Do you ever have trouble sleeping? Isn't it the pits? Laying awake in bed, anxiously waiting for sleep to come upon me, is one of my most dreaded activities.
Every now and then I experience bouts of insomnia. Usually I can take a little something (thanks, CVS-version of a nighttime sleep aid) to help me get over those rough patches. But for whatever reasons, this week the fine ingredient diphenhyramine said 'screw you, you're on your own'. Great.
So this week is kicking my ass. I've not had a decent night's sleep since Saturday night. My main problem has been that I can't get my brain to shut up. And the things that it's thinking about are just ridiculous. As a woman, I have a tendency as I think many of us do, every now and then, to have little moments of insanity. Mine usually rears its ugly head around day 21 and I feel practically righteous in blaming it on hormones.
My insanity usually comes in the form of insecurities though as women I think we all have our special form of insanity, whether it is expressed through anger, depression, guilt... you likely know what I mean. But for me, regardless of whether those insecurities revolve around my physical features, my relationships, or even the things which I typically consider marvelous parts of my personality, they are usually pretty absurd and have no actual basis in reality. Yet they all jostle for space in a brain already overwhelmed by a continuous stream of consciousness.
Now I don't know about you, but my brain seems to almost always be working at 110% capacity on a normal day. I can somehow be thinking (and over-thinking) about things simultaneously. It's really rather exhausting. I think I'd nearly be willing to do anything for an 'off' switch so I could just give myself some peace and quiet every now and then.
This is the blessed, wonderful, adoring thing about sleep. My brain shuts down and I get to rest. For a certain number of hours, I stop over-analyzing conversations, or situations, or actions taken by others. Just peace. So when sleep eludes me, it hurts me. Physically, mentally and emotionally. It feels like hormonal-misha-on-methamphetamines.
As I rolled into Thursday this morning, having gotten about 10 hours of sleep total for the week so far (I do not exaggerate), I was running nearly on E when it came to emotional bandwidth. I was feeling tired, irritable, insecure and anxious. And I didn't even get to blame it on day 21 (which is coming up soon though... thanks body). I started stressing about things I needed to do, longing for people I missed, and attacking all the things that were wrong with me that were the cause of all my woes.
Now I don't have a lot of woes. In a normal state of mind I recognize I'm a pretty lucky girl. I live in a great city and I have great people in my life, both personally and professionally, both near and far. But this morning, I was feeling a bit like Alice. I was itty bitty and the world around me was enormous.
I'm good at faking it, for the most part, and I'm pretty sure anyone I ran into today mostly didn't know the war the was taking place inside my brain. I went about my business, trying to use work to occupy my mind.
I was looking at the account of one of our host families, just doing some 'maintenance' work, if you will, and for whatever reasons, decided to click on the host family letter. We ask our families to write a letter to their perspective au pair; ie who is the family, what do they like to do, what are they expecting from their au pair year... you get the picture. The work I was doing didn't lead me to the host family letter in any shape or form, but for whatever reason I was tempted to click that baby open, and so I did.
Now I won't get into details as to protect the privacy of the family, but essentially only one of the parents was still alive as the other had passed away within this past year. The phenomenal, moving, inspiring thing about it was in how the surviving parent spoke about the experience. They spoke about it with love, with gratitude for the time they were able to spend together, and that the important thing was to remember the greatness of their spouse and to pass that legacy onto the child they had created together.
Granted, I was already on E, but this just emptied me out. I mostly held it together at my desk, and shared the letter with a few colleagues around me, but later I went and locked myself into the bathroom and cried. For someone to experience such a personal tragedy and to come out of it with such a positive attitude is one of the most inspiring and uplifting things in this world. Reading that letter popped the bubble of self-pity that I'd been carrying around with me for the week and I felt the tension physically leave my shoulders.
So hopefully tonight I will sleep in peace, as I have felt a lot of that anxiety flutter away this afternoon, the anxiety that had been rattling in my brain and keeping me awake every night this week. But even if I get another sleepless night, it will be okay. Life is good and I'll make it through.