Insightful Insomnia: How Insomnia Lead Me Back to My Authentic Self

Insomnia: 3 AM - Linda Pasten

Sleep has stepped out for a smoke and may not be back.

The sun is waiting in the celestial green room, practicing its flamboyant entrance.

In the hour of the wolf there is only the clock for company, ticking through the dark remorseless stations of the night.

Everyone has experienced a night of sleeplessness. But have you ever experienced years of troubled sleep? I have. When I first became acquainted with "the hour of the wolf," I ignored the seriousness of this problem. Instead of looking at the root of my sleeplessness, I drank more coffee and tried to inhabit the spirit of the energizer bunny. Guess what? It didn't work.

After five months of battles in my bed, I decided to seek help. My life coach illustrated my obsession with the need to constantly go, do, and analyze. This obsession was not one that started over night. But, continued to grow over a decade. My busy nature was a way for me to ignore my wounds.  

In the worst stretch of sleeplessness, I was forced to move from Nashville back home to recoup, because I could barely function. At times washing a dish or brushing my teeth seemed like an arduous task. Those first two months home, I maybe slept two hours a night. I was ecstatic if I slept five. For someone who is so active, it was a type of torture to spend my days lying on the couch. I watched all six seasons of Sex and the City, read books, and ate. That was pretty much it. 

Now I see that my main issue was this lust of doing more and bulldozing over old wounds that were crying for attention. I did have physical issues that exacerbated my insomnia. But, the crux of the problem was physiological and spiritual. I discovered I was severely anemic. If the body does not have enough blood, it cannot put you to sleep (no matter what drugs you take--I tried). I also had Lyme disease, which can create choo-choo trains of thoughts when you lay down to sleep. And my adrenals were extremely fatigued. No shit! After I had addressed these issues, I did see improvement in my sleep. But, I still experience bad nights and have to take Trazadone to sleep.

As I continued to see a coach and coach myself, I realized that I was the one standing in my way. Doing this shadow work of looking at my deepest darkest wounds and secrets, gave way to great improvement in my sleep. This work also allowed me to see that I was addicted to doing and needed to make more time to just be. The busyness took the form of over-exercising, working over time, binge drinking, serial cleaning, and over thinking everything just to name a few. 

Before insomnia, I would guilt trip myself for lounging around, thinking I should be doing this. Without much sleep, I had no choice but to lounge around and lovingly look at why I said "should" incessantly. The universe saw that I had no intention of changing my ways, so it forced me into a new way. Through the darkness of insomnia, I was forced to find a crevice of light. I learned how to take a "holy pause." It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with allowing my mind, body, and spirit to relax. Whether the pause is in the form of a hot Epsom salt bath, lying on the couch, meditating, reading, stargazing, or just being, these relaxing activities help me sleep. 

By learning how to decompress, I learned how to look at old memories and emotions that I never allowed myself to feel. I used busyness to mask these feelings and realized I had brushed my father's death off, like a dramatic friend that I didn't have time to deal with. This theme of never having enough time continued to pop into my life. When I began to honor my hardships and gave myself permission to call them a big deal, I was able to peal off another layer of the onion. This digging deeper enabled me to get rid of some serious baggage that had been weighing me down like a super-sized McDonalds happy meal. And I still have a long way to go.

I recently read, that if you rearrange the word anxiety it spells "any exit." This illustrates exactly what I did on a daily basis. If feelings arose that I didn't want to deal with, boom, I was out the nearest exit sign in a spilt second. I have never been comfortable with the labels of good and bad. But I now know that too much of anything (drinking, exercising, shopping, cleaning, thinking) has major consequences. Because I let these consequences of over-doing build up for years, the universe had to give me a wake up call so loud, it literally knocked me off my feet. 

Today, I am finally sleeping consistently. I still have a bad night here and there, but I know this is part of my journey. I have to walk this dark road, so that I can support others who have also lost their way. My life mission is to help others uncover answers to their sleeplessness or unsolvable mystery and return to the ebb and flow of life. 

Socrates eloquently stated, "The unexamined life is not worth living." The most valuable lesson I've taken from these maddening years is to make time to examine my life without judgment. And in doing so, find what works for me. Most of the time, I yearn for someone to tell me what to do. But that is just another way to find "any exit." And when I take "any exit," I play the victim. As my favorite author, Tom Robbins, writes, "All people who live subject to other people's laws are victims." So instead of looking to others for answers or approval, I must make my own laws.  This is the challenging route. To get quiet, go within, and uncover genuine answers that take some blood, sweat, and tears. It isn't easy. But damn, it's worth it.

Justin Mabee