I used sleep like a wind up clockwork doll. Wind me up with breakfast and watch me go until those 10 minutes before bed when my spring would wind down and I’d stop, pass out and sleep for the next 8 hours.
It was a beautiful thing and I totally took it for granted. Every night, 8 hours for the first 35 hours of life. Falling asleep was a simple as getting into bed, opening my book, turning a few pages and then bam.. out like a light. Didn’t matter if I had been drinking, if it was 6pm or midnight, whether I’d just drank a cappuccino or eaten a curry. Bed, book, out.
I haven’t fallen asleep like that for over 7 years.
These days, sleep involves a wrestling match between me, my mattress, my pillows, my overwrought brain processing every mistake or error or worry that I’ve collected during the day, and my ever shrinking bladder. (isn’t aging awesome?) Oh, and occasionally my dog deciding that something smells scary 3 floors down and I need to be protected by some erstwhile barking. (shoulda got a cat)
Frankly its a miracle I get any sleep at all.
I thought it was a phase bought on my divorce. After 5 years next to someone – even one who talked and shouting in his sleep, his absence was disquieting. I was used to falling asleep with our feet intertwined, no matter how distant our heads and hearts were at the other end of the bed.When he was gone.. my feet felt untethered. My head started whizzing and sleep became something I used to do.
I tried sleeping pills and therapy. A year later, I was pretty much done with both since neither was particularly effective. Ambien knocked me out within about 15 minutes, but I found myself awake every morning at 3am no matter when I took it. Lunesta worked better, but I kept dreaming about death night after night, crazy ways of dying that even Michael Bay hasn’t imaged yet.. waking up at 3am as usual. Except this flavor was covered in sweat and terrified. They don’t put that in the advert.
I tried melatonin, light therapy, green tea extract, cutting out caffeine after noon, staying up late, going to bed early. Yoga, meditation, cold room and warm room. Milk at bedtime, book and no book. Ear plugs, eye masks and white noise machines. Lavender on my pillow, in my bath, lavender everywhere until the dog refused to come into the bedroom.
No wonder, it smelled like a AARP convention (sans the pee)
3 am still feels the same no matter what prep you’ve done for it. Too early to get an ambitious jump on the day. Too late to take another pill or try to wait to fall asleep (I tried it and missed a plane, a half marathon and too many conference calls to count).
I went back to therapy wondering whether the loss of a warm body in the bed next to me was the cause, whether I still had “issues” with my divorce, maybe I wasn’t dealing with something else that I just wasn’t aware of?Maybe I’d been taken over by demon spirits.. (hey I was tired, and not a little desperate)
I adjusted my anxiety meds. I tried new ones. I stopped them all.
Still wide awake.
Apparently 7 years in to my insomnia, I’ve now forgotten how to go to sleep like a normal person. Falling asleep is as foreign to me as swinging across the monkey bars. Something that seemed really easy a long long time ago, but I can’t even hang on the first bar these days.
I’ve resigned myself to pills. After all, as parents know, there comes a point when you just need sleep, and cold turkeying it just resulted in me making major mistakes a work, starting to nap at my desk and once, alarmingly, nodding off while driving.
The new pills knock me out hard enough that a plane could crash into my apartment I doubt I’d wake up. Dangerous sure.. but at least I can get my 8 hours and I do wake up alert and ready to go. (note, this is not an invitation to rob my apartment – my dog is a fierce protector ..hahahahahahahaha)
The one unfortunate side effect. Once you’ve taken the pill, you have a 30 minute period during which you believe you’re fine, but you’re actually starting to be drugged and losing your coherence.
The result? Unintelligible scribbles of book outlines that make no sense. White board bullet points that feature a lot of exclamation points and no logic (boil the black cat?). Pens everywhere. Post it notes with no notes. Glasses set out with no water or contents.
What I’m actually doing in this semi drowsy, drugged up state I have no idea. I never remember and just have to follow the trail of things that look different and ponder what I might have been trying to do. Since no-one has complained I’m assuming it doesn’t involve emailing, calling or texting. I check my bank account and I’m not online shopping. I know I’m not driving or eating. But I am wandering. Writing things down. Taking notes. Starting to do things but then clearly changing my mind.
And to be honest I don’t really care. At least I’m getting some sleep, I don’t dream about being killed and I’ve not woken up at 3am for any reason in a very long time.
Who knows, maybe one day the ability to sleep will return. Girls gotta have dreams.