Some people probably never struggle with sleep, some people are blessed with being able to drift off, no problem, no worries. I have never been that person. For as long as I can remember I have hated bedtime, the idea of getting into bed and doing nothing until you drift off into dreams which inevitably turn into nightmares, is a stress I deal with most days.
For such a long time a discontentedness with my life, with myself as a person, meant prolonged periods of time alone with my thoughts became a kind of torture, where thoughts of self-hatred and worthlessness would run rampant. I was afraid of being alone because I was afraid of myself, and that led to a fear of night-time, when there was no distraction from the parts of myself I truly hated. So, to keep from actually thinking, I’d do pretty much anything, watch movies, scroll through social media, even make up stories and mini movies just to keep my mind from everything that threatened to consume me.
When I eventually did fall asleep it wouldn’t exactly be a peaceful affair. I have incredibly vivid dreams, purely products of anxiety. I’d often wake up with my heart racing and feeling incredibly stressed and anxious for no apparent reason. Sometimes, this would lead to panic attacks in the middle of the night. The dreams would feel so real I began to confuse things that had happened in dreams with real life, probably due to utter exhaustion, it felt as if I was losing my grip on reality, as if I was going insane, everything was spinning out of control. It was terrifying and I felt so ashamed to be struggling like this when it seemed that all my friends had their lives perfectly together. It made me hide away from the truth, and stopped me from seeking help or talking to anyone about the root reasons for not being able to sleep. Shame stopped me from getting better.
My sleep issue were, and still are, related to stress, anxiety and worry about things going on in my life and things that have happened in the past. It is as if all those things I wish I could forget come back to haunt me in horrific clarity right when I’m trying to get sleep. Before, it was shame, and an innate need to be seen as ‘perfect’, as not being phased by anything, which stopped me from talking to anyone. Now though, I feel different, it’s taken almost exactly one year since I first spoke about my struggles to someone for me to get to this place. A place where I’m free from shame, free to feel how I feel without needing to hide it.
These things I’m dealing with, they are human problems and there is nothing unusual or shameful about that. It took me almost five years to realise that, because this is something no one talked about when I was at school. That’s why I have this blog, because fear of being judged held me back from having any kind of support network for such a long time, and now I’ve got past that, I wish I had done it so much sooner.
Sleep still continues to be an issue for me, I had it under control for the better part of last year, but right now it’s as if I’m relapsing into old ways and I can’t control the thoughts and memories that come to me at night. It’s easier now though, knowing I have people to talk to about those issues, friends that are willing to listen to the things that are still bothering me and keeping me up at night. Talking was the first step for me, but I think an acceptance of the problem is the most important part of improving mental health issues, whether it be something as simple as insomnia or something more.