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Will I Ever Be Able to Sleep Again?

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When I was a kid, my dad would rub my head, pulling my hair back and down until I fell asleep. As an adult, I count sheep, calm my breathing, and think of happy places until I am void of happiness. One hour, two, three, even four of telling myself sleeping shouldn’t be this hard. Sleeping should be bliss; it should be one thing I can look forward to after a long day of nothing but stress.

Sheep have too many details that I map out and analyze. Calming my breathing leads to shaky inhaling on the verge of crying, and happy places do nothing when they are all grim and bleak. I remember being tucked in as a child, closing my eyes, and it seems like all it ever took was my head hitting the pillow and my body sliding under the silky sheets for my brain to follow suit.

After my dad died, it took a lot more than silky sheets and a pillow, and I no longer had his hand gliding over my hair to give me rest. I would watch even the slightest movements in the dark, and romanticize, glorify, horrify, what they might’ve been. A man, waiting for me to fall asleep so he could steal me away, a bug dancing on the ceiling trying to find his way back to his family, a monster with horns watching over me.

The voices never slept and neither did I. I was a prisoner searching for something to aid me at night but all I ever found was unanswered questions. What happened when I would finally drift off. Would I ever wake up? He never did.

Now, at 22, I paint images in my head: greens, blues, reds, and think of what they would be on paper, without the constant interruptions of life and what might be lurking behind that closet door. The only question I have now is: will I ever be able to sleep again?

The military sleep method is just a notch in my belt, as well as hundreds of sleep sounds that I overanalyze. It seems like life is just always being awake, and the blatant realization that sleeping is so difficult when it should be so easy is damning.

I tried sleeping pills, but they only give me visual hallucinations beyond the auditory ones. Whoever said warm milk is supposed to knock you out was full of shit, it does nothing and doesn’t taste great either. TV on, TV off doesn’t matter, it all ends with the same outcome.

I haven’t cracked the code yet. All I do know is that when my boyfriend rubs my head, I fall asleep without the humming of the voices, without the fear, without the analyzing. That man no longer wants to take me, the bug finds his way, and the monster crawls back into its cave.

Getty image by Demaerre.

Originally published: August 16, 2021
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