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How Anxiety, Depression and Grief Affect My Relationship With Sleep

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No matter how much sleep I get, it’s never enough. I never wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go. I wake up tired and wanting to go back to sleep. And sore, always sore, everything hurts, mostly my back. I’m always tired. I feel like I could sleep for days and still be tired. But, I also have trouble sleeping. I’ll be tired all day, looking forward to the point when I get to go to bed. But then at night, I get this second wind, this burst of energy that keeps me up. When I was younger, I was always a night owl. I would love to stay up all night on weekends and sleep all day. Not much changed as an adult. I still prefer the night.

People often ask me how I can sleep in on the weekends. I guess most people get used to getting up early for work during the week so when the weekend comes around they’re not able to sleep in. Not me. I never really had a problem sleeping in. It was the falling asleep part that was my issue. Once I was asleep, I was good to go. I’m not sure what kept me up in my younger days. It could have been the depression and anxiety or maybe I just had insomnia. I never really thought about it too much back then. But that all changed when my dad died. The year my dad died, I pretty much became a functioning alcoholic for a good seven or eight months. In all honesty, I was trying to drink myself to death. I would literally go to work, come home, drink until I’d pass out, get up the next morning and do it all over again.

I’d probably get, maybe four hours of sleep on work nights. On weekends I’d sleep in as long as possible to avoid drinking all day. I’d even wait until after 5 p.m. to drink on most weekends, just because society tells you it’s wrong to drink before then, unless of course you’re having brunch. It took me a while to realize why sleep became so difficult for me. Then it hit me — it was because I didn’t want want to wake up. I liked the sleeping part. When I was asleep, I didn’t have to deal with life. I wanted life to be the dream and sleep to be the reality. Because when I was asleep, there was a possibility that I could dream about my dad. But when I woke up, I’d have to face the reality of his death all over again. Every day I’d have to wake up and realize he was no longer here. And I hated that.

So I avoided sleep as much as I could until I couldn’t. I would fight to stay awake. And drink to numb the pain and try to make myself forget. But, eventually, I would always fall asleep. And unfortunately, I would always wake up, feeling like absolute shit! I did that until one day I just got tired of feeling like shit. I got tired of waking up hungover every day and having to go to work. And I realized I wasn’t going to die. So I decided to stop drinking every day and start trying to get my shit together. That was four years ago. I’m still working on it. I did stop drinking every day. I started my gym routine up again. I found that working out regularly helped with sleep. I still didn’t like the waking up part, but I did like being able to sleep.

Fast forward to now. Ever since Whitey (my cat) died, I’ve been avoiding sleep again. Not just because I have to deal with her not being here every time I wake up, but also because I have to deal with her not being here for bed. Nights seem to be the worst. She was my bed buddy. Most people don’t think of cats as cuddle buddies like dogs. But they like to cuddle too, on their own terms. And she slept with me every night. She was the first thing I saw when I woke up every morning and the last thing I saw when I went to bed every night. And being laid off and stuck at home 24/7 without her has been absolute freaking torture!

The day I had to put her down, I was up for over 24 hours because I couldn’t sleep without her. When I finally did fall asleep, it was only for about four hours. That’s how it’s been ever since. I don’t seem to get more than four hours (of sleep) straight. Don’t get me wrong, I will lie there and try to go back to sleep and eventually, usually I do. But for some reason, I can’t seem to sleep longer than four hours straight. No matter what time I go to bed. My sleep schedule has been all messed up since I’m not working. I mean, I don’t really have to get up at a certain time so why should I? And why should I go to bed at a certain time? It’s not like I have anything to do. But, I am kinda back to the whole drinking every day thing again. Only this time, I’m not getting drunk every day or drinking to get drunk. I did for a couple weeks after Whitey died when I was contemplating killing myself again. But after that, it was just a couple glasses of wine at night, not getting drunk. 

I thought about getting back to a sleep routine but I’m still weighing the pros and cons. I mean, the only reason I had that sleep routine was because I had to get up early for work. I’ve never been a morning person. I hate mornings. So why do I have to get up early if I don’t have to go to work? Why can’t I stay up all night and sleep all day? If I’m being productive during the time I’m up then it shouldn’t matter. I think it’s partly society that makes me think I have to sleep at night and be up during the day. But there’s plenty of people who work the night shift and have to sleep during the day and be up at night and it it works for them.

I think I need to find a sleep cycle that works for me while I’m not working. But I also need to make sure I am being productive during the time I’m up and not just sitting on on the couch watching TV all day. I think that’s what I need to do to try and get more quality sleep is incorporate some kind of exercise back into my life. Gyms aren’t open and since I’m laid off I can’t afford it anyway. So I need to start walking every day. I’ve been saying that for six months. It really sucks when you’re the type of person who almost always knows what you have to do, but can’t seem to do it. 

That’s where my depression and anxiety come in. My depression wants to lie in bed and sleep all day and be “lazy.” My anxiety has two parts, one part has a lot of energy and actually wants to go for a walk and do things outside but then the other part (my social anxiety) doesn’t want to step outside or be around people at all. It’s like they’re constantly fighting with each other to the point of exhaustion and I’m just sitting inside my body waiting to see who’s going to win. Sometimes I feel like I’m not even the one living my life, they are. And I don’t have the energy or the strength to fight them. And I constantly beat myself up for that.

Can you relate to Lyndsey’s story? Let her know in the comments below.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

Originally published: January 15, 2021
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