It was 4:26 and I was awake. I’d been awake since 3:30. Perhaps fitting for the day before I turn 30. I had to pee and then my mind was instantly running miles. It felt like it never really quieted during the night. I felt frustrated at first and then I sighed and allowed the awakeness in.
I used to resist waking in the middle of the night. I’d wake and fear would instantly take hold forming repetitive intrusive thoughts about dying, being attacked, my house getting broken into. My mind playing out vivid and horrific scenes. I’d dread needing to leave my room for water or a snack. Sleep used to be my only reprieve from my internal obsessive hell. I didn’t want to be awake at all during those stages of my life, but being awake in the middle of the night was a special kind of hell. I’d turn on the tv just praying that I’d make it to morning. Sometimes numbing out wouldn’t work. Sometimes the heavy hands of a panic attack would find their grip. Dark slithery fingers curling around me, making it difficult to breath. Crying for hours. Alone. In the dark. Feeling like I was dying. Thinking I can’t live like this forever.
Then I got a little better. The anxiety attacks would lessen. At least for a time. If I awoke in the middle of the night, I had a handle on my thoughts, but then I’d hurriedly try to figure out how to get myself back to sleep. Am I hungry? Thirsty? Need some medicine? ‘I’m going to be so tired tomorrow,’ I’d mutter to myself while trying to force myself back to sleep only to have my thoughts continue to run circles about things I had to do. Everything I did centered around not going back to midnight panics. I attempted to be kind to myself, trying on soothing self-talk – ‘it’s ok, you’re just a little anxious’. A great first step. I can see now that I combined these first steps into self-compassion with an extremely forceful way of being. I still lived into a deep self-loathing at not being able to control my thoughts and fearful survival – knowing that the ‘bad thoughts’ would be back, I just wasn’t sure when. My survivalist mentality would rattle on – ‘I’d better get back to sleep-I don’t want to be sleepy tomorrow-I need to take care of myself-why am I awake-what’s bothering me-I better do things better-eat better-this isn’t good-you’re going to make yourself sick again-’. I didn’t understand that, to quote Jason Mraz, ‘we all need to see the darkness to see the light in our own eyes’.
Now it’s different. It’s been different for a while now. I move through cycles of great sleep and disjointed to sleep, and now I feel like that’s ok. Now I think ‘If I don’t sleep well tonight, I can sleep well tomorrow’. Now, I feel curious when I wake in a midnight. I can see how the deep inner work I’ve been doing has resulted in this shift for me. Because I have faced some of my darkness, I feel more comfortable in physical darkness. Now I love watching and talking with the moon at night by myself. Alone on the many acres I live, I used to stay cooped up in the house with the TV blaring for companionship, it didn’t even occur to me to open my door post sunset. As I create a relationship with my shadow, I feel safe to walk in the night.
Even though I may feel some frustration when I wake in the middle of the night, I feel a distinct sense of understanding and steadiness. I roll over and pick up a book, but more often than not I find myself needing to express. What’s woken me are unexpressed thoughts and feelings. I journal or write on my computer.
Cathartic and wonderful. My midnight is my awakening.