Alternate title: Insomnia Vignettes
It starts like a pimple: a faint irritation just under the skin that’s barely there but one noticed, unmistakable and unavoidable. Instead of redness and pain, it’s a creeping sensation that lurks in the corners of the brain, sending subtle signals that translate to No, you’re not going to be able to calm down and Don’t even try to stop thinking about everything that worries you.
(I like acne metaphors because I have the first-hand personal experience to back them up, and I think they’re appropriate for what results from anxiety. The build-up, the pressure, and finally the gross yet satisfying release. The shitty unfairness, and feeling that you can’t control any of it.)
Five hours later the subtle signs of sleeplessness come to a pus-filled head and you’re sitting on the couch with a thousand-yard stare while the cat headbutts you, excited that someone’s up to keep him company while he tears up and down the hallway, nails catching and releasing the carpet in faint rips that set off another spiral of stress, thelandlordthecarpetourdepositourdepositfuckingcat. The fuckingcat is back on the couch, looking at you and meowing anxiously, and you scratch his head as tears well up. He purrs and kneads as a new trouble pops into your bullshit cranium, tomorrow is going to fucking suck. And it’s really today that’s going to suck, because it’s 2am.
Insomnia is an asshole. It feels like physical, obvious proof that my brain is trying to take me down. That anxiety is winning. I can do things to manage it, and they all help: going to sleep at the same time and not too late (for me, that’s, stop staring at the Internet or television an hour before bed, exercise and yoga and I know everyone says those two, but they work. This all makes it less likely that I’m going to be a sweaty couch zombie with a friendly nocturnal kitty familiar, but doesn’t hit the problem at the root. I can’t calm down and let things go. Even for a few hours. Even when it’s really important. Even when I’m sabotaging myself by letting my thoughts churn in spiral after destructive spiral. I’m better at it than I’ve ever been, which is encouraging, but it’s still hard. I don’t know whether intense apprehension is chemical makeup, environment, or both, but it seems like it’s here to stay – a constant companion. I’m working on turning it into a sometimes guest. But until then, it’s enough to keep me up at night.