I started therapy when I was about six. I, out of nowhere, stopped sleeping. Just stopped. Going to bed terrified me. I would start to panic as soon as dusk set in. Thinking about it, I can still remember my heart rate quickening as I realized the sun was going down. It was bedtime soon.
The therapist wasn’t much help. She tried every avenue and we couldn’t figure out why bed terrified me. As a six year old, it was hard to verbalize what I now have lived with for years. I am afraid of being unable to fall asleep. That possibility strikes panic into my body. I would become so overwhelmed by the fear I would throw up. But, the therapist decided my dad was beating me. Definitely not true.
I would lie awake at night, unable to sleep, and think about anything frightening or overwhelming, unable to fix my thoughts on something happy or relaxing. I became afraid of the TV, lest there be a scary commercial or show on. It would haunt me as I struggled to sleep that night.
Throughout elementary school the problem slowly faded, without anyone really figuring it out, but it cropped back up when I got to the end of middle school. Somehow, even though my new therapist wasn’t much better, we came up with a better solution. Just let her watch TV until she falls asleep. I fell asleep to Martha Stewart for almost all of high school. Martha Stewart was safe. Martha Stewart had a soothing voice and there were no scary commercials on The Food Network.
I left for college and sleep wasn’t an issue for me for the first year or so. But the fear came back in my sophomore year and then my junior year. My senior year I was dating Rob long distance so it was worse than ever. I never went on too little sleep, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I would go to bed at 10, not fall asleep until 2, then not get up until 10.
And it has been back for about a year.
It resurfaces in times of stress and anxiety. The first time it happened back when I was six, in the span of about two years I had experienced a lot of change for a kid. My mom remarried, we moved, mom had my little brother, Nana had a stroke, Grandpa had open heart surgery, etc… But, as a six year old, it was hard to connect the dots. I don’t think I really connected it until I was in college.
So here I am, in probably one of the most stressful times of my life, not sleeping. Still not sleeping.
The sun is setting.