What Dictates a Milestone?

This past week, I hit what my aunt described as a milestone. By milestone, she meant my 35th birthday.

Life isn’t something I view chronologically. Simply turning another year older doesn’t strike me as a significant life event. However, it made me look back at the person as was at different points in my life.

Insomnia is my ever-present constant

Recently, I wrote about my experience of watching my high school graduation video with my 2 teenage children.

Once again, I found myself reminiscing on who I used to be over the years and who I am now. It seems the only thing 4-year-old Rachael, 17-year-old Rachael, and now 35-year-old Rachael have in common is our never changing, ever-present insomnia.

In no way does this mean I was reflecting negatively on my life. I've done many things to be proud of despite insomnia. Things people were openly expecting me to walk away as a failure.

Coping and thriving with insomnia

I joined the military as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, like many people my age did. Enlisting with the memories of watching the events of 9/11 horrifically unfold on live television a few years prior. My parents reluctantly signed for me to enlist since I was under 18 at the time.

No attempt was made on their part to hide the fact they thought I would fail. Insomnia helped me thrive in basic training. There were many nights we got very little sleep. The only difference between civilian insomnia and basic training insomnia was the drill sergeants who found fun and creative ways to act as human alarm clocks. I have always known what I am capable of, but I needed to make sure those around me no longer had the doubt as well.

Insomnia and family life

I have raised 2 intelligent, kind, and handsome boys, along with my husband who has the loving patience to tolerate my inevitable irritability over minor things due to lack of sleep. His level of tolerance and understanding, even on my worst days, still confounds me.

Despite exhaustion and the slew of other effects insomnia has on my body, I've devoted myself to be the best mother I can be. Some are lucky enough to learn how to parent by example, but I am still learning as I go. This will soon include trusting my freshly minted 15-year-old behind the wheel of my vehicle.

An unexpected gift

I went to college late and insomnia no longer worked in my favor as it did in high school. I still worked just as hard and found my purpose in life. On many sleepless nights, I would sit with my husband, watching him study while working full-time and attending nursing school full-time. Watching him grow into an incredibly competent and caring nurse who thrives in his profession is a scarce gift given to me by insomnia.

Milestones shape us

I'm not saying life has always been easy, or insomnia does not impact me in profound ways. After a diagnosis of epilepsy, life changed again, and I became the current version of myself.

I stopped treating insomnia as just a card life dealt and actively worked on becoming a healthier version of myself. There will be another version of Rachael somewhere down the road. I believe these are the milestones that shape us, not chronological age, even if insomnia interferes at every opportunity possible.

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