An Alien in the Land of Sleep
There is no magic cure for insomnia, but worrying less about sleep might help.
I wore my insomnia for a year like a mask. It clutched at my face keeping my eyelids at half-mast, my lips tense and prone to twitching, my skin grey and the texture of wood. I wandered through my daily existence as though wading through quicksand, my control over my limbs and physical reflexes minimal. I grew accustomed to people saying I looked tired, which was repeated so often I wanted to reply that this was just how I looked now, would look forever, for I did not imagine I would ever sleep again. The madness of insomnia is that you are not able to provide your body with one of its essential requirements.
Human bodies require a minimum number of hours of sleep every night; this is what we learn from childhood. As children, our sleep patterns are monitored by our caregivers, we experience set bedtimes, nightly routines, nightlights used as incentives or punishments and being hushed if we are making too much noise. The excitement of cheating sleep as a child is not often described as insomnia, children who stay up through the night reading with a flashlight under covers or whispering jokes to friends are just being kids. There is a big difference between willing sleep away and begging for it to come.
It is not always possible to pinpoint the exact cause of a long-term period of insomnia. In my case it was a chicken or the egg situation; did an undiagnosed case of anxiety lead to an ongoing insomnia or did the continuous cycle of restless nights filled with dark thoughts lead to a serious case of anxiety? I was told if I treated the anxiety I may find the insomnia would go away, or I may experience it for the rest of my life. Others are told they simply have insomnia, that there is no explanation and potentially no cure. Hearing that you may never sleep again for the rest of your life is guaranteed to increase your anxiety.