Have you ever fallen asleep while talking on the phone at work? Or even falling asleep while you play a video game? At the computer? Standing in the doorway? I know I can’t be the only one. It wasn’t narcolepsy. It was a side effect of sleep deprivation abuse. It was the worst after I graduated from college and was working a 4am to Noon shift at a call center. He was unemployed and would be so “bored” by the time I got home that he wanted to go out and do stuff. So we’d go out, then we’d get home and he’d want me to play video games with him. My alarm to go to bed would go off at a reasonable time for me to get a full night’s sleep, but he would insist that I stay up with him. It wasn’t bad at first. I was still a relatively young adult and could bounce back pretty fast. But as time went on, it got to where I would take naps in my car on my lunch break with an alarm set on my phone and a heads up given to my supervisor if I wasn’t back by the time my lunch was up. I found myself falling asleep while talking on the phone to customers and be in the middle of a sentence with no idea what I had said, but everything was running smoothly and I never seemed to have made any mistakes. At home I had no energy to do anything beyond the bare minimum. While sitting playing a game on the PlayStation after repeated attempts to go to bed, I’d nod off and he’d nudge me with an accompanying complaint and I’d come out of it to see my character running into a wall repeatedly. He’d get “stressed out” looking at his own emails and demand I sit with him. I’d start falling asleep and he’d get mad. I’d even start nodding off standing in the doorway while he was talking to me as I was trying to inch towards the bedroom. All of the moments of me falling asleep at home were met with anger and lectures. Whenever I’d finally make it to bed, he seemed to wait until I was just falling asleep to remind me to brush my teeth, feed the cats, scoop the litter box… if I didn’t get up to take care of it he’d just keep me awake until I did so he’d stop bugging me.
I honestly don’t know how I functioned for as long as I did. I certainly wasn’t thriving, and I now realize I was barely surviving. I remember in my first few years at CSUS, I took a class (I couldn’t even tell you which one without looking at my transcript) that had a section on abusive relationships. I remember they had a section about sleep deprivation and at the time the way they described it was much worse than what I was going through and worse than what I have experienced. I will say this probably many times, abuse is abuse. The severity of it being minimal does not lessen the harm it causes. It in no way makes it okay. Am I thankful that I wasn’t hit or screamed at when I slept, yes, I am thankful that I didn’t experience that. Does that make what he did acceptable? No. Abuse is abuse.
I started to feel like I was going nuts. My weight was going up. My appetite was that of a growing teenage boy – fyi I am neither growing, teenage, OR a boy. My memory became swiss cheese. My performance at work plummeted and my attendance went from practically perfect in every way, to barely within the acceptable absences. Once he started working all I really wanted was to be at home so I could sleep. I remember when he insisted I be tested for sleep apnea (which I actually have). I went to an actual sleep center for the testing. Even though I was being woke up periodically for them to have me roll over etc as part of the test, it was the BEST sleep I had ever had. I had the CPAP AND a bed all to myself. I have fantasized about that night of sleep for years. It was magical. When I was able to stay home sick I was able to get sleep when he was working.
It has been probably close to ten years since that sleep study. I had thought that when I was home alone, or once the divorce was final, that my fatigue would magically disappear and I would be back to myself lickity split! I had no idea it would take me two years to even come to terms with what had happened to me. I never once thought that I had anything to actually heal from other than a few nights of extra sleep. This whole process has been new and crazy and maddening at times. I’m a pretty patient person, but at the same time, I’ve identified the issue. I’ve “fixed” it by divorce and research and finding myself, so why have I not got rid of all the side effects of the abuse that I went through? I have to remind myself that my “side effects” didn’t magically pop up over night after one night of sleep deprivation. I didn’t keep track of every time I was woke up or kept up, so I don’t know how many days worth of hours I need to make up, but I’ve been trying for a few years now. It gets exhausting!
But I have learned that every day is a new day. I get up, find something to be happy about and try to make as many people smile as I can. I don’t wish my past never happened. To do so would remove so many blessings, so much growth, and so many amazing people from my life. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Healing isn’t magic. There is no magic wand to wave and make it go away. There is no elixir to heal it, at least not in the sense that we think of for immediate results. The magic wand is the rising and falling of the sun, each day and night washing over my new life, time stitching and mending my broken bits back in place. I will never be as I once was, and that is okay. I will always be scared in such a way to remind me of all the lessons I’ve learned. I’ve found beauty in the chaos that brought me here, to my now. I am stronger today than I was yesterday. I am braver now than I’ve ever been. I may be just as exhausted as ever, but in truth – I am not falling asleep sitting up, or standing, or at the computer, or talking on the phone. I can sleep whenever I want (well – within reason). The only ones who will wake me up to clean the litter box are the cats, and they don’t care that much. They actually prefer that I stay in bed to snuggle.
My current cuteness & joy… Extra kudo’s if you know their names reference.
*disclaimer – all but the chick photos I obtained off of Pinterest. I like to link to their home pages, however, that option wasn’t available as the pins were merely the images themselves. I did not come up with the image quotes. I did not design them. I give full credit to whoever did, but I don’t know who beyond Pinterest. Also I am not a doctor of any sort and merely a survivor willing to share what I’ve gone through with a bit of thought put into it in the hopes that I could possibly help others in similar situations.