Of course this is Shakespeare:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub
Yeah, there’s the rub, that’s for sure.
I used to love to sleep. Sleep came so easily for me. Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, I could count backwards 5-4-3-2-1 and be asleep. Just like that, *snapping my fingers*. I could fall asleep anywhere. I took blissful, restful sleep for granted.
Back then, my dreams were mostly of my beloved dogs and cats that had crossed the Rainbow Bridge, sometimes bringing happy messages back to me. Or every so often, I’d have a prophetic dream about my son but never really a nightmare.
Last night was a big deal for me.
April 1, 2019 marks the first night I slept an entire night without waking up once in dread, in a cold sweat, without my heart beating a million beats per second ready to jump out of my chest, without the gasp of that split second between sleep/awake and remembering that my daytime reality IS the nightmare, that there really IS hell on earth, and I am living proof.
When I first woke up this morning, it took a moment for me to perceive that it wasn’t 3am, that the earliest of early morning birds had started to sing and there was a faint hint of dawn lightening the sky.
There was no swirling of dreams that made waking up a death unto itself. A shard of glass to slice at my heart and torment me, poking at me with each inhale and exhale for the rest of the day.
There was peace. OMG, so much peace.
I had to help my brain process this miracle of healing, a painfully slow process of realization that FOR THE FIRST TIME, I had slept unfettered by the bondage of painful memories that morphed into night terrors so incredibly lucid that they haunted me during the day. Sleep was walking into a dark tunnel with not the slightest glimmer of light at the end of it. Depressing, huh?
I couldn’t endure another dream of a gigantic mottled black plague-infected rat with oozing sores climbing in my bed to curl up next to me, no more continuation of the abject panic that permeated my waking life.
No more dreams that weren’t even really dreams, simply the continuing of the day’s macabre horrors.
For more than three years, thirty-six months, 1,095 days, 26,280 hours, and 1,576,800 minutes, I couldn’t sleep, and I’d cry out to no one into the silence of the night to please wake me up from this nightmare, please take me out of my misery; only to realize that there was no respite for me.
“No sleep for you!” said the sleep Nazi (an homage to Seinfeld’s soup Nazi.)
The nightmare WAS the reality.
The dark soul of the night became the abject despair of the day.
There is the saying “follow your dreams” but if I had followed those dreams, I would have ended up in a vortex of Sartre’s No Exit.
I was in a neverending episode of the Twilight Zone, caught in a purgatory that I could never have prepared myself to endure. Drowning.
I tried everything: meditation, EFT, mantras, deep breathing exercises to control my out of control hyperventilation /tachypnea, conscious mindfulness, and lessons in neural plascticity to nurse my wounded brain. One of the best pain relievers was and is listening to raw binaural beats with headphones. Some nights, that was the only way I could even attempt sleep.
I dreaded going to sleep, the actual sleep, and the waking up from an unhappy sleep.
The simple tortuous action of closing my eyes created a canvas where I’d be subjected to an endless loop of conversations, images, mirages spanning more than twenty years.
I wished for a lobotomy, to be in a coma, to erase all that was etched in my conscious and subconscious.
Through pain and fear and sadness, I discovered that the only cure is radical acceptance. I couldn’t run away from it. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Wherever you go, there you are.
I had to stand my ground and surrender to the pain.
To love it, honor it, respect it, and learn from it.
Now. Right now. I hear a hawk, I hear a scrub jay, I hear the angry chattering of a nesting Bell’s Vireo. Off in the distance, I hear a train. I hear an airplane. I hear a symphony of wind chimes. I see blue sky, I see lush green grass that’s been lovingly tended, I feel a gentle breeze lifting a swarm of Painted Lady butterflies from the yellow marguerite daisy bushes to settle for a moment on the Pride of Madeira. All the rain we had this season birthed an incredible floral display.
Everything around me seems to be conspiring to show me that there’s still beauty after a storm, that there’s happiness to be discovered if you look and listen.
Oh and I see a bunny. Always a bunny.
My heart is wounded and scarred; I’ve been through a war zone,
I had no weapons to fight the enemy that raped and pillaged my life and my innocence. And my heart.
I’m collateral damage,
I’m eternally sad.
But I’m alive, and that’s something to be grateful for.
And…for the very first time in a long time, I slept an entire night and woke up in serenity and peace.
(But that peace wouldn’t last, as I soon learned…)