Throughout the pandemic, my insomnia has been practically non-existent. At first, I was surprised and not really sure why this was the case. Then, I realized that the pandemic is something that I cannot control or even try to control. I listened to the scientific experts and tried to do my best to follow their advice. I’ve been masking for months, staying close to home, shrinking my social circle, and washing my hands frequently or using hand sanitizer, if I go out and don’t have immediate access to a sink. The bottles of hand sanitizer in my car prove my diligence. Luckily, my family has been healthy. I’ve been healthy. But, I feel like this is luck not my ability to control the situation.
I know myself well enough to recognize that much of my anxiety is caused by worry and I just haven’t worried too much during the pandemic. I know that sounds self-serving. I am worried but it is not the same type of worry I have when I believe I have a chance or even a duty to control outcomes for myself or my family. The second type of worry is what causes my anxiety to run like underground mycelium until it mushrooms up in the middle of the night into a case of full blown insomnia.
So, last night, when I was wide awake between 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. I did not know how to deal with it. Usually, when my insomnia is spurred by anxiety, I get up and write things down. My early morning or late night scribbles include what the problem is that I seem to be ruminating about and what actions I think I need to take to address it. This act of purging my mind by recording on paper what is bothering me, usually will get me back to sleep. But, as I wrote, last night I did not have any worries on the surface of my mind.
So, instead, I started to write in my head. What follows is some of what I was thinking and feeling during the wee hours this morning.
“As I lie here, on the edge of the deepest slumber
waiting for a the quietest of sleep to overcome my
consciousness, I become impatient. I listen to my breathing
slow and feel my body relax. Tense muscles loose their
grip on my frame, two slender legs no longer aching from age, and a long day of use.
After an hour of waiting, I got up to use the toilet and take
a short acting antihistamine. Sometimes this helps, and sometimes it doesn’t.
After another hour, I loose all hope of the small yellow pill with the huge scientific name
– Chorpheniramine Maleate –
doing its job of making me sleepy enough to succumb to loosing my thoughts to dreams.
Now, I get up again to move to the couch on the lower level of the house. I do this
because I am restless and hear my husband breathing deeply beside me. We don’t both
need to be awake at 2 a.m..
Once settled on the couch, I glance at my phone. The light bothers me. I
brought a book down with me, but know I need the light to read.
So, I don’t.
Again, I lay in the dark.
Listening to my own calm, slow breath.
Different sounds are audible in this non-bedroom space.
A refrigerator purrs on and on before shutting off.
Visually, not as dark as the bedroom, the pilot light glows in the fireplace.
I contemplate whether to get up and turn it on or not.
Soon, I feel relaxed.
My left shoulder that has always been where I carry my tension,
hurts no longer.
I realize I am comfortable.
Finally, I drift off.
Soon, it seems, I hear movement upstairs.
The dog is out of her kennel.
My husband is moving about.
The dog is now licking my face.
Awake, I am now!
Enough, Molly, enough!
Go back up stairs and see Dad.
Dutifully, she obeys after one last lick to make sure I am truly awake.
It is 7 a.m..
I got some sleep, at least.
The insomnia, for now, is past.”
How have you been sleeping during the pandemic? Better or worse than before?
Let me know in the comments!