Sleep and I don’t have the healthiest of relationships.
Sometimes we get on well; our schedules matching, working together in harmony. I drift off in her arms, waking briefly in the night to see to Squidge but then waking fully in the morning to either my alarm or to Squidge demanding his breakfast, feeling refreshed.
I look forward to the day; playing with Squidge, trips out in the pram, getting things done.
Other times we fight and then sleep beecomes angry.
She hides and I can’t find her, no matter how hard I look. I stare up at the dark cieling and wonder where she is; how to appease her and get back into her good graces.
I toss and turn, the rest of the house soundly asleep apart from me.
My mind begs for mercy, for the release of unconsciousness but at the same time it just can’t stop.
Turning things over and over as I toss and turn.
I wake, groggy and sick, willing to do anything to be able to pull the duvet over my head and be left alone. For now sleep has relented , beckoning me back into her embrace, unwilling to let me go now that we’ve reconciled.
But sleep is a jealous partner.
For even though she has granted me rest she takes her satisfaction by stealing the day.
She makes work difficult and exhausting, making me look at the clock and calculate how many hours left until the end of the shift. She prevents me from leaving the house, from making the most of a rare day to myself, taking with her my plans and my motivation.
Plans that I made, my brain running at 100 miles and hour while sleep eluded me.
Sometimes she made me miss work, the combination of a sleepless night and the prospect of a busy, difficult day was more than I could cope with. The first time I thought it would be a one-off, the second time I was less sure, the third time I realised something had to be done.
I tried regulating my sleeping patterns; going to bed when I first felt tired and then waking up at a reasonable time even on my days off. Even now, when my alarm goes off on a rare day when Squidge is in nursery and I’m not working I simply can’t steel myself to wake up. I snooze the alarm or turn it off but unless I have a specific appointment to get up for I always go back to sleep.
I wake up some time in the afternoon, still tired but knowing that I’m not going to be able to get to sleep that night. Usually I have to work the next day or get up with Squidge; I know this but the pull of sleep is too strong.
I lie in bed.
Simultaneously so incredibly comfortable I ignore the door, the phone, anything that requires me to move and panicking about how long I’ve slept, feeling guilty about the potentially wasted day.
I tried sleeping tablets; not to tranquilise me or to replace sleep with a chemical imposter but to make it easier for sleep to come. The first few times I took them were wonderful; after lying in bed for a short while, relaxed and calm I would get a bittter taste and the back of my mouth and know that I was about to sink into oblivion; that my mind would quiet and my body would rest.
I was only supposed to use them on nights before I worked but every night I found myself craving the peace and release that I could only find with these little while tablets.
Then they stopped working.
My body became used to them and their chemical influence took longer and longer to usher sleep in before they stopped helping me sleep altogether.
In those few short weeks I felt as though I had sleep tamed but yet again she slipped through my grasp.
When I found out I was pregnant with Squidge there were nights when sleep eluded me completely. I was alone in the dark with my thoughts, not wanting to wake the Northern One as one of us still had to go to work. He’d wake up to go to work and find that I hadn’t been to sleep at all.
It would get to the stage where I would fall asleep from sheer exhaustion and I would sleep through the day until the afternoon.
It was never enough.
No amount of sleep helped me feel able to face the world. I woke up as fatigued as when I had eventually fallen asleep; to exhausted to fight the darkness that had entered my mind.
When I’d been ill eight years previously sleep had been my closest friend; willing to let me rest throught the night but also during the day. I went through a period where I could fall asleep anywhere; on the sofa, in the car, on the floor.
I once fell asleep in the new tent my parents hadd bought and erected in the garden so that they could check that all the pieces were present. I felt so tired and ill that day I just lay down on the ground sheet and woke up two hours later.
Sleep had helped me to keep hold of my sanity; giving me a few hours respite when the world became too much.
But now she seemed not to care.
I craved the bitter taste of the sleeping pills even though I was pregnant.
My GP decided that the possible risks to Squidge were outweighed by the effect of sleep upon my mental stability so she prescribed a different brand. They were still little white pills but now they worked.
I felt guilty about Squidge but my desperate need for rest takes over.
When Squidge first arrived I tried to sleep when he slept. I tried to ignore the state of the house; doing the bare minimum of sterilising bottles and laundry. At first this worked quite well; obviously I was tired fom feeding Squidge several times in the night but I was coping. I was so tired from looking after him that I didn’t struggle to sleep at all.
Then I started to find my feet with Squidge; he got into a routine of day time naps and night time feeds, playing and stories and walks in the park.
It was then I discovered that once again sleep, the fickle friend that she is, had deserted me.
Now every little sleepy noise that Squidge made woke me up and kept me awake. I struggled to settle after feeding him and dreamed about him crying even though he would be sleeping soundly. Things got slightly easier after Squidge moved into his own room when he was six months old but four months later he only sleeps through the night sporadically, as do I.
My relationship with sleep is still unhealthy, the way it has been for many years. I sturggle to drop off at night, to get up in the morning and to not spend my rare days to myself sleeping.
I still think about the little white sleeping pills, even though I haven’t taken one for months.
Even though I know they don’t provide me with the rest I’m seeking.