Sleep. A very simple word, yet so complex. Such a natural thing, we all do it. We spend most of the beginning of our lives sleeping - and I guess, sometimes, the very end, too. We all know how to do it - we rely on it to revitalize and to refresh.
I USED to know what sleep was. I used to both love and hate it. Now, I just plain hate it and WISH I could love it.
I fought it when I was little. I was the typical 'five more minutes?' kid when told to go to bed when I was in grade school. Sometimes I would be forced to go to bed at 8:30, when MacGyver was on from 8-9. I know, who does that? My mother, that's who! I'd plead with her, but when the 8:30 commercial came on, she'd clap her hands and tell me it was bedtime - she'd tape the rest. And this was back in the day when we had to record on VHS - more often than not, it'd not even record properly and I'd have to wait for the re-run. Still, there was no arguing with Oompa - if I didn't go to bed on time and when I was told, she'd make me go to bed a half hour EARLIER the next night!
FYI, Angus MacGyver (the Richard Dean Anderson version) was the first man I ever had a crush on. I remember going to bed wishing he'd save me. Maybe it was because I would be pouting over missing the second half of the episode but even on non-MacGyver nights, I'd lay there and dream up scenarios where he'd swoop in and rescue me. From what, you ask? I don't know. I was maybe 9. This was not a time I suspect anything was happening during - but perhaps subconsciously, I knew something wasn't quite right and I was in search of a hero. And MacGyver was my favorite - mullet and all - he always saved the day. Or night. He was my superhero, one that didn't fly or shoot lasers out of his eyes - but still someone who, although fictional, made me feel safe.
I was a sleepwalker in childhood, too. I am unable to say for sure when this started but it was MOSTLY stopped before I hit my teens, although there were a couple of isolated incidents as a teenager. This, I don't know too much about, save the 'stories' my parents would tell me - they saw me walk the hallways, they wondered if I was up for a midnight snack - I'd open and close kitchen cabinets, I'd wake up with no memory of any of it, and it was never really made a big deal of - it was normalized - and I wonder sometimes if this was done so in order to further prior coverups/explanations that this was another 'deaf' thing.
Another unusual sleep-related event that is probably pertinent to mention - I was (and still am) a rocker. I rock to FALL asleep. I rock IN my sleep. I rock as a prerequisite to sleep - sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for several - before flopping onto my belly and finally being ready to fall asleep. This started in very early childhood - the self-rocking prior to sleep. 'It's a security thing,' Oompa had said, 'maybe it's because you can't hear?' (I've yet to meet another deaf rocker, so I honestly don't think this has anything to do with hearing - especially since Oompa ALSO would try to encourage me to 'stop rocking' by way of incentives and 'rewards.') Eventually she would also give up on this; perhaps when she realized it was something that couldn't easily be helped and I'd be rocking IN my sleep and in most cases, automatically. I do remember this being a topic of discussion between her and my T that I saw when I was a child. This was one of my 'behaviors' that she couldn't make sense of. One of the behaviors, I think, she felt better attributing to my hearing loss rather than to the possibility of there being something worse.
In high school, though, I NEVER needed to be told to go to bed. I was in bed, rocking, by 9pm and I'd STILL give Oompa a hard time when she woke me in the morning. She worked as a schoolteacher at the time, and she'd wake me in the mornings with a rough swat, shake or a poke - she'd be getting herself ready for work and didn't have time for the gentle, loving wake-ups. I'd get annoyed and growl, 'I'm UP,' when I, in reality, was still trying to finish the dream I was having and would drift back off as soon as she left the room. Minutes later, she'd return and she'd be PISSED if I was still sleeping.
I STILL remember the time she walked past my room and I still wasn't out of bed. This particular morning, I wasn't feeling well and was having trouble. I was propped up by my elbows in bed, not quite asleep but still trying to wake up. She stormed past my bedroom to get to hers (next door) and when she saw I was still half-covered up with blankets, she hurled a hairbrush at me - like one of those uber-talented knife throwers at the circus - and the thicker part of the brush hit me RIGHT in the middle of my face, which caused my nose to bleed immediately.
Yep, that got me moving. And no, she never apologized for that. I do remember making a smart-ass comment about it, to the effect of, 'do you even realize what you DID to me this morning?' I want to say there was a moment where she looked slightly remorseful but, 'if you'd gotten up when I woke you - that wouldn't have happened,' was likely what she replied. The nosebleed went away, but the memory did not.
(Karma bit me on the ass on this one - MY 12-year-old is VERY difficult to rouse in the mornings! Still, I do not bring hairbrushes with me when I go wake her - instead, I stand over her until she not only is awake, but is OUT of bed, too.)
