I’ve begun to dread my bed. What has traditionally been my comfort spot, my sanctuary to get away from all the chaos in my house, a soft haven to snuggle with my husband or kids has become enemy territory. It is a war zone. Every day now, as I retire my tired body to what should be the serenity of my soft sheets and warm duvet, I begin to panic wondering when my new enemy will cause me to stir, awakening me from my needed slumber, forcing me to turn my head just slightly to the right to see the red flashing numbers that likely begin with something smaller than a 6 or a 7. Will it be 1 or 2, possibly 3 or 4? Will I be jarred awake from a nightmare or will my body just decide that the night rest has come to an end and force me to push back the covers and sit upright in frustration? I might be pushed into consciousness and then turn once or twice, smashing my pillow down, situating myself into my perfect fetal pose, one knee safely tucked into my husband’s side with the other outstretched while my face pushes deeply into the trench dug out into the pillow. Most likely, as has been evidenced of late, I will toss once and then again and then perhaps once more and realize I have lost both the battle and the war. The night will end and I will be awake, my mind wandering through the scary forest, fighting off the beasts waiting to attack.
When I was a very little girl, my room was red and white, with the wall next to my bed covered in a red burnt velvet wallpaper. At night, as I was settling into sleep, I would lay facing the wall with my right thumb carefully tucked under my tongue and I would trace the pattern of the paper with my other hand, feeling the dips of the texture where the velvet ended and the smooth underlying paper began. It comforted me like a blanket to trace the outlines of the blended design, soothing me to sleep as I sucked away on my thumb. In the daylight, I would study the wallpaper, visualizing images in the texture, squinting to see if there was a purposeful display of hidden objects or if my mind was simply assigning depictions elicited from the fabric. As I lay in my bed at night, running my fingers along the wall, I would often think about those representations, the creatures that came to life inside that wallpaper and they would visit me in my dreams. My mind never quieted down, the images never wandered far beyond my eyes and I would awake in terror, fearing that the monsters in the wall had come to attack me. Back then, I would jump from my bed and sloppily make my way to the end of the hall and start my descent down the stairs, in fear and tears, looking for comfort from my parents. I’d find them in the living room, usually watching TV and eschewing my pleas to sit up with them, sending me back to my bed to return to sleep. Just as I do with my slightly less young son now. I was sent shuffling back up the stairs to return to face the demons, hoping that they would torture me no more.
I usually sleep like the dead. I slept peacefully through two screaming babies while my husband would wake, change diapers and rock them back to sleep. It would take guttural sobs for me to shift from my delta sleep to an awake enough state to tend to my kids. My husband would typically push me and yell in my general direction to get me up after the third or fourth night call from the babies. My kids learned, as they got older, that daddy would handle their middle-of-the-night needs and that it would take more than a sweet little sob like “Mommy, I can’t sleep,” to get me up. I disengaged from discussions when my friends would speak of their insomnia and share remedies to keep their eyes shut and minds quiet for a full night. No Ambien, NyQuil, ZzzQuil, Xanax, Unisom, Melatonin, Tylenol PM. Nope. Not for me. I simply needed my bed, my pillow, a little bit of TV and I was lulled into a comfortable night sleep. With the exception of the last month of each of my pregnancies, sleep has never eluded me. Until now.
For the past month or so, my mind has been in overdrive. It is hard at work processing some serious data. There are dreams and stresses and midnight anxieties that have not been characteristic for me. Even the nights where I seem to make it through 5 or 6 hours, I awaken tired and listless. I am preoccupied, trying to recapture the images from my dreams and, more than once, I have nodded off at my desk in the middle of the afternoon. Fortunately, I work from home – alone in my office during my cat naps. Adding to the already existing stress that is keeping me up or waking me up is the worry about what it might be that is disrupting my normal sleep pattern. Is it a lack of exercise? My workouts have been limited for the past few weeks because of my work schedule. That might do it. Is it work? I am managing both my consulting business and my work as a co-founder in a start-up. That sure has a lot of potential. Is it something completely different? I am feeling very disconnected from my life because I have been buried under work and tending to my kids this summer, forgoing my typical socializing at the pool, going to parties and hanging with friends. Sure, that’ll do it. Maybe it is a combo pack of all of these things and some other really deep, disruptive matters. Perhaps it is all the fear and anxiety that lays dormant, waiting to strike when your defenses are low (sleep-deprived) so it can ravage you without fear of fighting back, pushing against the wave of pressure. Maybe my vulnerabilities are at an all-time high and my walls at an all-time low and I am exposed, ready to be victimized by my deeper mind, my dark recesses that have been safely packed up, wrapped in bubble wrap, protected with styrofoam popcorn so as not to be disrupted, displaced or awakened. Something woke the beast and now it is having its way with me.
When my kids were babies, we employed the mantra, “you wake him, you take him,” indicating that whomever was foolish enough to near the child when it was asleep ran the risk of having to care for the screaming beast when it was awakened. We both steered clear of their cribs so as not to have the misfortune of being the catalyst for an eruption from one of our precious angels. I wonder if I am guilty of stirring my own inner beast and am paying the consequences now. I wake it, I take it. It is mine to manage. Something stirred within me and I looked at it, acknowledged it, engaged it and allowed it to enter my life. It feels like the black smoke monster in Lost. It simply consumes you. It sucks you in and you are lost in the darkness, never knowing where you might end up or if you will ever get out.
I’ve been sick for the past two days and have wanted only to retire to my bed to enjoy the comfort and warmth that it typically offers up in situations like this. Yet, my dread is keeping me from marching up the stairs, closing the door and settling in. I worry that I will be lured into a false sense of security, believing that tonight will be the night that my bed will not betray me. Tonight will be the night that I will slip off into a dreamy sleep state and wake relaxed and refreshed. Tomorrow will be the day that I will not report into my pal who has been haunting me in my dreams to advise that he was there again. Tomorrow I will be able to say we took a night off. Tomorrow I will be able to say peace found me and the demons were kept at bay. Tomorrow will be the day that I can be joyful once more. I can immerse myself in all of the goodness of my life. I can celebrate all the little successes that come my way. I can stop fighting and doing the dance of avoidance. I can stop tracing the monsters in the wallpaper. I can shut my eyes and shut my mind. I fear that my hopes will be dashed and, once again, the red lights of the clock will flash before my eyes and I will struggle to push myself back into sleep and steer clear of the obstacles waiting to trip me up. But, I am going to be hopeful. Tonight I will employ some aids, drown myself in medicine hoping that it will shut me down, turn off the machines, shut down the processor, quiet my mind, ease my soul.
Perhaps tonight is the night I will return to being me.