Insomnia, I can’t sleep with you

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I’m tired. So tired.

I need sleep. So, what’s the problem?

The solution is simple. Really?

Just go to bed and go to sleep. Hmmm…

I have always been a bad sleeper. More significantly, I am a worrier. I prefer warrior.

I’ve learned to manage it (sort of). Routine. Routine. Routine.

The human body functions at its optimum when it is governed by a strict routine. I know! Boring!

Often, the nights feel like they are a hundred hours long.

Insomnia, it’s been said, is the triumph of the mind over the mattress. I’m competitive by nature. So, I’m fighting to regain control. Otherwise, insomnia wins.

No. No. No. Insomnia, I cannot sleep with you.

Before my accident, it was easier to cope with a restless, ruffled mind in the middle of the night. If I couldn’t sleep, I’d get up and do something instead of just lying there worrying or over-thinking everything especially if there is nothing you can do about it at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Things are different now, simply because I cannot just get up as and when I like.

As I wheel down the passage every evening, I dread the hour-long tiresome ritual of getting me ready for bed.
I try to switch off by watching mind-numbing rubbish on TV whilst my care assistants are busy. But, it still means having a pair of human hands, sometimes roughly, invading my personal space which is not always so easy to ignore.

My nighttime routine, added to heaped-up frustration from a solid day’s confinement, usually leaves me feeling irritated and filled with despair.

Try having someone else brush your teeth. And I don’t mean your oral hygienist. And bath you. And dress you. And feed you. And… Aaarrrggghhh!

Eventually I am left lying motionless, on my side, in the dark – alone with my thoughts. Most nights I pop a sleeping pill and manage to sink into temporary oblivion for a good few hours. Just.

Sometimes the wicked-insomnia-monster manages to invade my psyche in all its despicable, colossal glory. An insomnia ogre is a gross feeder. It nourishes itself on thinking – fueled even more by thinking about not thinking. Somehow, it gets me to replay disturbing, tragic events over and over again on the big screen behind my forced-shut-eye-lids.

My 80-year-old paralysed-from-the-neck-down body sometimes decides to go into Alzheimer’s mode and completely forgets how to go to sleep.

My body goes from dying of thirst to feeling hot, then cold, followed by an itchy nose, and not long after that the head needs a scratch too. Then I feel as if weight of my arm lying across my abdomen is uncomfortable and I need the position of the arm changed.

The internal organs often get in on the act too, especially my tummy, which is usually bloated and cramping. Dear body, now is not the time to annoy me.

It’s amazing how a queen sized bed used for love, sex and intimacy can become such a lonely, desolate place with an all-consuming emptiness as the dark Knight takes possession of my being, especially when the man of my life is out of town.

I often hear one my care assistant’s heavy breathing – and snoring – in the adjoining room.
Why is it that people who snore always seem to fall asleep first?

Sometimes, I call out irritably for her to turn over. It doesn’t help.

My bed has become a bundle of paradoxes – I go to it with reluctance, if I’m on my own. Then there are times when I leave it with regret, as I’m faced with the challenges of being a quadriplegic. Although bed can be a reprieve from a day of physical torment, it can also become my emotional hell when I can’t sleep.

Sometimes, I fall asleep at what feels like minutes before I have to get up for the day, and then I’m annoyed when my care assistant wakes me up.

Other times, I lie awake for hours, clock-watching and listening – waiting for the quiet movements of my care assistants as they get up in the morning – wishing for them to hurry so I can just get out of bed.

Try lying in exactly the same position, all night long, without moving anything, not waggling a finger or wriggling a toe. No repositioning. No fidgeting. No adjusting of blankets. Just lie still.

Often, the repose of sleep refreshes my paralysed body, but not my mind. There is nothing quite like a deep, long sleep as balm for an exhausted mind, is there?

When I haven’t had enough sleep I feel like an emotional, temper-tantrum-throwing two-year-old, who yearns to fling herself onto the floor, kicking and screaming like a woman gone mad.

I become grossly-grumpy, insanely-tearful and oh-so-sorry-for-myself.


Tracy Todd

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