I am going to share with you some of the best advice I ever learned entirely on my own but which has saved me much insanity and drama:
Never. Ever. NEVER make ANY decisions or act on ANY feelings you might have towards people as the result of middle of the night totally irrational, worst case scenario insomniac thoughts.
NEVER NEVER EVER!
I used to think that those irrational fears that would hit when my brain couldn’t sleep were subconscious issues that I *needed* to solve. That the reason my brain woke me up was so that I could delve into them more deeply.
The trouble is, there are two kinds of sleepless thoughts (at least there are in my own brain YMMV of course).
I am not talking about insomnia that results from being sick or having too much caffeine or even being stressed mentally in any way. I know what that feels like. For me, my brain never really does shut down on those nights and even if I fall asleep, it is barely a fitful toss and turn kind of sleep with vivid dreams and constant flashes of being partially awake. Eventually I simply wake up and the best thing I can do is read myself back to sleep for at least a few hours. In those instances, perhaps trying to snatch at whatever elusive thought or feeling is preventing sleep is good in order to get at the root of the issue.
However, there is another kind of insomnia. It is the one that results when you DID fall asleep. In fact, you fell into that deep REM sleep almost immediately. It was awesome! But then, very soon thereafter, *something* wakes you up. For me, if it happens within an hour of me having just fallen asleep, it is the WORST.
Because you have been ripped out of that deep part of your brain, you struggle to shake off the cobwebs and deal with whatever it is that woke you up.
For me this past Friday it was my phone ringing with 16 calling to let me know he was back at the school after his game and the subsequent team gathering. I had mistakenly thought he would be dropped off directly at home and had even turned off my text message sounds and gone to bed. So, I had to pull myself together and get him. All in all, it was only 15 minutes perhaps between the phone call and then returning back to my bed.
But that was enough to wake up the irrational demons.
The lights hadn’t been out more than 5 minutes and I knew I was in for it. I could feel the grip of foreboding thoughts taking over. But I reminded myself before they washed over everything:
“This means NOTHING. Don’t give in. Let them talk, but don’t give in to the temptation to act to solve the problems the voices will scream about. Wait until the morning and revisit them. Do NOTHING. This means NOTHING.”
In that moment, my brain will take absolutely ANY small irritation from the previous days and spin it into the GREATEST TRAGEDY IN THE WORLD! People who I normally trust explicitly become treacherous crooks. Items that I have annoyingly misplaced because THE MOST IMPORTANT LIFE SAVING ITEMS ON THE PLANET! My kid getting bad grades? HE WILL BE HOMELESS! Someone at work hasn’t answered a lingering question? I WILL LOSE MY JOB! A friend hasn’t returned a message? SHE HATES ME AND THINKS I AM HORRIBLE AND WILL NEVER HANG OUT WITH ME AGAIN!
I mean, clearly my older son STOLE that $10 off coupon from Vons that I absolutely HAD TO HAVE in order to buy groceries, RIGHT?! I’m not kidding, that was the ridiculous example from earlier this year that kept my brain going through all sorts of anger and trust issues and then financial worries and…GAH! Clearly I would lose my HOUSE over this $10 coupon that my son STOLE from my bedroom!!
Yeah, and then the next morning I found it in the bottom of my canvas bag that I take back and forth to work. It had fallen out of the slot in my purse. Imagine that?
But trust me, if I hadn’t stopped myself from getting up that night and marching downstairs and yelling at him since I could hear him still awake in his room…well…talk about making mountains out of molehills and then passing that on and hurting someone else unnecessarily!!!!
So Friday I allowed my brain about 30 minutes to be utterly stupid. Then I turned on the TV for an hour which provided enough distraction to sidetrack the demons, then I fell back to sleep.
And Saturday morning? I handled the two items that had reared their ugly heads exactly as I had planned on handling them. And all was right with the world and no other people were hurt in the process
Have I previously NOT been quite so smart about ignoring the insomnia demons? Yeah. Oh yeah. And every damn time I learned how wrong I was to do that.
So please, don’t do that!