What I Wish You Knew About Having Insomnia
Last updated: November 2022
Insomnia sucks. I wish you knew just how much. Not that I would wish it upon you – I most assuredly would not – but there is a silent apartness that comes from feeling very alone. I wish you knew...
What having insomnia feels like
When the rest of the world closes their eyes, lets go of their cares, and drifts off into gentle slumber, I lie in my warm and comfy bed wondering if tonight might be the night that my mind rests. That instead of a cascade of overlapping thoughts that continue without interruption, I might know what it means for peace to descend.
A constant state of hyperarousal leaves me unable to shut off thought processes and drift away. I’ve heard my husband say he can just sit and not think. What does that even mean?! How is that possible?
My thoughts never turn off
I want you to know that my thoughts never turn off. I can sometimes exert a level of control that leads them away from dark tunnels and into the light. But my mind is as active at midnight as it is at noon. In fact, sometimes I wonder if it’s more active during the night because I have nothing else to distract it.
When the last of the day’s activities have been put to bed – the television and computer shut down, the vacuum cleaner tucked away and phone flicked to do not disturb, the to-do list crossed off for another day – there is nothing left but me and my thoughts. And they dance a merry dance for hour upon exhausting hour.
My head hits the pillow and wakefulness comes
When the rest of the world gets tired and goes to bed, I get tired and wake up. I start to nod off on the couch and think, tonight’s the night! But the sight of my pillow raises my heart rate and decreases my sleepiness. My head hits that pillow and wakefulness comes upon me again.
Sleep is a delinquent, rageful mistress that visits when, and only when, she chooses.
What to do all night?
What should I do in the middle of the night when everyone else is tucked up tightly, enjoying the blissful stillness and silence that fills the evening air? Should I get up? Should I lie there and practice all the psychology skills I’ve learned to still the mind? Should I give in to anger and frustration?
There is no easy answer. Sometimes I cloak myself in eternal optimism and stay in bed, willing sleep to come. Sometimes I give in to the inevitable and get back up again.
Enough is never enough
I want you to know that when I do sleep I wake up exhausted. Because enough is never enough. I have never known this magical 7 to 8 hours of unbroken shuteye that Google declares to be optimal. Don’t get me wrong, every single minute of sleep I get is a joy to me. It is 1 less minute awake. One minute closer to daybreak. But it is never enough.
The trouble with sleep is that you don’t remember it. Every waking minute stays with me, but sleep – be it a minute or an hour – disappears in the blink of an eye. Sleeping in short bursts feels like I’ve been awake all night – I can only remember the wakefulness. And that is exhausting too.
When I wake, my body is weighted down with fatigue sluggishly flowing through my veins. Thought processes are often muddled and my movements a struggle.
Why I still have hope
I want you to know that sometimes I feel robbed. Robbed of the energy that once danced inside of me, igniting me to do the things I wanted to do and pushing me on to do the things I had to do but didn’t want to. As energy saps away, so does productivity.
But I also want you to know there is hope. I have lived with insomnia for so very, very long and after being critically sleep-deprived for decades I found help. I found doctors that listened and medications that helped.
I haven’t turned into a magical sleeping fairy but I have touched the joys of restful slumber and I place my curly head upon the pillow every night, with hope in my heart that my eyes will close and I will drift away. Because sometimes my friend, that happens these days.
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