I’ve been experimenting with my sleep patterns since I started the new job with Aceda 6 weeks ago. It has been a continual thorn in my side over the past 6 years that my sleep gears towards nocturnal. It started suddenly after the devastating break up of a long term relationship, I immediately went from being a very morning, waking up with the dawn to have a walk kind of person, to keeping company with the owls and bats.
Many things fed into this over the years, for a couple there I was totally nocturnal, unable to sleep at all until the dawn came and people started to wake up and go about their lives. I kept vigil all the long, lonely nights, baked scones, watched bizarre documentaries on SBS, wrote poetry, wept myself hoarse, and went for long walks when it rained and I figured I’d be the only mad one out on the streets.
When I was very sick with the chronic fatigue and fibro etc getting less than 9 hours would leave me trembling, vomiting, and massively dissociated. Insomnia cycles with nightmares were devastating physically and tipped me into psychosis. The usual treatments for sleep issues didn’t work at all, most sleeping meds do not work on me, the only one that does also leaves me dissociated and half out of my brain for days. Attempting to reset patterns by persistently getting out of bed in the morning and getting in the sun or taking melantonin only made me incredibly ill. I would crack long before any signs of sleep resetting would start.
So, I’ve been quite surprised to discover that I’ve been able to reset my patterns fairly easily over the past few weeks. I’m certainly physically far stronger than I have been, I can even handle one morning a week on a few hours sleep, and I’ve discovered recently there’s one part who seems to exist in a permanent hypo-manic state and doesn’t seem to notice even quite significant periods with little to no sleep. Slightly worrying but also incredibly useful when they’re around…
There’s been a downside I didn’t expect. My mental health isn’t coping with the change at all. Without my late night hours, there are a number of parts of my system who are not getting any time at all. We didn’t realise this. So many new realisations lately.
We are able to get by so much better than we used to in so many ways. One of the big things that has made a difference is the ability to contain distressed parts until we’re safe and alone. So often people say to me “I can’t believe you wrote that post about hating yourself, or painted that image about self harm, you don’t seem that way at all”. And I say back to them – “You haven’t met me at 3am”. How true that is. It’s such a constant surprise to me that people don’t pick that the confident, gracious person who steps onto the stage to read poems about savage pain cannot possibly have written them. When I was younger, triggers would floor me. Vulnerable parts would fall apart in public, switch out and hide in back rooms writing poetry in the journal we carried everywhere. Skinless and devastatingly sensitive we had no capacity to fit in, to conceal our difference or our pain. We’re still painfully raw at times, crying at work, missing the kinds of filters that adults seem to develop where you sit through movies untouched by the world within it. But we’re so much further along than we used to be, and it turns out a huge aspect of this is having hours at night, alone and uninterrupted by the rest of the world, to let out all of those suppressed feelings and those hidden parts.
How much of this is the difference between a child and an adult? How much of this is the distinction we draw between the crazy and the sane? The ‘sane’ still have the capacity to choke it down in public? Something left with which to conceal themselves? No sobbing on the bus, no poetry in the doctors office, mustn’t let them hear you scream…
I need my night hours to be mad. I crave my time in the sun, to be useful, to see friends, to study and work and live. But I need the night. It’s where I do my screaming, where I bleed ink, brew art, it’s the hours where the poems live and Narnia is close. It’s a difficult life to pull off, there’s too many mornings I can’t avoid being sleep deprived and up early, there’s the constant need for vigilence around things like driving and dissociation, cooking and dissociation – another nice burn on the inside of my arm from careless handling of a hot baking tray from a couple of days ago. There’s the risks of sleep deprivation which are serious. It’s a foot in two worlds kind of life, constantly frustrated by my inability to fit properly, to be entirely one thing or the other… It’s also a productive, fulfilling kind of life, sublime and mundane in their proper places, full of art, full of love, light and shadows, the dark and the bright of the moon.
It’s what I have to work with for now. So tonight, I’m a little tired, but I’m sitting up blogging again, past midnight where my thoughts suddenly become clear as snow melt and I feel at home. I belong here and I need this place.