Thursday, February 16, 2006

When shall I arise?

I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been told off of me.
If in bed, I say, "When shall I arise?" then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn
(Job 7:3-4)

This is plaint of those of us who suffer from insomnia. I was first hit with insomnia about 13 years ago. I would spontaneously wake around 4 am every morning and was unable to get back to sleep. So, I just adjusted my schedule, going to bed between 9 and 10 pm and getting up early.

It was actually quite an interesting period of my life...I got a lot of work done because the house was quiet and I started going to a nearby cloistered convent for 6:30 am services just because I was up and curious about the group. By 9 am, I had usually gotten a lot of work done.

Then, about six months later, the 4 am risings ended and I started waking up at a more normal time. I almost started missing those early morning hours when it seemed like I had the whole world to myself.

But this current bout of insomnia has been different. It started hitting me around April 2003 and continued in full force until last summer. In this case, I just can not fall asleep at all. It's amazing to think you can lie in bed for 6 or 7 hours and do nothing but toss and turn but it's how I spent many a night and early morning. I was pretty much useless the next day, just sleepwalking through the hours until I could go back to bed and try again to sleep. And, for some reason, no matter how tired I was, I couldn't catch up on my sleep during the day by taking a nap. It was sleep at night or no sleep at all.

I tried everything...getting up and doing work, relaxing my body through meditation, reading a dull book, hot baths, herbs and vitamins, sleep-inducing teas, homeopathic remedies, and prescription medication. EVERYONE I knew had an opinion or remedy to offer, none of which did much good. It took at least a year to get some help because the doctors I consulted and all of the books I read say that most insomnia is short-lived. But it kept going on, night after night, a couple of times a week.

The worst part was when I would have two sleepless nights in a row. Going 48+ without sleep can induce a hallucinatory-like state where you have a feeling of unreality. It is hard to describe but it almost felt like I was on drugs. I felt really unsteady behind the wheel of a car and usually avoided driving.

Things have calmed down in the past six months and now it is usually only once a week or so and I have learned ways to deal with it. But it hit me again last night and reminded me of this quote from Job which I had heard in a church a few weeks ago. It seemed to capture the despair one feels when one cannot drift into sleep.

The moral of the story? Never discount the blessing of a night of is without price!