I dream of sleep. Laying my head on a pillow, sinking into a pile of blankets or sliding under a crisp cool sheet, taking a slow deep breath and closing my eyes to quickly fade into slumber. Freed from my physical self, my mind drifting over thoughts I didn’t know I had and will never understand. Only waking when my body has been replenished and my head is clear of fog.
That delicious fantasy is far from my sleep reality. With chronic disease and pain, comes difficulty sleeping. It doesn’t matter if you are so fatigued that you can’t lift your head or so worn-out that you can’t put a sentence together correctly, sleep is evasive. Many medications make you tired. They drag on you like an ocean weight without pulling you all the way under. Simple daily tasks and personal maintenance leave you bed bound without releasing you from pain or consciousness.
There is also the tease of sleep. By some rare blessing you’ve stepped into the abyss only to be jolted awake. Your body screams from the pressure of the blankets or a migraine has dug itself into your head and twists its screws. Maybe your stomach rebels against its atomic nurses and the nausea knocks loudly. Your legs spasm and demand movement, relentlessly. The skin on your arm erupts in bumps and the itching crawls down to your legs, stomach, face, and back. That right shoulder throbs and tries to slip out of its socketed home.
Don’t discount the brain’s contribution to our nights of frustration. Between trying to ignore your physical symptoms and constantly pushing away negative thoughts that sneak their way in at night, the brain lights up in ways that were dimmed throughout the day. There are no more distractions from screens and societal noise. You’ve left multitasking behind and now that hyper focused mind is feeling and thinking everything. You’ve spent the entire day pushing through discomfort and pain in order to be present for others and do what needs to be done. Hopefully, you experienced pleasure and joy during the day. Now your mind marinates on those experiences and the analyzation begins. Your diseases jump to the front and insert themselves in every thought, hope, and plan for the future. You yell at your brain to be quiet.
So you lay there. Wide awake. This time, tears are streaming down your face as you think through every bizarre method for soothing your angry body and mushy mind. You pray, but you’re not religious. You meditate, but nothing is still. You take pills and use products promising restfulness. You push yourself out of bed, avoiding screens and light to use the bathroom and sip some water. You try to read, but your eyes hurt and your migraine thumps. You relent and check your phone hoping that scrolling through absurdity will quiet your mind. Turning the phone off, you lay there for hours, tossing and turning every few minutes. It is 4 am. Then it happens… divine freedom from your flesh and bones! Two hours later you wake up. Might as well start your day. There will be time to dream of a nap later.