Monday, February 28, 2011

Insomnia: A Little Me Time

I think it started around 4am, that tickle of responsibility, both real and imagined. I opened my eyes and peered up at the sickly green glow that comes from our clock, a glow that seems to increase in intensity, eventually illuminating the entire bedroom. What at first appears as a dark bedroom slowly transforms into a strange sci-fi light and shadows seem to spill out from every direction.


I listened to the cycles of breath that seemed to come from all around me, human and animal. What woke me? Oh yes, that little incessant voice of my insomnia, the one that whispers about things that need to be accomplished, things left undone. I slammed my eyelids closed, pressing the lids together hoping to just drift back into the quiet of a dreamless sleep, as though the force of my eyelids closing could hold back that flood.

Sleep didn't return. Instead I began to compile ridiculous lists of tasks that stretched into an uncertain future months and years down the road. My busy brain was just getting warmed up. I have dealt with my insomnia for my entire lifetime. While I have come to realize that there is no "cure" I have developed some coping strategies.

Once I realized that there was no hope for a drift off I decided to employ my emergency insomnia response strategies. Rather than trying to move beyond the list that was beginning to grow I decided to face it head on, to acknowledge each and every thing that seemed so very important.

First there were the looming deadlines (teaching, graduation application, the art show next month, etc.). I took a moment to consider them, made some plans of attack and then moved on. Next there were the vague plans about the future (yoga teaching certification, publishing, returning to Montana). I took a deep breath and managed to see those ideas through to their conclusions. Finally there were the nonsense thoughts (what if the battery in the fire alarm that Eric just changed less than a week ago is dead?). I let those thoughts run wild and focused rational thought on those silly notions, watching them disappear into the greenish 4am shadows.

I then closed my eyes again, liberated from the nonsense. Breathing deeply, matching my breath to the many rhythms of sleep going on in the bedroom. I knew that I was too alert to fall back to sleep, but I decided to just focus on breathing and resting. Even though my mind wouldn't let me free of wakefulness I could still rest my body. I lay there, confident that morning would soon arrive, meditating and keeping my busy mind at bay. Eventually I turned on a little reading light and started to read, using the last bits of silence just to enjoy time to myself.

I got up before everyone else, even Bumblebee stayed in her bed, giving me a wimpy little wag before she fell back to sleep. I took a little more time to myself. Sure, I may be a little tired, but I also kind of feel like I've had some much needed "me time."

Do you struggle with insomnia? How do you deal with it?


Clare said...

This is a very odd comment. But I am home with a cold and i just watched "Hideaway", and interesting but bothersome French movie, starring Isabelle Carre. And she looked like a face I'd seen, and that! So IMDB her and see. I am your Ella Stitchgerald suggesting friend from Northern CA, a yoga teacher and a vegan who is charmed by you blog,

Emily said...

I sometimes struggle with insomnia, but not so much in waking up in the middle of night. Mine has always been not being able to fall asleep to begin with. Like you, my brain runs wild sometimes and I have a hard time turning it off. There was a period of about four years where I really struggled to fall asleep. I would try to drink some chamomile tea, take a hot bath, read, do some deep breathing, and pray. All of those things helped very much. Although I will admit there were several occasions where in desperation I reached for Tylenol PM. Not sure what to do when you wake up at 4:00 and can't go back to sleep, but you seem to have handled it very well!

Momma CupKate said...

Right now, insomnia is guaranteeing that I meet my deadlines. When i wake before I'd like to, I work on papers or make special home made treats for my family. Usually, though, I make lists. Sounds odd and a bit dull, I know. Eventually, however, my joy in list-making and planning wanes and I begin to either fall asleep or my day can legitimately begin with me swiping thing off my list all day long. Dream Sweetly.

Balancing stilettos and scrubs said...

Hey Maria! I was referred to your blog by another blogger, I love it! I couldn't comment earlier from my phone for some reason, so here I am :) Thank you for following me back. I am going to subscribe by email if I can so I can be sure to get updates. I love that we are both raising vegan kiddos. My little guys are getting so big! My pediatrician is supportive and is always interested to hear what they love to eat. So happy I found your blog!

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