I struggle with sleep. I have never been able to strike a healthy balance between too much, and too little. Over the years, with the exception of the occasional marathon sleep, I generally haven’t got nearly as much as I’d have liked to. I’ve always thought of this as something that was annoying, but just had to be dealt with. Until recently. Well, I say ‘recently’, but it’s actually been more than four years. I have gone from an average of between four and six hours, to between one and two. I say and average, because very often, I just don’t sleep. Not at all. No matter how tired I am, how much my body is screaming out for sleep, my mind refuses.
Sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture, and I can see why. After a few days of absolutely no sleep, I feel sick, disorientated, overwhelmed. Sometimes, I see things that aren’t there – sometimes I know that they aren’t real, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I am terrified, and sometimes I feel so desperate I’d give anything to make it stop. Anything.
But that does’t mean I actually want to sleep. Because… and this is the difficult part. Here goes…writing this seems a bit silly, but the reason my mind won’t let me sleep is that I have nightmares. Having spoken to other people, I’m pretty sure that these are not ‘normal’ bad dreams. I shout things and lash out in my sleep (I have been told). I wake, terrified, unable to breathe. Occasionally, I can’t move, and I see things in the dark. Sleep is not ‘safe’, so my mind fights with all it’s worth to prevent it from happening. I am fully aware that this may make me sound childish, pathetic, or even like a bit of a drama queen. That some people may think that I should just get over it. Believe me, I wish I could. This is part of my recovery, part of getting better. Something I hope to change.
In the mean time, I remain sleep deprived. And I do what I can to counteract the unpleasant side effects. I try to rest at night, even if I’m not sleeping. I try to limit negative self-talk, and stay calm. I’m working on using relaxation techniques. I try my hardest to reach out to people when things get too much for me to cope with alone. In addition, I have been given medication to help me sleep. Sometimes it works, sometimes it just means that I can’t wake properly from dreaming…which is scary. Very scary. Also, the medication causes a feeling which is very similar to a hangover the day after. It’s not a permanent solution. But it can provide a brief chance for rest, and for that, I’m grateful.