You’re standing on a train station platform, waiting. Then you hear it, that poooing poooing sound shooting along the metal tracks, the hum of some 1,500 volts powering past just before the train comes into the station.
Now imagine if there was no other sound than that bolt of electricity and it wasn’t followed by a train trundling into station. Imagine you were just left standing there and the sound you could now hear wasn’t the electricity pulsating down the line, but just its steady flow. A high pitched hum. Constant.
That’s the easiest way I can articulate the noise that I hear at night, keeping me awake. Awake on so many nights. I hear electricity.
I know how ludicrous this sounds, but as someone who over the past 2.5 years has really suffered with insomnia, I have found this noise to be the most intimidating and infuriating sound ever! It has made me angry, made me question my sanity and ultimately reduced me to tears, great big, heart sobbing tears.
I’d lay there, wondering if anyone else could hear it. I have even on occasion, ventured to asking the person next to me if they can hear it. What would I expect the response to be? I mean it’s crazy right?!
I have learnt the hard way the ludicrously cruel effects of sleep deprivation. The occasional missed night’s sleep, followed by restless nights, followed by the desperate need to get through the day so I could rest my weary soul down at night only to lay there, lay there longing myself to fall asleep, watching the hours tick by. The hours I so desperately needed to sleep for. Or I’d fall asleep instantly for a couple of hours only to wake in the middle of the night unable to return to sleep. Refusing to get up as the darkness would lift, determined to remain in bed, eyes firmly closed so I could sleep until my alarm would go.
I wouldn’t sleep.
I would get up more tired than I had gone to bed. I started to shake upon waking, palpitations ricocheting through my body as I would move. Black dots darting before my eyes at the slightest movement of my head. I would feel weak, struggling to have my brain think. Easy to snap and retort or take offence, easy to read into situations and instead created the future that I feared, to be isolated and alone – no one could possibly want me when I can’t do the simplest of human acts… sleep. My legs would wobble, my heart beat strongly and intermittently, my hands shake, my head oh so tired, my soul exhausted.
I longed for a normal life. I knew I wasn’t me. I would apologise for not being me, but if you didn’t know ‘me’ before, then of course this was me, but you didn’t know the me I wanted to be again. I am a fun, level headed and caring person. I loved to go out, I enjoyed time with friends and family, I wasn’t a big night owl, but I did remember how I loved to go out even until he early hours. Yet here I was, craving my own company, my own bed, my own ridiculous schedule to assist the refreshing sleep that I never quite received. Others looked forward to the weekend to let their hair down, go out, enjoy themselves and then sleep in. I looked upon it as the only window in which I had no pressure to wake to attend work, it would mean I would get maybe one evening of sleep a week. To spend time with a loved one was difficult, straining. Straining to be the me I knew was inside, the one who desperately wanted to be normal in their ability to go out and have fun, but which unfortunately really needed sleep. It was difficult to enjoy life as much as I would ordinarily. A normal night out of one or two drinks may take days or a week to recover from. In truth, i don’t feel I ever felt I recovered from anything, it was just another knock in my side, a great night out, but I was more exhausted than ever – each day, a little less like me.
A late night – beyond 10:30 would send me into panic attacks that I would not have enough hours in which to fall asleep. I see now I was a mess.
The summer months brought longer days, light evenings and even lighter mornings. My body unable to sleep in the daylight, it found only a few hours window in which sleep was possible and even then, it wasn’t guaranteed.
I consider myself very self aware, I have know for many years that where others may only function after a coffee in the morning, I am truly only me when I am well rested. I could see myself fading into the distance. I was so disappointed in myself for not being able to sufficiently address the root cause, or provide enough control to assist matters.
Stress. I had too much going on. I was trying to be too many things to too many people and ultimately I wasn’t being me. I wasn’t being true to myself. I was putting myself last, not so far behind that it was obvious I wasn’t keeping up. For I was nurturing myself with nutritious food and yoga. These I could control. I couldn’t control what stresses would be thrown in my direction (a combination of parents’ poor health, which includes the emotions of dealing with undiagnosed dementia and anxiety helping them moving home, inept double glazing and kitchen installers and a never ending house sale, whilst subconsciously feeling financially responsible for three households) I had taken off more than I could chew. I had also found an amazing person to spend my future with and I was fearful my stresses and who I was becoming / had become was not anything anyone could ever be attracted to, I wasn’t the person I remembered, liked or wanted to be. I wanted to feel like me again. Not just a dragged out of bed version of me. The stress of not sleeping, or not sleeping restfully made me want to run away.
