Awake: Even In My Dreams

I’m sure you’ve experienced insomnia from time to time. Sometimes life gets too stressful or exciting to shut down and sleep. We are all working too hard, doing too much. We push ourselves to such an extent that our bodies release too much adrenalin and we keep going on nervous energy.

I get excited about life. I have suffered from sleeplessness due to excitement since I was a young child; the night before the first day of school, the big play, my first date, my first job, my wedding. I’d lie in the dark with my bright eyes round as saucers staring at the ceiling, wondering if the night would ever end. Eventually the new day would dawn and I would enjoy every minute of it.

The sleeplessness that comes with bi-polar disorder is different. It is driven, striving, anxious, panicked and unrelenting. Your mind races with thoughts and stimuli that keep you from rest and peace. Your whole body is weary but your thoughts race onward, without focus, without purpose and without end. You get confused. Just as you think you’re starting to fall asleep, you jerk awake, again and again and again. Then you stop even doing that.

My husband and I had a miniature pinscher named Spike. He was a wonderful friend and a very high-strung dog. He would get so wound up he would quiver and shake. We would practice “sensory deprivation” with him as we called it. He loved to burrow under the covers and sleep at our feet, totally buried in the quilt. He was so small that the height of our feet provided a prop which gave him lots of air to breathe. He slept that way. When he started to shake during the day, we’d put a little blanket over him to calm him — right over his body, including his little head. I tried it on myself the other night. It didn’t work. Well, it was worth a try!

I take meds that quiet my mind and help me to sleep. Eventually I fall asleep. If I’m manic and cannot get to sleep on whatever regimen I’m on, eventually I may have to be hospitalized. Hospitalization is no fun. I have affectionately nicknamed it the “Loony Bin.” Some people may find that disrespectful. For me, it helps keep my sense of humor and perspective on the place. You’re locked in, hence the bin analogy. You’re only a bit loony as are your new friends. It makes me laugh about a grim situation. Maybe some wouldn’t find it too hilarious, but to each their own.

It’s a fact of life for most people with serious mental illness. No matter how hard you try to take care of yourself, the illness can overwhelm you and in you go. But it’s temporary. You are coming out. I’m thankful and blessed to be able to come home to a loving husband and family and friends who are there for me. How much more can anyone ask out of life? Well, maybe a good night’s sleep.

“I had a dream I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.”
― Stan Laurel

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