Sunday, September 22, 2013


Ugh. Insomnia. We have been enemies friends for six very long years.

I have tried sleeping pills. I have tried everything natural. I've tried having a normal routine. I’ve tried to not let myself lay in bed and stare at the ceiling for longer than 30 minutes before I get up and read, take a hot shower, attempt something to help me sleep.

I've told myself for the last year that as long as I am laying down, at least my body is resting. I have convinced myself that as long as I let my body rest for eight hours, I will be fine.

This week I guess I hit my brick wall.

I was sitting at my desk, just staring at my computer. I wasn't working, just staring. Not even realizing I was doing it. My co-worker came in and asked if I was okay. I told the lie I tell every day “Yes, I’m fine.” She continued “Are you sure? You look really upset?”

I started crying. She had that oh shit what did I say? Look on her face. “What’s wrong?”

I am so tired. So tired I can’t see straight. So tired that I think I am losing my mind. No one understands how insane insomnia is making me!

“How long exactly has it been since you slept?”

I couldn't think. I couldn't count. Eight nights. Maybe ten. Maybe twelve. Maybe two weeks. I’m not sure. The last time I got eight hours of sleep in one sitting? Months. Probably since I went off my sleeping pills in October.

Listening to myself try to remember how long it’s been since I slept, I realized it was time.

Time to go back to the doctor. Time to stop trying to do this alone. Time to throw in the towel and give up and scream “ I have insomnia!”

I made a doctor’s appointment.

Friday I found myself sitting in my doctor’s office, yet again. With another medical issue.. again.

My doctor came in and asked why I was there.

“I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept normal in six years. I stare at the ceiling for two to four hours before falling asleep. After I finally fall asleep, I wake up two hours later. To stare at the ceiling for another two hours. Or read for two hours. And I’ll be able to fall asleep for another two hours. Only to wake up again two hours later. And the cycle continues until it’s time to get up for work. I’m losing my damn mind! I can’t take this shit anymore. I can sleep all day but I can’t sleep at night. I don’t let myself nap. I am exhausted and as soon as I go to bed, I’m wide awake. Staring at the ceiling. I’m losing it. I do it all week long that come the weekend all I do is sleep. I think something broke when my husband died. Can "sleep" break? Is that even possible?”

I stopped. I realized I was rambling. I might have said too much. Maybe I should have sugar coated it and made it sound not as bad as it really is.

Mrs. Doc Lady “Let me get this right, you are sleeping two hours at a time, and have been doing this for six years now? And we have tried you on sleeping meds? Why are you not taking your sleeping pills that I prescribe?”

Because they are addicting.. and I don’t want to become an addict. I stopped taking them in October. I thought my body would reset and I would be fine.

I suddenly felt like I was on trial. I was defensive. How dare she question my sleep!

Mrs. Doc Lady “Honey, these sleep problems going on for six years NOT normal. You can’t do this anymore. Do you realize insomnia kills people?”

Yes. I know insomnia can actually kill you. But so can sleeping pills. But I’m not normal. I was widowed at 29 years old. What exactly is normal about me?

She could see I was defensive and upset. “You have been in counseling for six years. It's been three years since your husband passed away. It's time to get back to some kind of normal. I want you to sleep more than two hours at a time. Frankly if I was sleeping two hours at a time for the last six years I would probably lose my mind”

I took a deep breath and reminded myself she wasn't the enemy. After all, I called her for help. She didn't drag me in there.

Mrs. Doc Lady “So here’s what we are going to do. For six weeks you are going to be in bed, with your sleeping pill in your stomach, no later than 9pm every single night. Including Saturday’s. And you will be up at 5am. Every single day, including Saturday’s. No naps. No TV or phone after 8pm. Sleeping pill in your stomach and you in bed by 9pm, got it? For six straight weeks. After that we will wing you off the medication. If your sleep is not normal, and I mean at least six straight hours of sleep a night kind of normal, I am sending you in for a sleep study. I am afraid something is wrong but we need to do this before we can do a sleep study. And I need you to commit to this for six weeks. Six straight weeks. No skipping the medication because you think you can do this on our own. You can do this or I can send you for a sleep study tonight”

She had me backed into a corner. I was sweaty and slightly panicky. On the verge of tears. Frankly she scared the shit out of me the whole sleep study thing. What if my husband died isn't really my issue? What if I have a medical problem that causes me to wake up every two hours?

Feeling beaten, slightly ashamed, scared of the possibility of a sleep study and too tired to argue, I agreed.

I realized that even when I seek help, I don’t want to accept it. Even when I know I am at my wits end, I fight it. Even when I feel like I can’t stay sane any longer, I fight help.

Where did this come from? I used to gladly accept help. I used to admit I had a problem without feeling ashamed or attacked.

Now my doctor that is trying to help me, is the enemy. What caused this? Being widowed?

So I start my six weeks of a who can really do this normal sleep schedule. Bed at 9pm. Up by 5am.

I can’t help but grumble. Frustrated that I have yet another medical issue since my husband’s death. Obviously caused by my husband’s illness and suicide.

Frustrated that I am fighting another war alone. Frustrated that I will be doing this alone. Frustrated that I am getting up at 5am on Saturday and Sunday's to be.. alone. Frustrated that the only motivation for this is my own. I don't have anyone to wake me up at 5am, coffee in hand, and say "Get up. Only a couple more weeks and we are done with this whole thing. Now get up." 


  1. Melinda, you are not alone in the "not sleeping" hell. My husband died of a heart attack beside me at 3:11 a.m. and I wake up almost every night at around 3:00 a.m. This has been going on for 27 months. I've been up since 1:30 a.m. today. Geez, there's Widow's Brain and Widow's Insomnia. What else do we have to endure in this hellish grief journey along with crying, the loneliness, loss of friends, fixing everything yourself, and the list goes on.

  2. shit. not being able to sleep is just pure shit. hope the six weeks works the magic.

  3. I haven't slept through the night since my husband died. it is so frustrating to lie in the bed at night wishing sleep to come only to spend 3 hours staring at the ceiling and then having to be at work at 6:30 a.m. I'm usually exhausted by 8 a.m.. I pray that one day sleep will come and be my friend again.

  4. I so relate to this, and yes, the WORST part is that theres nobody there to say "come on honey, you can do this. WE can do this." Its exhausting doing everything alone, and Ive had medical stuff and massive insomnia since Don died too. Its bad. I sleep like crap. 2, maybe 3 hours most nights. Once in awhile, 4. I wake up over and over. It sucks. Let us know how your 6 week sleep experiment goes. We will cheer you on:)

  5. Hang in there. I hope this works for you. I didn't sleep for three months after my wife's death. I was following her when she had a motorcycle accident. I finally saw my doctor and he prescribed an anti anxiety. Whenever I tried to sleep I kept playing the accident over and over. Drugs did help and I slowly got off of them after two months.

  6. I have sleep issues too. That's great that your doctor wants the two of you to really work on the sleep. I am training myself to sleep through the night with baby steps just like everything else on the grief journey.

    Let us know how it goes.

    Maria O.

  7. Girl, you hang in there! And if you need to, schedule some friends (or some widowed online friends!) to call you or long on with you at 5 am with real or virtual coffee at 5 am. Because we can do it together better than on our own. If you like, I'll set my alarm! :-)