A few years ago, everything I could have told you about dealing with insomnia would have come from watching those weird Lunesta commercials with the animated moths. I was blessed with the heavy sleep patterns of a particularly content house cat, and thought most insomniacs probably just needed to drink a little less coffee. I was, in short, an assh*le, and had a hard time even imagining what life with chronic insomnia must be like.
Cut to 2013, where a perfect storm of housing stress, family problems, and suffering through sexual harassment at work suddenly left me perpetually awake. For over a year and a half, I watched the sun rise from the wrong end of my day, regularly logging about four hours of sleep each night. Some nights, I couldn't fall asleep at all; other nights, I fell asleep peacefully, believing things were finally back to normal — only to spring awake at 3 a.m., my brain already hard at work thinking unhinged thoughts about my mother and my credit card debt and whether this pimple in my armpit was actually a tumor (follow-up: it was a pimple).
Exhausting exercise didn't work, sleeping pills didn't work, lavender sprays and hot baths and all that bullshit they tell you to do in O Magazine were useless. By the end of 2013, I had nearly lost it completely, and had essentially turned into Marlon Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now, only with more crying jags in the fitting room at H & M.
I eventually got a sort-of handle on the problem (thanks, Intense and Probably Dangerous Pharmaceuticals!), but in my 18 months of sleeplessness, I felt like I earned a master's degree (or at least one of those fakey honorary doctorates) in all the different things that can keep you up at night. So let's lie down, get cozy, sip some SleepyTime tea, and look at the 11 different types of insomnia.
1. I Have Too Much To Do Tomorrow Insomnia
Projects! Presentations! Important power lunches with people fancy and important enough to have power lunches be an actual thing that they do! And I have to do them all tomorrow! How will I prepare for all of them? How will I make sure to get every detail exactly right? Duh! By spending hours obsessively running through scenarios where I could ruin everything (using the wrong fork during lunch, engaging in spontaneous human combustion during my PowerPoint, etc), and then watching Criminal Minds re-runs at 3 a.m.
2. Let's Run Through Every Mistake I Have Ever Made Insomnia
Remember that job interview that I blew with an off-hand comment right as I was leaving? Remember that ex that I dropped for totally stupid reasons, who turned out to be way cooler than anyone I've dated since? Remember that time I peed my pants at school in first grade, and I had to wear those weird corduroy pants they kept in the nurse's office for kids who peed their pants, so everyone knew? And then Jennifer Schillinger laughed at me, and I cried? And then Jennifer Schillinger said that my mother worked in a butt factory, and I cried some more? Well, I'm going to remember it all tonight.
Think of it like A Christmas Carol, if A Christmas Carol had zero ghosts and was just about how you hate yourself.
3. I'm in Loooooooooove Insomnia
How could I possibly sleep when I could spend hours dreamily thinking about my new love — they way they toss their hair, the way they wrinkle their nose when they smile, the way they banged me senseless in the bathroom at the Natural History Museum? Ain't love grand? I'm gonna Snapchat them a picture of my boobs, just in case they're awake.
4. What Does It All Mean??? Insomnia
Is every choice I've ever made wrong? Is every choice that everyone has ever made wrong? What is existence? What is humanity? Why is there that weird patch of garbage in the ocean? Oh, god, is it a metaphor? Is the ocean the universe, and humanity is the garbage patch made of Saran Wrap and Mountain Dew Code Red bottles, floating through it, ruining everything? Maybe I should have taken some of those pamphlets those old ladies were handing out on the subway the other day.
5. I Have Too Many Feelings Insomnia
And I am feeling them all at once! Happiness! Sadness! Anger! Elation! Hunger! Which is how I ended up listening to Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" on repeat and doing some light watercolor painting at 4 a.m. instead of going to bed.
6. Mo Money Mo Problems Insomnia
What if, instead of counting sheep, I start counting the years it will take me to pay off my student loans, then count the years it will take me to save enough money to buy a house, and then count the number of steps it will take me to quietly and discreetly walk off a bridge?
7. Oops, I Did It Again Insomnia
Why do I keep making the same mistakes? What's wrong with me? Years of therapy haven't helped ... but maybe I can figure it out tonight. With some deep thinking and soul searching, I'll be able to construct a chart that I currently believe deconstructs all my flaws and sets me up on the path to a better life (but, in the cold light of day, turns out to just be a piece of construction paper that says "trust more people" and "organic produce???")
8. I Wonder What My Ex is Doing Right Now Insomnia
Sleeping peacefully right now, no doubt. Unless ... they're also up, wondering what I'm doing. Maybe I should text them? I mean, just in case. And as a bonus, if they're with someone else right now, I'll wake both those jags up.
9. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead Insomnia
Who could possibly sleep when there's so much in the world to do that isn't sleeping! Books to read! Movies to watch! Groovy free jazz albums to listen to! Classic '80s movie scenes to act out alone in your living room! Sleeping is a bourgeois convention! Youth is for the living! Life is a cabaret!
10. I Can't Believe This is Happening For The Fifth Night in a Row Insomnia
Is this just my life now? Should I just accept it, give up all of my dreams, and create new, more realistic dreams more appropriate for someone who is only going to ever get four hours of sleep a night for the rest of their life? What about one of those "living mannequins" that they have in department store windows sometimes? That's about all I'm game for intellectually, these days.
11. I Can't Get To Sleep Because I Am Obsessed With Getting To Sleep Insomnia
Oh god, what if I don't get enough sleep again tonight? Okay, I'm gonna get in bed early, and if I fall asleep right exactly now, right at this second, I can get eight hours exactly. Okay, fine that didn't work, but if I fall asleep in the next 45 minutes, I'll still get six hours, which is not ideal, but doable ... okay, if I fall asleep right right RIGHT now, I'll get three hours, oh christ, I give up. I'm just going to start calculating my student loans.