Thursday, April 30, 2009


I've been well acquained with the wee hours of the morning my whole life. My mother used to tell stories about how, as a baby, I never wanted to go to sleep - my little motor just kept on going, wouldn't sit still, couldn't go to sleep, my eyes would be droopy, I'd be cranky as hell, but I just would NOT (or was it COULD NOT?) go to sleep, so Mom would have to "spank" me to make me cry so I would finally, FINALLY cry myself to sleep. (By "spank", I mean she basically just swatted me on the butt once just loud enough to make a noise that scared me and hurt my feelings, then I would cry myself to sleep). This means I figure I've been an insomniac my whole life.

The most insidious, horrible thing about insomnia, surprisingly, seems to me to not be the actual lack of sleep. For the most part, I feel better after 2 or 3 hours of sleep than I do after 8 straight. True, eventually my body crashes and just has to get more sleep, but - for the most part - the lack of actual sleeping hours isn't what makes insomnia suck so bad. It's the doubt, the self-recriminations at 3 a.m. that come slinking into my room to torment me. In the bright light of day, I'm fairly able to put one foot in front of the other and not stress too much about past, stupid mistakes. At three a.m., though, every mistake I ever made, all the way back to when I was in elementary school, comes to perch on the side of my bed and tell me what a dumbass I am. "You broke up with so-and-so, and now you're all alone. What if he was supposed to be the one, and YOU screwed it up? I mean, look at you, when's the last time you were on an actual date?" is a familiar refrain. As is, "What the hell do you think you're doing? Do you actually think you can be a good mother when you can't even manage to do the dishes consistently every night?" is another. I even get flogged for stupid or mean things I said to my sister and mother as a child, things I never meant in a million years, idle childish threats and spewage that - if only I'd known how quickly they'd be gone - I never would have said or done. So I go back over (and over and over and over) these same mistakes, wondering if they ever forgave me. And of course, it's too late to ask them now. Yet in the light of day, these are not thoughts I would normally have. I get so tired of my own thoughts, mistakes and what-ifs that I grab a book and dive in, struggling to block out all those voices in the wee hours until finally, FINALLY, at 4 or 5 a.m. the book slips out of my hands and I fall asleep, only to have to get up 2 hours later.

I sometimes don't know whether I should laugh or cry when I come to work and all I hear from coworkers is "Gee, you look tired." No, I'm not tired. I wish that's all it was. I'm drained. I'd give anything to only be tired for once. I'll take tired over being sucked dry from things I said or did eons ago anyday. At least you can do something about being tired.


ann said...

Church Lady, here. That's Satan. He gets to me when I'm sleepy, too.

Sometimes when I'm confronted with thoughts like those, I write them down and can look back at them when I'm rational and can logically argue against them--write the rebuttles down to and refer to them when you're not rational again.

Steph said...

Oh, Jenn. I've struggled with this all my life too. You'd think after 33 years I would start to have some peace with insomnia, but in the past few years I have been more terrified of those sleepless hours than ever. I just feel like I can't stand to be alone with my mind in the middle of the night. Now and then when I'm really desperate I get my doctor to write me a Xanax prescription. I try not to take it very often, but occasionally I just have to.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

I know what you mean, better living through chemistry. But like you, I soooo hate to take it, because I always wake up feeling mildly hung-over and discombobulated. That's why I've learned to keep a large supply of books on hand. It's hard to pay attention to the little bastards perched on my bed berating me when I have my nose stuck in a book. If I keep my mind engrossed with a good story, I can't be minutely examining past mistakes. Needless to say, a good portion of my income is spent on books. I don't pick up books at the library because - when I find an author or series I like - I like to go back and revisit them from time to time, kind of like visiting an old friend. What, me compulsive and neurotic? No, of course not. :-)