Triggers. Bed, darkness, wrinkly covers, imperfect pillows, my husband getting into bed. Going to bed has been hard work most of my life. My night fears have been so terrifying that often I’ve decided – quite consciously – not to try to fix them.
Bed time was when my child-voice spoke up, and I slipped into long-held defenses and coping strategies: covers perfectly tucked in and crinkle-free; perfectly comfy pillow; a phone in the bedroom and a bit of light somewhere. I needed to be the perfect temperature, with fresh air in the room. I had to ask my husband, Are all the doors locked? Did you check carefully? I couldn’t stand to be the last one to bed.
Any of those not happening led to distress, restlessness, anger and kicking. I’ve too often been angry at Aaron in bed; sometimes I’ve told to sleep elsewhere. He’s been wearing all my night-time anger.
But 2014 has been different with some things falling into place. One night back in April I found myself on an angry path, but alongside was a new feeling – that I really didn’t want to go that way. I got up and wrote this diary entry:
New Path: Going to Bed
This will be difficult but never mind – what path would I love to take if I was able to choose any and make it work?
* Leaving behind anxiety and old ideas about needing to sleep.
* Freedom to enjoy bed-yoga and new thoughts about sleep.
* Freedom to read and eat and enjoy the night.
* Freedom to stay up late then fall asleep quickly.
* A path of easy, peaceful, soothing feelings.
Not sure if this will work. Need new thoughts for this big bad sleep problem.
* I want to move through difficult times with my equilibrium intact.
* ‘Thank you for my family, who sleep around me.’
* I want night to be an enjoyable part of my time on earth.
* What will I discover in the night? In the quiet? More of my own voice?
* Night belongs to me, not to some mysterious force or old situation or triggers that previously left me scared and powerless.
* Night is a chance to be in a new place without leaving the house.
I’ve been working with this for about seven months now and the new thoughts have busted a lot of old crap away.
I went to a yoga class specifically on relaxing and sleeping (hence my idea of bed-yoga – you can do it right in bed, yay!). They discussed how wakefulness at night is okay and some sleepiness during the day is okay too. Picture a yin-yang of waking and sleeping, with no hard boundary. I’m quite happy now to get up in the night to eat or read or write, and I’m happy to nap.
For the first time in my entire life of 36 years I’ve slept without another adult in the house, and I wasn’t scared. Three nights in a row. I felt incredible and independent. I felt like someone else.
At the heart, though, of why the new paths are working is that I’ve opened up more. I trust my family and I want them close. That’s a pleasant thought to go to sleep with. I’m tired of anger and defenses. My brain is getting the message: No need to fight here…
It’s been a long time coming.
Though in the interests of being honest with myself, I need to say I haven’t managed to shift anything about getting angry when Aaron comes to bed. Last night I was crappy and difficult and irritable with him. I’m thinking I should write some thoughts and pathways about that. Try and get a foot-hold, at least, in a better direction. So why is my child-voice piping up as I write this, saying, ‘No! I just want to be angry and horrid and mean and kick him.’? Work to do there…