“100. 99. 98. 97. 96…” I do not count sheep as I try to sleep. I count steps. I suppose this is from the hypnosis games my friends played as a teenager (though it never worked for me.) I picture a stairway… enclosed, metallic, doors after every 10th step… or more often, I am walking down a hill, on steps made of dirt, or walking along a beach, with my feet sinking into the sand.
I count because my heart is racing.
I count because my thoughts won’t stop.
I count because if I don’t, I will not sleep.
Anxious. Fixated. Obsessed over things I have no control over.
They interfere with my sleep.
So I count.
And as I walk along those steps, I watch the scenery. Do I like it here? Am I in danger? Are there birds in the trees? Are there waves on the ocean? Is there someone behind that door?
Then I notice the numbers again, “78, 77, 76…” but wait! I missed the 80’s. Try again.
Why is everything gray? Why do I feel cold? Do I really want to continue? “55, 54, 53…” but wait! I already went through the 50’s. Why am I stuck here again? Three times I repeat. I can’t help it. Perhaps the 50’s are a good decade… and I finally move to the 40’s.
The stairway becomes a part of my dreams. Asleep. Blessed sleep, free from the anxieties of the day. Yet the fear is there. I can feel it pounding in my head. I can feel it twisting in my belly. Asleep, but not relieved.
Suddenly gripped in panic, I wake up. Look at the clock. 1:30am. I have been asleep for maybe an hour. Two if I am lucky. So much work. So little sleep.
I pray for relief. Pray for peace. I may not have any responsibilities tomorrow, but I know the lack of sleep will leave me sick. “Please, please, calm my heart.”
For four hours I toss and turn. Too hot. Too cold. Too scared. Why am I scared? Purrs come from the pillow beside my head, as a cat paw reaches out to pet my nose. “Are you awake?” he asks me, “Pet me, please.” I hide my hands further in the blankets. If I start, he won’t let me stop – and then I know I won’t sleep. I close my eyes, as he kneads my shoulder.
Try to count again. Try to count again. Try to count again. What was I doing? I need to sleep. But I can feel my head pounding. My belly twisting. My heart racing. So much fear. Such a strong panic attack – and nothing going on. Just my own thoughts. My own fears over things that I have no control over. What am I doing here?
I hear my husband up. Taking the dog out. Banging at the dishes. Cleaning out the cat box. Filling up the pets food dishes. Loud. I look at the clock. 8am. Time to get up – yet I know I haven’t had enough sleep. Four hours of sleep, with lots of disruption. Five at most. I get out of bed. My head pounds. My stomach turns. Not well. It is going to be a difficult day.