I just wanted to sleep.
I wanted everyone to leave me alone, just please leave me alone and make it all go away. I wanted to run away from it all and be held, told everything was going to be ok. But I couldn’t see how it was going to be ok, how could someone want to be there to hold me? Instead I’d romanticise about becoming a hermit on a beach or living in a cottage far from everything and everyone. But this was not what I truly wanted. One of my biggest fears is to be unwanted – a hermit, alone. Yet here I was, retracting myself step by step from the world because I just wanted to feel rested again. I felt like no one really understood just how absolutely exhausted I was.
I could paint on a fresh face, put on a dress and step onto the stage of life daily. But my performance was tired and holes were beginning to show. The makeup and costumes couldn’t hide it all for much longer. I had absolutely nothing left to give, not even my smile would come freely. The skip in my step. Gone.
Sleep. I wanted and needed sleep.
I felt claustrophobic in my bed, I no longer liked the foot and head boards, I was feeling trapped in and this wasn’t aiding my sleep. Was it the mattress, maybe I needed a new mattress? I bought a new mattress. It wasn’t the old mattress after all! It had to be the foot board making me feel trapped. No wait, it was the bendy wooden slates – I was rolling to the centre where they curved downwards – I needed a bed with just flat wooden slates, no foot board and a really firm mattress.
I really did need some sleep.
I created ridiculous unsustainable sleeping rituals. Two hours before bed, I’d turn off the wifi and all forms of technology, I’d have a warm Epsom salts bath by candle light, turn down or switch off the lights, let down the black out blinds, pull the curtains to darken the room, put on meditation music, do some restorative yoga. I’d have the hot water bottle ready, my electric blanket on, my pyjamas and jumper, my duvet and blanket, sniff box, eye mask and earplugs.
I was so sleep deprived I was always incredibly cold. I remembered summers where I was so hot in my house I would pull the sofa cushions to the decking and sleep outside. What had happened? I was now, always so cold, I needed my hot water bottle. On the nights I was even more sleep deprived than usual I would shiver uncontrollably, my teeth chattering together to make their own ridiculous sound. It wouldn’t matter how many jumpers, blankets or hot water bottles I would have, or how tightly my 13.5 tog goose down duvet was tucked in around me, I wouldn’t feel warm until I had slipped into a much needed sleep.
I needed sleep.
If I couldn’t sleep in my bed, by about 2am I would relocate to the spare bed and may fall asleep there instead. Then switching beds wasn’t enough, I started to pull my duvet onto the floor and wrap myself into it there. Somehow I could sleep once I had burrowed myself away on the floor, in the corner of my room.
Each day trying to function in the work place, having spent the majority of the night moving about my house, finding more duvets or blankets, turning pillows over, boiling the kettle to make a fresh hot water bottle, finding another jumper, taking off or putting on socks or hats, plaiting my hair so it was out of the way, laying with a rolled up towel down the length of my spine to encourage me to take slow, deep breaths, laying upside down on my bed with my feet up the wall, laying on my yoga mat as I would slowly and gently twist from side to side in the darkness with a spray of lavender oil, or the chopping in half of a sleeping tablet which would leave me with a groggy head and groggy taste in my mouth.
All of these could help. I needed sleep. I needed all the help I could give myself.
It was an addiction. I needed to feel like me again and therefore I needed sleep. I needed all these helpful sleep aides. I didn’t want the tablets, I was addicted to the need to sleep, I did not want to be addicted to the need for sleeping tablets. I was strict with myself on that. I knew that was a slippery slope that I did not want to go down. I would have to persevere with my ridiculous rituals. One night of good sleep wasn’t enough, I needed my body to feel properly rested again, I needed to feel at ease with life again.
No matter how hard I tried to do the things I had always enjoyed to give my life some balance – it wasn’t working. I was now simply burning the candle at both ends. Trying to have fun, be me again and looking to my future, but doing so was slowly bringing me to a halt. I was haggard. I was beaten.
