I haven't written about my insomnia in ages. I guess it has receded into the background buzz of life. I'm used to it now. But I also haven't written about it because I kind of gave up on the idea of getting off sleeping pills. About six months ago, I just felt I couldn't deal with worrying every night whether I would sleep. I didn't really make a decision, I just took it every night, always thinking, "Just this one more night, and then I'll start cutting back again." I took the more expensive kind when I had free samples, and the cheaper kind when I didn't. And even with the sleeping pills, there were still occasional nights when I couldn't sleep. So I would take more. And then, for my big beach vacation, I was really nervous because it was my big vacation last year when this whole insomnia thing started. So I took some of both, together, and boy did that do the job. I loved that feeling of being completely overtaken by it, of falling into a heavy and uninterrupted sleep. And then I came home, and I realized, if I just take some of both, I really won't have to worry at all. Temptation. And then one night a few weeks ago, even my miracle mixture didn't work. I think that should have been a sign, although I don't know that I heeded it, that taking more and more drugs to get to sleep might not be a good long-term plan.
Around the beginning of this month, I started to feel depressed. Like, checklist of all the symptoms of depression you find on the internet kind of depressed. I didn't enjoy my normal pursuits, not even cooking or eating. (Extremely abnormal for me.) I felt a kind of generalized sadness and anxiety all the time. Communication with others became a misery. I felt uncomfortable, restless, trapped in a world that no longer looked the same. I actually had to run out of a grocery store one day because I felt like I was freaking out. It was scary. I couldn't write about it. I couldn't describe it. I just found a draft post I wrote during that time, and I couldn't publish it. And then something said to me, "It might be those sleeping pills." And I looked them up and, sure enough, both of them listed depression and anxiety as possible side effects. Now, who knows, maybe mixing them together triggered something. Or maybe they had nothing to do with it. But, suddenly, I saw the insanity of taking this cocktail of drugs to sleep every night for months or years on end. Who knows what this stuff could do to me.
So I am newly resolved to get off sleeping pills. And somehow it feels different this time. I don't relish the idea of not sleeping, but I don't feel the panic about it that I used to feel. Maybe I've had time to come to terms with the fact that this is part of my life now. I'm never going to snap back to being the person before insomnia. This is not something that I'm going to "conquer" or "leave behind." It's something I have to live with. I also think it's something that has prompted me to live more skillfully. It inspired me to start meditating, a practice that has given me mental discipline. I no longer lie down with an anxious cycle of thoughts running through my head. (It used to go something like, What should I think about? How can I distract myself? What if I don't fall asleep? No! Don't think about that. Don't! Oh shit. It's happening again. FUCK!!! MY LIFE IS RUINED!!!) I know how to feel my breath and defuse unproductive, fearful thoughts. I know how to focus on what is here and now and say to myself, "I'm aware of the fear. I smile to the fear." I am stunned at how calming that is, to just sit quietly and feel the weight in my chest, acknowledge it, defuse its power.
This is not to say I have it all figured out. I still haven't slept a night without sleeping pills. I've quit taking the expensive stuff, and I am down to half a tablet of the cheap stuff. As soon as I can work up the courage, I'm going to go down to a quarter. Maybe tonight? I am still afraid, but I think the consequences of not doing this could be greater than I am willing to bear.