This cartoon brought up memories of what it was like to have chronic, debilitating insomnia. Several years ago I belonged to a musical group I really enjoyed, but it was almost an hour away. The rehearsals ended at 9:00 p.m. and on the drive home, I would catch myself falling asleep, and there were actually times where I think I did fall asleep for a second or two at the wheel. I would jerk awake in terror and the rush of adrenaline would usually sustain me for the rest of the drive, but it was scary and painful.
After this happened many times I began to bow out of rehearsals when I was very tired because I didn’t feel safe driving home. At the end of the season I was asked to leave the group. I remember feeling intense grief when they asked me to leave and not being able to stop the flood of tears that came. The group leader asked, “Why the tears?” and I didn’t really have the words to answer.
Even at the time I knew there was more involved than just missing out on a music group. While I was sad to leave the people and the music, I knew that wasn’t the whole picture.
In retrospect, I think the main issue was feeling deeply misunderstood. I believed they saw me as flaky and unreliable and therefore detrimental to the group. While it was true I was showing up that way, that wasn’t my nature and it pained me to be perceived like that. If one has never experienced chronic insomnia, it probably does seem incomprehensible that there are people who can’t simply close their eyes and go to sleep like they can. One person in the group even asked me point blank, “Why can’t you just sleep?” This person clearly did not understand me or the hell I was experiencing.
Finally, a few years later, I found a coach who did understand me and was able to offer me tools to reliably move me out of fight or flight so that I could regulate my sleep cycles. While the techniques he offered were invaluable, I think a key component of my healing was having a compassionate witness to my process. One of the most painful aspects of chronic insomnia is feeling so deeply alone with your problem.
After moving through my own insomnia, it is now my mission and passion to help others with theirs. If you are currently feeling alone or misunderstood with your insomnia, please visit my website at www.beyondinsomnia.com to see if my work might be a fit for you.