On Sleep

I do not know how others sleep.

I know that getting to sleep is often described as drifting or gently falling, as being welcomed into a dark embrace, as succumbing to a void. But this is not how I fall asleep.

I do not know how others sleep.

For me, sleep is a thing I must work toward every night. I must fuss about, filling my time until my capricious body decides sleep could potentially work its way into the equation. I must fluff pillows and arrange my body in carefully determined positions. I must twitch and nestle and curl and burrow into a spot beyond a description, a perfect arrangement of limbs, blankets, and pillows that allows the muscles to relax. I must actively still my racing mind, force myself to focus on my breathing, to push all thought from my mind. Which is difficult beyond measure (preach to me about meditation all you want, world, my mind stops for no one). My thoughts skitter and dart, slithering through the carefully neutral cloud I’ve erected around the steady sound of my breathing, insidious, becoming whole trains of errant thoughts and ideas and imaginings before I realize my error and shut them down again.

I do not know how others sleep.

Again and again, I blank my mind. I breathe. I will myself with every fiber of my being to just fucking fall asleep already. It’s not a drifting, not a gentle fall. It is a crawl, inch by agonizing inch, me hauling myself along, digging my nails in and pulling myself through to that much needed rest. It is a long journey on a narrow bridge over a fucking chasm with gale force winds buffeting me as I creep along. One wrong move, and off the side I go, and it’s back to the beginning to try again, video game style. An unconscious twitch of the muscles. a too-full bladder, the slightest noise, and I’m forcibly pulled back to the world of the fully awake, mind bright and racing once more, a sour frustration churning in the back of my throat.

I do not know how others sleep.

Sometimes, I can drug myself. Or push myself so far that I succumb quicker to the world of sleep. Methods that come with a rushing, whirling sensation as I lay my head down, no longer a stumble-crawl toward the finish line but a slippery, uncontrolled tumble down a mountain side. There is always fear, fear as I fall too fast and too hard, fear that often yanks me awake again at the last moment.

I do not know how others sleep.

Insomnia isn’t about being awake longer, about simply being unable to sleep. It’s a constant battle for even a few hours of shut eye. I fight every goddamn day for the meager amount of rest my body decides to give me. And the fight isn’t over once I’ve gotten to sleep, either.

I do not know how others sleep.

Most of the time, I can’t stay asleep for longer than three or four hours. At this point, I’m jolted awake again. Sometimes, it’s by the need to urinate. Sometimes, because a noise has startled me. But often, it’s for no discernible reason at all. I am simply awake, suddenly, completely, where seconds before I had been asleep. Awake and unable to fall back to sleep, feeling temporarily energized and rejuvenated but knowing the feeling will only last a few hours. Hours that I will be spending awake, because I can’t get back to sleep, even if I desperately need the rest. And after a few hours, as my body starts to feel the exhaustion creep back in, we’re back to square one. Once again performing the rituals of slumber, but often without the promise of more than an hour or two of sleep before the alarm clock signals the day has to begin.

I do not know how others sleep.

Lying awake for hours, a dull pain pulsing somewhere behind my ear, every muscle screaming for sleep but unable to snag any of it… this isn’t something that just happens once in a while. Something that occasionally pops up when I’m stressed or worried. It’s what I have to deal with weekly. Too tired to do anything, yet unable to sleep, trapped in this exhausted limbo that teems with despair and angry frustration.

I do not know how others sleep.

But I wish I did.

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