Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Art and Science of Sleep

I often say that my sleep cycle was ruined when I worked full time, went to school, and had a colicky infant that screamed for the first year of his life.

Ah, the good old days.

I've been ruminating on it a lot lately as I once again find myself struggling to sleep. I no longer know how to sleep without medication. I fall asleep at ungodly early hours and I wake up at ungodly early hours.

When I get the inquisition about "how could your child be abused in your home and you not know about it?" Well, when you have my sleep cycle, it's not hard to imagine. Sleep is a rare commodity and when it wants to come, you let it happen. I'm sure all those "good mothers" remain totally hypervigilant and never let their husbands be with their children alone.

I've tried to reprogram my sleep cycle.

I've forced myself to stay awake. When I do this, I can physically feel my body cross over a threshold. After I cross that threshold, I will not sleep for the rest of the night. I've learned that when sleep wants to happen, I need to drop everything and let it happen because it's "now or never".

Sleep was broken for me a long time ago.

One of the major side effects of being sexually abused is sleep disorders. Night time is when the monsters came. Very often, a survivor of sexual abuse will keep their mind racing and busy all the time in order to fight off their demons and this is in direct opposition to the concept of sleep.

To this day, I can't sleep with the closet door open. I remember telling STBX that when the closet door was open, the monsters could get out. It was one of my "funny quirks".

The reality of the situation is that my abuser would sneak into my room and always pause in the doorway of my open closet. Was I asleep? Was I awake? Not that it ever really mattered. I would always pretend to be asleep when in reality, every single muscle was tensed like a cat getting ready to pounce. Getting ready to run.

That single moment of hesitation, everytime, framed by the open closet.

Open closets are where the monsters come from.

The mind, which continually tap dances during the day, spinning two lit sparklers and singing at the top of its lungs, loses its ability to distract when night falls. After my perpetrator died, I would have panic attacks at sundown. I would refuse to sleep in my room and I would lie on the sofa, staring out the big picture window, struggling to breathe, waiting for the first pink streaks of daylight to come.

Ever see how a person is treated when they go to the emergency room with a panic attack? You are treated like an idiot. You are wasting their time. You are seeking drugs. You are FRICKIN' CRAZY.

Not once did any doctor or nurse ask my aunt to leave the room and then turn around to me, perhaps sitting down on a chair so they would be at eye level, and ask "Has someone hurt you?"

Maybe it wouldn't have worked. Maybe it would have. Maybe they should have given it a go to see.

Instead, I had an intern demand of me, in front of my aunt "Just what the hell are you trying to pull here?"

Nothing. I'm just trying to breathe. I'm just trying to imagine my body without this horrifying weight on my chest. I'm just trying to imagine what my skin would feel like if it were clean. I'm just trying to imagine what I smell like, not him. I'm just trying to get out of bed and close the closet door.

It's all about the closet door. Some nights, the monsters still get me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.....sometimes the monsters still get me!