Before I had kids, I didn’t think about sleep really at all. I pretty much always got enough of it and if there were a few nights I stayed out too late, I could catch up. And being in my early twenties, I could still go out and then go to class or work the next day and somehow function.
Then I had my daughter. I knew people said that babies keep you awake at all hours, but as a young mom, I don’t think I fully comprehended what that meant. In those moments in the middle of the night when I could hardly keep my eyes open to save my life, I learned that sleep is one precious commodity. I vowed to myself to never, ever take sleep for granted again. And thirteen plus years later, I still do not take it for granted.
At the point of getting separated, both of my children were very much past the waking up in the middle of the night stage. So, I had a few years of some very good sleep – of which I soaked in every single moment. I didn’t think I’d ever have to face a sleeping shortage again. Well, I was wrong. I don’t know if anyone else who has been through a divorce experienced insomnia, but I sure did – and still do – to this day.
As I sit here writing this post, I’ve probably yawned ten times. Like bringing out the big guns yawns. I’ve been awake since 2:30 this morning when I woke up and simply could not get back to sleep. I’ve adjusted to this lifestyle of many sleepless nights at this point. When I do have a night where I wake up less than two times, or a morning where I am able to sleep in a bit, I take full advantage. I take Benedryl, Advil PM and melatonin on occasion to at least help me go back to sleep if I wake up in the night. I usually do this when I know I have flexibility to sleep in the next morning. However, this strategy also backfires on me. I’ve learned that I can take one and it might work, but two gives me worse insomnia. That really annoys me.
There are several reasons why I link my insomnia to divorce. The most obvious reason is because it started at the same time. Also, at the beginning stages of divorce, it is rather difficult to live in what I call the limbo or in-between period. This is where you have made the decision to move forward, but so many pieces have to fall into place before you can really feel like you have somewhat of a normal life again. If you have kids, add a multiplier of stress to this time period.
I was numb for a long time even before my divorce, as I had to be strong and cope with things that wouldn’t have been possible for me to get through had I not blocked out emotion. It must’ve been a flight or fight instinct in me that pushed me to that point, as I really don’t think I would’ve been strong enough to get there on my own based on how emotional and sensitive I am at my core. Because of this, the transition or limbo period wasn’t as difficult on me as I have heard it’s been on other people. I think my limbo period just started years before my divorce, so I lived in it for a long time without even knowing it. While this might’ve made it a bit easier from an emotional standpoint, it was still a change with many, many unknowns.
I slept better when my kids were with me (and still do) because that seemed more normal. It was when I was alone that I never slept. I would even turn into a bit of gypsy and stay at my sister’s house or my parent’s house just to get some sleep versus zero sleep. I would avoid staying alone overnight if I could. The odd thing is I wanted to be alone and I spent many days all by myself because I didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone, but when it got closer to bed time I would go stay somewhere else.
I remember the first Christmas Eve following my divorce. I didn’t have my kids, so after church I went to my third story condo all by myself and that’s when I cried – ugly cried to be exact. I knew I needed to stay there because I had to be Santa Claus and be there in the morning when their dad dropped them off to see what Santa delivered. That was a moment in time I will never forget. Looking back, getting through the year of firsts – just like with the grieving process – is what helps you get closer to a feeling of normalcy.
Eventually I just made myself stay alone no matter what. Some nights are still better than others. I get scared easily, so if I wake up to noises, it’s over and I’m not going back to sleep. But for the most part I am doing much better than in the beginning. I know if I continue to give time it’s proper time that one day I’ll be sleeping like a baby again.