My mother was not an explainer or a reasoner. She was a warner, and then a smacker - physical discipline was what she'd been taught in HER childhood - her smacks stung, but were not to the point of being abusive, but still not a means of punishment that I've ever felt the need to take part in when it comes to handling my own kids - she feared the wooden spoon - my kids currently fear the wifi password being changed without their knowledge or their devices being taken away from them. THAT, is equally as torturous as what I feared as a kid, for no such technology had even been invented yet. My sisters and I were raised by different men - their father is a screamer - and day after day, he would come home from work and the three of us would sit on the couch and listen to his daily fit. He'd scream about something. It didn't matter what it was - something my mother said, something one of us kids did, an issue with the car, an issue with the house, an unexpected bill...no matter - the man screamed for up to an hour - every single night. I had the luxury of 'turning him off,' (removing the hearing aid was usually the best course of action) and I'd sometimes find a small amount of amusement watching him 'muted.' There were some VERY interesting facial expressions. Additionally, he too was a smacker, more so toward his own two kids but I got my share of swats whenever deserved - won't lie. I had my moments. MY father, though - was a 'if it's not an issue of needing money, let your mother deal with it' kinda man. Lord Capulet NEVER raised his voice to me. He smacked me - ONCE - in my entire forty years of life - and it was one single smack onto my arm. LOL. I'll never forget that, actually - I was a teen and mouthed off to his wife, who had been annoying me in some way - hell if I remember what the issue even was. His palm came down onto my forearm. Didn't hurt. Surprised me more than anything and effectively shut me up. THEN, I got my (90's-style) laptop taken away for a week.
Anyway - I seem to have strayed from the topic of sleep, which is what I originally set out to discuss. I'll get back to that, now. Everything mentioned prior to this was all before the age of seventeen, when the idea of 'normal' sleep would forever change for me. Aside from the rocking. That remains the case, and this may be a good place to add a shout-out to my J, who has spent almost every night for the last decade, in the same bed as me and thankfully, can sleep through my rocking, rolling, flopping, leg-swinging and kicking, and from time-to-time, talking. I got a good one. I know I did.
I know I've discussed my poor sleeping habits before - we all know by now how sexual assault can affect sleep - I am no different in that respect. Aside from now wondering if some of these habits originated for reasons I've not yet come to understand clearly, I am finding that it's a constant struggle, even so many years after my own sexual assault. I was a mother four years later - and mid-night feedings were a piece of cake because I was usually ALREADY up. This was NEVER something that I said to myself, 'Ok, this year, I'm going to get back on track with my sleeping. I'll go to bed early, I'll get up early, I'll eliminate morning naps, I'll do this, I'll do that.' Nope. Never happened.
You would think that sleep was something I actually ENJOYED, based on how hard it was for me to get out of bed in my early teen years. And I want to say I DO like it. When it comes naturally and without hours of tossing and turning and without unnecessarily dosing myself with NyQuil just for the knock-out effect. When it didn't usually bring forth unwelcome dreams, night terrors or the jolt-awakes. Lately, I'm not able to sleep unless I'm EXTREMELY tired - in which case, the rocking lasts for no more than three to five minutes, and then I'm out cold. Usually, to get to this point, I'll have had to have two or three consecutive nights of restlessness and be fully ready to crash. I've taken to, though, trying to stay awake/occupied until my eyes are literally closing on me - because if I try to force the issue and go to bed before I'm THIS tired, I will end up tossing and turning and frustrating myself for hours before sleep takes over. Then, by the time I'm sleepy enough to actually indulge in some REM, it's time to get up to get the daughter ready for school!
Lately, it's been recommended that I try taking Melatonin twenty minutes before attempting sleep. Over-the-counter stuff, no prescription was required. 'It works,' I was told. It's not NyQuil, it's not addicting. It's safe.
I might be getting ahead of myself since the recommendation wasn't made directly. It was actually J who introduced me to the 'swig' before bedtime - it was never really a full dose of NyQuil, but just enough to make her (and me when I'd join her for the swig) drowsy enough to drift off to sleep. Now J's T has her on additional meds and has recommended Melatonin - something that J is finding hard to do because by now, she's got a long-standing NyQuil dependency. We did, however, buy two bottles of Melatonin - one containing 5mg doses and the other containing 10mg doses.
I started with a 5mg tablet a couple nights ago. I went to bed around 1am - popped the Melatonin a little after 12:30. I did feel tired soon after - and by 1, I was tucking myself in. Did my few minutes of obligatory rocking and was soon asleep.
You'd think having taken a sleep aid would mean I'd sleep for more than two or three hours - I was jolted awake a little before 4am. I have NO idea what happened here - if I was dreaming, I don't remember it. It was still pitch-black in our room - usually it needs only for a light to come on three rooms over and I'm awake but that was also not the case. And then it took me almost another two hours to go back to sleep. Not too big a deal, but still disheartening. And it's not even that I'm wide awake; I'm still TIRED after this little sleep, but my body just doesn't want to give in too easily to that deep sleep I crave.
I've yet to try the 10mg tablet and will do so tonight. If THIS one yields the same result, I'll assume that my body is simply too used to its current sleep cycles and patterns. I don't think I'm even capable of sleeping more than three hours, four MAX, at a time. I might have spent too many years training myself to function on little sleep, and now that I'll be hopefully starting school in September, I'm likely going to have my work cut out for me - trying to undo all these years of trying to avoid real sleep!
Suppose I'll keep y'all informed. And no, no real point to this blog entry, other than to say that getting this under control is something I'm going to have to work at. Something I am going to have to be patient with myself in order to do, and I DO imagine there will be countless more tossy-turny nights before the restful ones show up.
But this sleep thing? This, like so many other things in my life - is a struggle I strive to understand - and something I definitely need to correct.
Anyway - sweet dreams and good night to you all. I'm going to give it another try.