I have over the years given up on sleeping at friends houses, in boyfriend’s beds. I favoured the floor, the sofa and on extreme occasions (not limited to just once) have driven in the early hours, home – some 14 miles or so. I have even paid my share of a room share at a hotel and bought myself my own room for I am so fearful of not sleeping and keeping the other person awake.
I just needed sleep.
They say, if you have thoughts or solutions running through your head at night – to get up and write them down. Doing this as one offs might work. But switching the light on, doing this regularly, getting up and doing whatever was on my mind – the house work, a complaint letter, some research, some work, it was all then keeping me awake to the point it was time to get ready and go to work.
I simply couldn’t keep trying to do it all. I now look back and think wow, I wasn’t listening to my body. My body was desperately trying to tell me something. Those million thoughts charging through my head as soon as it would hit the pillow. The ones that overwhelmed me and I didn’t know where to start? Well perhaps I had been looking at things from a perspective that could be altered – maybe I didn’t need to try and do them all. Maybe my body was asking me to ditch a few things, in fact there was no maybe about it – I had to for a short while remove working from the equation, while I focused on getting some of the other things on mind, done. It knew it couldn’t do them all in the timescales I was creating, it knew it couldn’t cope for much longer. I look back now and think, wow the body is amazing. It really does send us fantastic messages to help look after ourselves. We just need to be willing to listen to it. Hearing electricity at night, sounded ridiculous, because it was ridiculous. Only being able to fall asleep at 4am, curled up on the floor in a duvet, when you have two empty beds, sounds ridiculous, because it is ridiculous. Yes there are noises, but I would hear this same noise in central London or the heart of the Peak District. Yes I could sleep on the floor – but seriously?! Why?!
In the past ten to twelve weeks many of my stresses over the past two and a half years have come to a head or eased. Many are still present. Three things have changed… the fact that some of the stresses have gone away, the fact that I have recognised that I was taking steps towards becoming what I feared most – isolated and unlovable and also that I can not do everything (no one can), ultimately my attitude my outlook on what I can achieve and want from my life has changed to be something far more true to myself. I have unfortunately throughout this learning, lost something really valuable to me (not just sleep or my former self) and whilst I’m grateful for finally learning the lesson, I wish it hadn’t come at such a price.
My name is Lorraine, I have changed my relationship with myself – what my expectations are and have started to fulfil my own desires.
I am sleeping again.
I can put my head on a pillow and sleep.
I have gone twelves weeks without an eye mask, which I had been wearing for the past 18 months. Over the past seven weeks I have been weening myself off ear plugs. I have been wearing earplugs every night for sixteen years. Don’t even get me started on what would happen if I didn’t have them with me, or I lost one! I would buy them online in boxes of 200. I’m becoming brave in my thinking that I may never need to buy another box. Never again do I want to be so off track with my desires for my life from my reality that I put myself through such stresses for such prolonged periods of time.
I am warm again – I noticed I was cold the other day and checked the thermometer, the house was just 17.7oC. WOW, I laughed at myself, I have really come around. Previously I needed the house heated to 20-21oC and could even then still be far too cold. But here I am now, warm, not shivering, not seeing black dots daily before my eyes, not getting constant bouts of palpitations, not shaking upon waking, not feeling constantly irritable, not with a cloudy head, not wishing the day away so that I lay my body to rest each night, not laying in bed wishing I may sleep, not constantly panicking at the time and if I will manage to sleep.
I now sleep.
It is not always the best sleep and it is disappointing that I have not yet managed an entire week without earplugs. However I look at what I have achieved and the circumstances, the earplugs have been a 16 year addiction and I still have some elements of stresses out of my control on my shoulders and I am happy with managing 3 or 4 consecutive nights without my little orange friends, I will get there. How do I know that? Because I am more like me, the me, that I was missing.
I have learnt a very valuable life lesson for which I paid a high price. But I clearly needed that kind of wake up call. I am being more true to myself, what I want from my life. What I think, what I say and what I am doing is far more aligned.
I’m sleeping again.
I can go to bed, put my head on a pillow and sleep.
I am feeling more like me again.