First, I would like to announce that I am at this very moment sitting in heaven. It’s a place called Whimsy located a few towns over from me, and it’s a half-cafe half-play space where you can hang out and drink coffee and use the free WiFi while your children get their organic toy on (in Northern California, apparently, toys are not toys unless they are Melissa & Doug toys). Your children are watched by a bunch of lovely young women who will come get you if they need something, but basically:
You are alone. In relative silence. With coffee.
And second, I had a little incident last night that is going to sound wildly uninteresting (so bear with me), but that was EVERYTHING to me.
Here is what happened: I woke up. I looked towards the other side of the bed and saw that it was empty. I looked at the clock, and saw that it was 1:49 AM. I went into the living room, saw that Kendrick had passed out on the couch, and went to get a blanket to cover him with. But when I walked into the room he woke up, so he came to bed with me, and we chatted for a few minutes. Then I fell asleep again.
I know: Jordan, whyyyyyy are you telling me this?
Because just one year ago, the scene that I’m describing would never have happened. I used to beg Kendrick to go to sleep at the same time as me every night – a totally unfair situation for him, who had his own things he needed or wanted to do that didn’t necessarily fit around my sleep schedule – because if he woke me up when he got into bed (which he always did, through no fault of his own), the thumpthumpthump of my heart would immediately start up, my mind would begin to race (money and babies and career and time passing and DEATH), and it would be a virtual guarantee that I would still be laying there in bed, wide awake and in tears, when the sun rose the next morning. It was miserable for me. Miserable for our marriage. Just miserable. And it felt like it would never end.
When I woke up this morning, I was in such a wonderful mood. I felt happy, rested, awake, excited for Halloween tomorrow. And I mentioned this to Kendrick, how different it was from the way things used to be, and he said, “You know, I totally forgot how horrible that was. Now you just seem like you. And when that was going on it seemed like you were…sort of…”
“Crazy?” I asked.
“Well…” he trailed off.
My husband is very kind. I was totally crazy.
It can’t be overstated, how dramatic the effects of extreme insomnia are on your brain. In recent years, it’s presented an interesting challenge for researchers, because subjecting people to sleep deprivation even for scientific purposes is considered unethical, but the short of it is that it creates severe cognitive and emotional deficits. Like, no-joke ones. Forget about “focus” and “emotional stability”; for me, it went way beyond that and – honestly? – made me feel full-on out of my mind. I remember, so many mornings, trying to avoid interacting with people because I knew that my face wouldn’t register the “correct” emotion. I remember tripping over my words during conversations, being unsure of what to say even during the smallest of small talk, because I simply couldn’t make my mouth and my brain work in sync. One morning, I went to a store to run an errand after yet another sleepless night and bumped into the aisles, sending things crashing to the ground. I was so disoriented that I couldn’t figure out who to ask for a broom, so I just left.
It was really, really bad.
And I’m writing this because it bears repeating, over and over: choosing to seek professional help for my anxiety (which was the root of my insomnia) was possibly the single best decision I have ever made in my life. It was the best decision for me, for my marriage, for my children, for our life – because what it gave back to us was me. The real me, not the “getting through the day” me. I notice the effects of this one decision flooding into so many unexpected little moments: when I wake up and go to get a glass of water and am not immediately struck by heart-pounding terror; when I lay down at night and the idea of reaching for an Ambien (that won’t work anyway) doesn’t even occur to me; when I hear my daughter talking to herself in her crib in the morning and feel excited to start my day, rather than afraid that I won’t be able to make it through.
I used to be so frightened of the nighttime, because I never knew what it would bring. And now I know that what’s on the way is the simple miracle of rest – nothing more or less than a break in between one busy day and the next. I sleep. And these days, if I’m awake to see the sunrise – which, like any parent of young children, I still often am – it’s because I’m sitting in a chair, holding my baby girl and waiting for the morning light.