Please read previous The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles prior to this entry. In The Sleep Insomnia Chronicles #5, I discuss how I let my insomnia ruin my relationship. My inability to manage my insomnia was a contributing factor to the demise of my last relationship. For the last 18 months, and most specifically the last year, my catastrophizing, and the ritualization of my sleep protocol put me into a mental prison. I became convinced that I had to be in my sleeping quarters at 9:30pm and prepare myself for sleep to have a chance to get even 4 hours of sleep. I couldn’t sleep in the same room with my fiancée (for fear she would wake me up and/or prevent me from sleeping), and couldn’t stay out past 10:00pm for fear that upon return I wouldn’t be able to sleep the entire night.
My insomnia dictated my life…or I allowed it. The fear that 4-5 sleepless nights would eventually lead me to be hospitalized controlled my social life and all my interactions. At its worst time, I couldn’t fathom the thought that I could actually sleep, and perhaps sleep well, if I did stay out late. The irony is that even many of those nights that I adhered to my rigid sleep protocol and was in bed by 9:30, I STILL ONLY SLEPT 2 HOURS.
Now with the breakup and the subsequent move out, I am able to retrospect and have a clearer view of how the insomnia decimated by confidence and literally changed me into another person. Prior to this insomnia spell, I slept like a normal person. As a whole, I would say that I am an early bird in that if I don’t have anything pressing going on, I typically went to sleep at 10:30 or so. Normally I would fall asleep watching TV on the couch, wake up a few hours later, stumbled into bed and sleep well until 5:30am. My circadian rhythm was well-regulated, for I wake up the same time every day. 5:30-6:00am like clock-work. In this old paradigm, I would go out at night with friends or a date and stay up until the wee hours of the night. It never entered my mind during those halcyon years that upon return I wouldn’t sleep. Why would it? I had always been able to sleep. And not just at night, but I regularly took long day naps.
With the advent of the insomnia, that former carefree person slowly went away. My mother was hospitalized on two occasions for insomnia and I catastrophized that a few days of absolutely no sleep would end in the same result. I was cognizant that the fixation and the anxiety that came with this fear WAS the main cause of the insomnia. There was nothing wrong with by body. I didn’t have sleep apnea or some obstructive disorder. I didn’t have chronic pain that kept me up all night. I was a normal, healthy person.
In my old apartment, prior to moving in with my ex-fiancée I became obsessed with basketball players. You see, my apartment was next to the complex’s basketball court. Once or twice in my 2 years there, some high school/college kids would start playing at 11:00pm or midnight. Before the insomnia, it didn’t really bother me. Afterwards, I became fixated on it. It was rare when they came, but I put signs on the court “No play after 10:00pm” and demanded to the management that they implement more measures to ensure these kids would stop playing. At night while trying to go to sleep, I feared these kids would return and wake me up. It was the FEAR of the kids coming to play that affected my sleep.
Upon moving into my house with my ex-fiancée I didn’t have to worry about the players. It was a nice, quiet neighborhood. At that point, it was the worry of she keeping/waking me up that kept me vigilant. She tried everything to appease my insomnia. Normally a night owl, she tried going to sleep at 10:00pm with me even when she wasn’t tired. She even would watch TV in another room or under the sheets to accommodate me. But it was the THOUGHT that the flickering of the computer screen or her returning to the room eventually that kept me up.
Eventually, I offered to move to another room to sleep. Not so much because I thought I would sleep better there, but I felt bad for her. She was drastically changing her lifestyle for me and it wasn’t fair to her. Of course the act of moving to another room was a nail in the coffin.
Even sleeping in separate rooms didn’t always work. I would think that sometimes I would hear the TV through the walls and that would keep me vigilant. Or if she went out at night without me, I would fixate that upon her return she would wake me up. She would ask me how I slept the next day and I was torn. Part of me wanted to lie to her because if I had told her the truth that I didn’t sleep well, she would blame herself even thought that wasn’t my intention.
In retrospect, it is completely understandable why anyone would not want to live in that environment. Not only did I feel like I was in a mental prison, but so does the significant other. She couldn’t stay up late, she couldn’t watch TV, she couldn’t roam around the house cleaning or fixing meals for the next day, she felt guilty if she went out at night, and most of all, who wants to live a life where you don’t share a bed with your loved one? I knew all of this which fueled the guilt & feelings of worthlessness, which fueled the insomnia. Near the end, it was a mutual decision. I was so desperate, after 2 months of 3 hours or less of sleep, that any change of scenery might improve the insomnia. I acquiesced to it. I wasn’t the person she fell in love with. The insomnia turned me into a neurotic nightmare.
But here is the thing…I never fought for the relationship. I never said F*ck you, insomnia, I am going to beat you for the sake of my loved one!” Aside from implementing more sleep hygiene techniques and a few acupuncture sessions, I never went to counseling or took meds for it. I complained more about the insomnia than take active steps to fix it. I, in essence, gave up and in turn gave up on my fiancée. I didn’t fight for what was ultimately important.
Now that I’m at a new place, my sleep has been a tad more regulated. I began the first 6 weeks starting my evening on the couch and then moving my way up to the bed in the middle of the night. Why didn’t I just go straight to the bed? Well, the first few nights I tried it I didn’t sleep much so I returned to the locale that worked best for me: the couch: Stepping back, I realize I must look so odd. All of this must sound so puzzling to people who don’t suffer from neurotic insomnia.
The last few weeks I have been going out late at night again. Upon return, I sleep an imperfect sleep but it is enough to get me through to the next day. I go to counseling….I take medications….I am regaining my evening confidence. I’m sleeping in a bed at the beginning of the evening. Things appear to be on the up-and-up. But at what cost? The love of a good woman and an unfulfilled family. That my friends, alas in retrospect, is inestimably more valuable than a good night’s rest. To be continued….
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