Insomnia has a devil set aside for me

In times of stress, I change quotes to suit my needs.

It’s easier to reach for something well-worn and familiar when you’re that kind of awake where your mind is skipping sidelong through all the shelves of your memory and musing on matters beyond your control, but you’re physically exhausted and worn-out emotionally, too, but your brain doesn’t seem to get the message.

I’ve lived with chronic insomnia since the age of four, and its ebbs and sudden onsets are as unpredictable as the weather. Worse, dealing with it never seems to get any easier. Alright, it’s better now that I’m not a child and I can scientifically convince myself that the horrors I dream about aren’t real. But my mind still plays out a thousand and one things on the inside of my eyes, and it’s not dawn, until it is, but the story of the day has only just begun.

I wonder how Scheherazade told all those tales and carried out her duties during the day (never mind the fact that she supposedly gave birth to a couple of children during the Thousand And One Nights, but there isn’t any mention of that while the actual stories are going on).

It’s times like this that I can’t handle ticking clocks. Hearing something so regular and relentless while I’m tossing around on what feels like the sloshing seas of everything I’ve ever thought or felt just gets under my skin in a really uncomfortable way. I can’t stop time from slipping away from me, and too soon it will be morning and I’ll be exhausted and the whole damn tide of tiredness will wash in, soak me all day, and then there’ll be nothing but relentless mental energy all through the night.

My prose gets distinctly more whimsical and indulgent with imagery when I’m tired, too. I usually prefer a sparer style of self-expression.

It’s struck me that a lot of the images I instinctively reach for when I’m trying to talk about how I think or how I feel – always tricky – are marine, or nautical, or oceanic. Islands, shipwrecks, tides, storms, waves, a blend of the pleasantly mythic and the reassuringly physics-based.

One time recently when I couldn’t sleep I ended up going on a Sherlockian rant about how stupid people were for not knowing the difference between a tsunami and a tidal wave. (Summary, lacking in extensive physics, seismology, gravity and diagrams: a tsunami is not tidal.)

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this, except that writing it out is infinitely preferable to lying in bed next to a peaceful sleeper, stressing about my own lack of rest that I desperately need.

I’ve been haunted all day by a feeling like I’m not doing enough, so I am therefore failing. I know it’s a common anxiety disorder thing, but it’s still rubbish. Getting some words out has helped, though I’m not sure if I’ll be able to sleep yet. I’ll give it another go shortly.

I wish I didn’t have downstairs neighbours, because there’s nothing I’d like to do more right now than get out my violin and play whatever springs to my fingers.

I used to hate improvising, because it made me panic not to have music guiding me. But now I hardly ever play with music, and just enjoy the sounds of my strings. It’s a nice thought, for me, that things can change and be good when they do.

I’m going to try holding onto it when I get back into bed, because I need to be reminded of good things tonight. And I need something a little calmer than the noise of rewritten Queen songs that are currently banging around my head.

(It was the Pokemon Blue soundtrack for a while, and before that, some Mozart serenades.)

I’m going to listen to something soothing and drink something warm and milky. If you need me, I’ll be in the corner, trying to turn down the music in my head.

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