?
Little by little, the spots started booking up and I could hardly believe it! Who were these women that wanted to spend time together in Europe? I’ll tell you…the most amazing group I could have asked for. A group of smart, compassionate, and adventurous women who were looking to explore somewhere new with people they had never met. We held two Zoom calls before our trip to get to know one another and it was so fun to learn more about each and every person. The group was composed of women of all different ages, from all across the country, with various backgrounds and travel experiences. I couldn’t have been more excited to actually meet everyone in person!
An Unexpected Twist…
Today’s post was originally supposed to be a big recap of our trip showcasing gorgeous photos of our adventures and a detailed outline of our itinerary. Well, my trip took an unexpected turn and I wasn’t able to complete the entire thing. Let’s backtrack, so you can get the full story…
Flying In Early
I decided to fly to Milan a day early (along with my mom and her friend, Jenni) so I could get settled, get a good night of rest, and be ready to greet my group when they all arrived. I’ve traveled to Europe a few times and, like most people, I’ve dealt with the usual jet lag. Italy is seven hours ahead, so I expected to feel a little wonky adjusting to the new time zone, but knew it would pass in a day or two.
I took an overnight flight to Milan and didn’t get any sleep on the plane, so I decided to stay up the following day and go to bed at a reasonable hour. I was tired that first day but I knew that I would be right on track after a good night of rest. Thankfully, I got about eight hours of sleep and I was ready to greet my group of travelers when they arrived.
Meeting My Amazing Group!
Our group arrived and we spent the day exploring Milan and getting to know one another.
We also had a delicious welcome dinner at a local restaurant. It was such a successful first day and I went to bed so happy and excited for more fun together.
Back at home, I’m pretty quick to fall asleep and usually get about eight hours of rest a night. Unfortunately, that night, I couldn’t sleep. And when I say “couldn’t sleep”, I’m not saying that I got a lousy night of rest with an hour of sleep here and there. I’m telling you that I literally did not get one minute of sleep. Not one minute.
This had never happened to me before and I was a bit panicked. But, I had another full day of activities to get through (a bike tour throughout the city), so I powered through and vowed to take an afternoon nap before our dinner that evening.
Sleep Anxiety Sets In
Now it was night two, and my body and mind were so tired. However, yet again, I didn’t get one minute of sleep. I laid in bed doing every single thing I possibly could. I meditated, read, listened to a book on tape, took a bath, and did everything I possibly could to relax my mind. My body was very relaxed, but my mind just kept repeating, “Go to sleep, go to sleep, you have to sleep.” I had my mom come to my room to lie with me and help me get to bed. We tried everything, but again…not one moment of sleep. I was just so anxious about not sleeping that my mind wouldn’t fully release.
On the third day, we had a trip to Lake Como, which was a few hours away. I knew I didn’t want to miss it, but, at this point, I had been up for about 50 hours straight. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was possible.
My body was physically able to move around and be there, but my mind was so foggy and almost delirious at this point. I powered through, did my best to enjoy this absolutely magical destination, and finally got to the point at the end of the day that I knew I needed some medical intervention…
Seeing a Doctor (In Italy)
I ended up scheduling a Telehealth visit with a local doctor to explain the situation. She prescribed me a sleep aid and said it should help me finally get a good night of sleep. I was relieved when I got the medicine. Surely, this would work! I could sleep a full night, wake up feeling more like myself, and finally get to enjoy this trip and this amazing group of women.
I took the meds and my body was fully relaxed, but again, my mind would not stop. I started having panic attacks and I was shaking and crying uncontrollably. How could I not sleep? It’s something that I’ve done every single night of my entire life. I had gone through two newborn stages with my kids, where I survived on little sleep. But even then, I would get an hour or two here and there to keep me going. Here, it was not one minute.
My mind had been up for far too long and my health was rapidly deteriorating. Thankfully, I had my mom by my side through all of this mental anguish and torture.
Making The Hard Decision
On that third night, after 72 hours of not one minute of sleep, my mom made the call…I had to go home to see a doctor and get back to my own bed and family. I called Finn and had him book me on the next flight home. I had a 16-hour day of travel, going to Munich and finally home to Chicago. Again, my mind didn’t let me sleep on the plane. Finn picked me up from the airport and I just sobbed uncontrollably the entire ride home.
I got home, took a Xanax (that I was able to get from my doctor for this emergency situation), and FINALLY slept 12 hours straight. In total, I was up for 88 hours, which, I didn’t even know was truly possible.
Seeing a Doctor (Back Home)
Luckily, I was able to get in to see my doctor right away and she prescribed me something to calm my sleep anxiety and help my body get back into a sleep rhythm. She explained that, at first, my body was just experiencing normal jet lag. However, it quickly turned to sleep anxiety, where my mind wouldn’t ever fully relax.
It may sound silly to you, but it was incredibly terrifying. Logically, I knew that at some point I would sleep again. But, I was so afraid when it came time for bed and my heart would race at the thought of not sleeping.
My Sleep Experience Since
It took a number of days to get back into a normal sleep routine at home. I’m slowly weaning off of the medication that my doctor prescribed, and I’m hopeful that I will never experience this again. Although, if I do, I will now be more prepared. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty easy sleeper and I won’t ever take that for granted again.
Thank You To This Fantastic Group
While I’m relieved to be feeling better, I’m still utterly heartbroken about my trip. Everyone was supportive, understanding, and empathetic to my situation and encouraged me to make the tough decision to leave early. My mom, sister, and assistant, Lindsey, continued on and led the group as they journeyed to their next destination, Venice. I loved seeing all of the photos and hearing about how much fun they all had together. They didn’t need me to have a good time. They just needed the opportunity to do something a little outside of the ordinary and explore a new place with like-minded people.
I’m hopeful that we can do a Chicago reunion someday so I can spend more time with this awesome tribe!
More to Come…
So, there you have it, my sleepless saga. It’s still hard for me to believe the turn of events with this one. I certainly never saw it coming! I looked forward to this trip for about nine months, and I’m really sad that it turned out the way it did.
I will be back with two more Italy posts (a vacation recap and a guide on what to pack). My mom has graciously offered to lend her voice to fill in any details that I missed. I know that I’ve heard from many of you who have Italy on your bucket list, so I’m hopeful that these upcoming blog posts will be helpful! And wait until you see more of these gorgeous pictures…
One more thing to note: I am not looking for any unsolicited feedback/advice as to my sleeping situation. I am working closely with my doctor on this and I think any unsolicited advice would only make my anxiety worse. Thank you for understanding and keeping your remedies to yourself.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.