the loneliness of living with insomnia

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

It is hard to describe the loneliness of living with an insomniac. There is no mutual bed time. That is, there is no time when you are both in bed and ready to sleep. There is never a time that you fall asleep together. You live in parallel worlds, never quite feeling in synch because one of you is asleep or the other of you is sleep deprived.

For years I have fought to find a commonality with my insomniac husband.

I typically go to bed at 10 pm and am asleep by 11. Especially on work nights, when I know I am going to be up at 5 am. He typically does not go to bed until 2 am or later. He gets up with just enough time to get ready to go to work, and we are always rushed to get to work on time because he just cannot get out the door with enough time for a relaxed drive to work. I find the possibility of being late for work anxiety provoking, so we are generally tense and unhappy on our drive to work.

His insomnia wakes me up. I will go to bed and put myself to sleep. Alone. Every night. Later, he will be creaking around the house, running the bath, and rustling clothing as he gets ready for bed. I will wake up and feel this awful wave of loneliness and inadequacy. The way my brain processes the situation is that I am not worth him wanting to come to bed and spend time with me. I am somehow inadequate. Deeply, irrevocably inadequate. This plunges me into a state of panic and despair. I am triggered into childhood trauma of abandonment and betrayal. He would get into bed and fall asleep while I would lie there in a state of contained emotional turmoil. Eventually I would fall back to sleep, but not without a huge expenditure of emotional and mental effort. At the same time, because it was so late, I would be afraid of waking him up.

Eventually I opted to make my own bedroom and sleep in my own bed. At least then I could sleep all night and not go through a nightly ritual of feeling rejected. However, we have never really talked it through and I still, after 20 years, feel deep loneliness in my relationship with my husband.

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