My insomnia is bigger, nastier and uglier than yours. It’s also more complex and long-lasting than yours. It’s very different. One of a kind. Unique. Impossible. Unbeatable. Incurable.
This was true for me just a while ago. It’s a strange thing to do: Compete with your insomnia. But we do so. I certainly did. And I now repeatedly witness many others doing the same. And by doing so we feed the beast and keep it in good nick.
This whole topic is disturbing. Retrospectively I am still in awe about my own attitude towards insomnia a few years back. But this experience naturally helps me to better understand what’s going on. (And how everyone’s insomnia is more complex than anybody else’s – and for all these various reasons totally untreatable as well.)
A few words about where this whole topic is stemming from. I started to get hints about my sleep sensitivity in my twenties. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t care too much and put it down to my student-party-lifestyle which will end one day. “I’ll sleep tomorrow” was my treatment, and it worked pretty OK. Except that the student years ended, but the sleep problem didn’t. By my mid-thirties I had grown into a full-blown insomniac according to all criteria. “I will sleep later” didn’t work any longer, and neither did any of the quick fixes or meds. I didn’t have a slightest clue what was going on. Now I do. To put a long story short, simply too many things happened for me to cope: Dad died, my best friend died, we built a house, we renovated another, I had a baby, we moved houses, we moved countries, we changed jobs, problems with friends. You get the picture. Even though some of these biggies were positive ones, they were still life-changing. By the time our son was seven years old, he had lived in 3 countries and 7 houses. I didn’t realize my limitations. Instead of taking it easier, I pressed the pedal. Accelerated. Crashed. No big surprise there. Except to me. Of course. Speed had always been my salvation. If you just keep going, you don’t have to face it – whatever the “it” is.
Strangely enough my darkest insomnia bout (not a short one) was very narcissist. It was all about me-me-me. My insomnia is biggest. Mine is special. Mine is unique. Mine is the worst. Mine is untreatable. Mine is incurable. And as a closing bonus: It’s here forever – my lifelong trusted friend. I was living in an insomnia-vacuum. I didn’t seek for help (because nothing can help) but tested all meds and quickies with an ever-accelerating pace. Controversial? You bet.
But as if this all wasn’t enough, now comes the most embrassing part. It simply wasn’t enough that my insomnia felt the biggest and ugliest inside my head – it had to be so universally! I am competitive. So my insomnia must be the biggest or it’s worthless – i.e. not major enough to cause all this pain. So I was vocal about my problem. Lucky me, I had a friend who had the same problem and the same twisted competitive mind. So we competed and argued whose nights were worst, whose meds were strongest, whose life was crappiest, and so forth. This was a hilarious hobby except it wasn’t. I now realize that my stupid thoughts and talks kept the monster satisfied. Our friendship fell out (probably her insomnia was too big for me to accept) and I fell into silence. I stopped talking about it. And what happened? I am pretty sure you guessed it already. I started healing. Which means: Sleeping.
Looking back it’s hard to understand why I was doing this. It now seems so evidently idiotic. Are there regrets in my life? Many – and this is one of them. I have never understood people who say “no regrets, every experience has made me who I am today”. I tell you, I would happily skip this period of my life. And I am still rebounding once in a while. It’s not too long ago (talking about months now) an expert tried to share a piece of valuable information (for free) but I ignored it: “This one is not a problem of mine.” If I recall right, I didn’t even listen to the end of sentence.
It makes me equally sad when I meet fellow-insomniacs who still struggle. Tips and thoughts are not welcomed. The argument arises almost immediately. It’s all about “but” and “me”. …But in my case it’s different, but my reasons have other roots, but my insomnia is special, but it doesn’t work for me….and then either/or: “It’s actually not a biggie (when it clearly is huge)” or “you know what it’s just….different with me”. I am sure it is – in a way – we are all special human beings with special problem mix but here’s the thing: Help is available and sleeping better is doable. But it doesn’t happen by doing nothing and blocking your mind won’t help either. As a summary: It looks like we resist any kind of change as long as we can barely survive (I did) and wait for a miracle like a lottery. Which never comes. The change (even smallest) seems to happen only when we are forced to do it (having no other options left) and then, later, we wonder why didn’t we do this before! Sigh.
So what made me break free? As I wrote above, I crashed. My system crashed. I got pneumonia. Unlike insomnia, pneumonia is concrete. It’s kind of “acceptable”. Even your doctor knows what to do. You get meds, you heal. Slowly. So there’s time to think (because you must slow down – doctor’s order). It’s also very scary. So you think twice as hard. It was Christmas time for me and I guess my hubby got a bit scared too. I got five private yoga lessons as a Christmas present (and then continued). My lovely teacher Michelle was very experienced and specialized into therapeutic, restorative yoga. She taught me to breathe. A basic skill that I had lost due to all this stress and anxiety. But that was the easy part. The almost impossible part was to relearn to rest, take it easy, let it go, accept life as it is. This journey took time (keeps taking) but gave a big present. A calmer life and calmer nights. As I started to find a better life balance I wanted to tackle the sleep problem even more concretely. I read Nerina’s book Tired but Wired (plus later many others) and realized that my insomnia was not special, unique or different. What a disappointment. And lastly, it wasn’t even incurable.
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Yours impossible sensitive sleeper,