Sleepless Nights

I complained about the mark I received for my writing project. I wondered about what I’d done wrong. Was this piece of work, really only worth the grade it was given? Was all my work and effort for nothing and is it unfair, or am I simply claiming I’m a better writer than I actually am?

I suppose all of these questions are fairly normal. If you are also a perfectionist (it sucks, I know) then I assume these thoughts have played on your mind too, sometimes. Even if you are not, we all doubt ourselves sometimes. It demotivated me for a little while. Just for a day, to be precise. And I am quick to realise that this mark or success is not what currently matters to me, or what currently worries me.

I am more worried about my health – or more precisely: about my ability to keep on going. Am I excited about going to Scotland? (I will be starting a 2-year-long MFA in Creative Writing in September) Yes, I suppose I am. Sort of. I’m as excited as I always am about anything. Mostly though, I feel tired. I feel literally tired because something is wrong with my sleep and it feels as if something somehow – something related to this lack of sleep – has put me in an indefinite state of… this.

I find it hard to put ‘this’ into words. I don’t quite know what’s going on or happening to me. I don’t think there has been any research into the long-term effects of the long-term loss of sleep.

When I sleep I often dream. And when I dream it feels as if I’m being thrown into another world where I have to run for my life (quite literally sometimes). All night long, it feels as if I’m in an environment of active stress. With my current sleeping pills, I tend to stay asleep for a while but my dreams have become incredibly vivid 8 out of 10 times (compared to 4 out of 10 before). In the last four days, I dreamed that I killed someone; I dreamed that I was taken by a tsunami wave and then in a coma for half a year; I dreamed that I was being chased with the intention to get killed; (and perhaps not as stressful) I dreamed that I had fallen terribly ill. You need to understand that these four dreams weren’t just dreams. These things felt like they had actually happened to me and up until I woke up, I was thoroughly convinced that all of this had been real. I have dreamed worse things. These were only a bit stressful in the moment. But imagine having dreams like this all the time. Sleep is supposed to help us recover after a potentially stressful day, but I feel like I need the day to recover from a stressful night.

Before these sleeping pills (and actually, now that they are starting to be less effective, this is coming back), my sleep would be continuously interrupted. During the night, I was always aware of the weather. I dreamed a lot but I was aware that I was dreaming. I couldn’t change anything about the dream or snap out of it, but I knew I was dreaming and that in the real world it was, say, raining outside. I would often feel myself coming closer to waking up, and then I would have to force myself to stay asleep because I need sleep, right?

I don’t think many people understand the effect that a lack of quality sleep can have. This isn’t like missing one night of sleep. It isn’t even like sleeping too little for a few nights in a row. I don’t have a lot of energy. I don’t have the ability to socialise like I would want to. I don’t really think my head ever stops hurting – there are simply different stages of pain and I can cope with quite a few. It’s impossible to truly showcase how much of an effect this bad sleep has on my life.

First of all, it is an absolute nightmare having to go to sleep. Secondly, it is an absolute nightmare to get through a night and then thirdly, the actual day is often a struggle. The morning certainly is. For example, I went to bed around 11 PM last night because I felt tired and as if I would be able to sleep. Naturally, of course (although I struggle the least with falling asleep), I only managed to get into ‘proper’ sleep at around 2 AM. Because of my new pills, for the last three weeks, this would have meant that I would have slept till at least 6 or 7 AM, but as they have become less effective, I now woke up at 4 AM, feeling plagued by dreams. Eventually, I fell back asleep and the dreams continued – and the active command to myself to stay asleep became necessary, once again. I stopped trying around 8 AM and managed to get up around 10. In an attempt to start the day, I had breakfast outside of the house with my flatmate – but as soon as I got home afterwards my body fell so heavy that I had to give in to my bed and I tried to nap. (Naps are as horrible as sleep at night, so I gave up after an hour). In another attempt to start the day, I went grocery shopping with my flatmate, and finally, by 4 PM, I felt capable enough to lie down and read a book… not capable enough to continue packing or cleaning or anything that I would like to do and that needs doing.

Effectively, my entire day has been plagued by this one night of sleep. Although by now I feel plagued by the years of bad sleep that I’ve had and I’m not sure if I will ever be able to shake these.

It’s hard to describe how this makes me feel. I know that I can survive the summer, even if my sleep will become worse, which is where it seems to be heading at the moment. However, I am incredibly afraid that if my sleep doesn’t get better (and stays relatively stable), I will be unable to do my Masters. Frankly, I don’t know how I managed to finish this last year of my degree. In all honesty, I don’t know how I survived my first year of constant sleep deprivation at university either. This would suggest that even though I’m scared, I can probably get through it, right? But I feel at the end of my rope. I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff and all it’ll take is for someone to click their fingers, and that will be it. I know this won’t truly happen – not yet anyway. I am quite resilient after all. But how much longer will it take before my resilience will falter?

I don’t dare to believe in the help from the medical system. If the current pills don’t help- and it was hard to get my hands on these, will there ever be a point where something will definitely help me? Will the right help come in time?

I want to study the MFA. I am excited to start this degree and I refuse to put my life on hold. I guess I just need to believe somehow and hope that things will work out in the end. Things always work out, right? Anything is possible as long as you keep on trying and don’t give up. I want to succeed, but above all, I really hope that I’ll one day be able to just close my eyes and sleep. And that when I wake up in the morning it won’t feel like I’m lifting a stone off my pillow. And that one day I can actually be the best version of myself.

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