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I’ve always been so envious of those who can get ready for bed, lie down…and simply fall asleep.
Why do they call it ‘falling’ asleep?? Falling is easy. And for me, sleeping is anything BUT easy.
This tends to go in phases. Sometimes I’ll be fine for a few months, but I can never take sleep for granted. Because there’ll be times when I lie awake for hours and hours, panicking about the impending dawn, and finally fall asleep just as everyone else is waking up.
I’m tired today. Tired because, although I got to bed at a reasonable hour, and I’d been jaw-achingly sleepy all day, as soon as I pulled the duvet up to my chin, my heart sank – I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep. Probably for hours. Eventually though, I did finally start dropping off. I had enough consciousness left to feel that blessed relief, that little mental fist-pump, “Yay! I’m falling asleep…”
At that moment, there was a heart-stoppingly loud crash from the en-suite. The bl**dy toilet roll holder had fallen off the wall again.
And that was it. My eyes were wide open. I’d been there so long, the room didn’t even look dark anymore, and my head was filled with the clamour of pointless thoughts that whirled and paraded self-importantly, in tandem with my inner clock counting down the minutes left till dawn.
About 8 years ago, the insomnia had reached unbearably relentless levels. Having young children obviously messed with my already fragile sleep routine, and I just couldn’t switch my brain off. It was probably a symptom of the PND and PTSD that I mentioned before.
I eventually caved and went to see my doctor, who prescribed some apparently MILD sleeping pills.
Here’s what happened…
I took a pill before bed, as directed, and was asleep within the hour, although there wasn’t that drowsy, pleasant sense of ‘dropping off’ – just a sudden blackness. Gradually, within the blackness, tiny dots of colour coalesced into the forms of small, gnome-like men. I realised the men had metal mallets and were rhythmically digging them into my brain matter – which would explain the terrible pain in my head. I found them funny though. They had such little red and green legs. Hilarious.
I laughed and laughed, until the echoey sound reverberating against the back drop of the tinny mallet strikes began to freak me out. I couldn’t stop laughing though. There was something gut-bustingly funny about realising that the red and green men had been responsible for my insomnia all along.
As often happens when one laughs too much, I became aware that I needed the toilet.
I tried to move, but I was paralysed. I was awake. Obviously, I was awake, because I could see the gnomes and hear them, but I couldn’t move. This lasted a long time, until I had relearned how to send a signal from my brain to my nervous system.
I dragged myself up to a sitting position, knocking a cup off the bedside table.
“Shhhhh!” I whispered to the table.
15 minutes later I managed to haul myself to my feet, but my feet seemed to have turned into blocks of rubber. How curious. I didn’t have any toes. I picked up each block of rubber in turn, stomping unevenly out of the bedroom and on to the landing.
Funny. I couldn’t find the bathroom. I was surprised to find the landing was so LONG. When had it grown so goddam long?? It seemed like a good time to stop and sing a rather beautiful rendition of a song. Can’t remember the words, but it doesn’t matter in the least.
I forgot why I was there.
This is where Hubby found me, lurching drunkenly from side to side – literally bouncing off the walls. It was a good thing we still kept the stair gate shut at the top of the stairs, otherwise I may well have taken a dive down to the bottom. I don’t like to ask whether he had to help me go to the loo – some things are probably better forgotten - but he definitely had to help me back to bed, where I collapsed and listened to the chatter of gnomes for the rest of the night.
Jeez. I don’t do drugs, but I imagine that was a pretty decent imitation of a trip.
Needless to say, I hid the pills and kept them for special occasions.
I never took another one again – I couldn’t imagine the shame of a headstone that read, “Died plunging down the stairs, singing tunelessly, whilst drunk as a skunk on a sleeping pill.”
These days I make do with meditation and it really does help. Meditating can induce a sleep-like state which is surprisingly refreshing, even if it only lasts a few minutes. I find that if I can meditate during the day, I’m more likely to sleep well at night (but I don’t want to jinx it by saying that out loud). However, I’m just as likely to be found on the sofa at 2am, watching Grey’s Anatomy and stuffing popcorn in my mouth; avoiding going to bed is a (stupid) way of avoiding not being able to sleep.
If anyone has a fail-safe way of falling asleep at night that doesn’t involve alcohol, drugs or whale music, please do let me know. x