I remember the worst insomnia I experienced ‘Before’ was when work pressures mounted. (We run our own business).
The witching hour, we called it. Somewhere between 3am and 4am when all the worst possibilities lived and breathed and, in the dark, became, real, tangible and all consuming. It meant no sleep and no rest. My mind racing through all the very worst possible outcomes. With the sleep pattern broken, I’d nod off around 6am, and then find it impossible to get out of bed at 8am.
But, at 8am, with the light of a new day came rationale thinking and optimism. It hadn’t happened, the worst was yet to come. It was within our control. Actions could be taken. ‘On with your day, my lad’.
That was Before.
The first month ‘After’ was fuelled by chemicals, by sleeping pills, concoctions and herbal remedies. Various experiments to get at least, some sleep, it was like a Harry Potter potions class. Later, I discussed insomnia with our therapist (our Assist Trauma Care therapist) who explained that your mind and body adjust, so sleeping pills only work for a week, max.
Sleep now, sleep After, is very different. I’ll try to explain the subtleties. The physical first.
A restless, seemingly endless stress. Butterflies, like interview nerves. Hot uncomfortable limbs that no position, no shuffling satisfies. Breathing in sporadic short breaths, like your lungs can’t come up for air. Nausea in the pit of your stomach, that turns to a constant, dull ache.
Then the mental. Mind battles galore, to force yourself to think of something else, to forget, a momentary lapse. Any and all the old proven techniques fail – cast adrift in a boat flowing downstream along a calm river; lying on rocks by the sea, bathed in warm sunshine, the lap of lulling waves. Nothing but nothing works like it did Before.
Instead, sleep brings a haunted head. Like your unconscious mind can’t deal with the reality – of the actual loss and incomprehensible, unfathomable pain – so it attempts to place you somewhere in the past, when they were alive, when things were normal and mundane. Before. It’s as though your mind is trying to erase reality and replace it with fantasy. ‘No, you fool, they’re here, they’re alive’.
Awake is the nightmare, sleep brings sweet dreams.
Beth’s Dream (6th November 2016)
A party, a crowded room, in our kitchen I think. I see Beth stood by the sink, talking to someone I don’t know. She’s happy, laughing, animated. She looks glowing, slim, sun-kissed, relaxed.
I go up to her. I’m crying. I hold her and kiss her cheek and stay cheek to cheek for a while. Relishing being so close to her.
Moments pass and she whispers “You worry too much about this kitchen.” And smiles at me.
Izzy’s Dream (1st June 2016)
The house is still full of grieving relatives staying over and the coming and going of friends delivering food parcels, delivery people with flowers of condolence. I open the door of my study to find a place to be alone. Ashley, my niece is there. She moves silently away.
There, on a guitar stand, is a bass guitar. (when I was 19, I played the bass). I pick it up. I can’t play it anymore. I struggle to even hit a handful of notes.
I turn around and look back onto the landing. Trace is stood there looking at me.
And there is Izzy, stood behind Trace, in the bathroom doorway. She’s pulling her ‘Duh?’ face. I stumble and try to point to Izzy, to tell Trace she’s here, she’s just behind you.