Lessons from a night of Insomnia

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and then couldn’t fall asleep. Thoughts racing in my head and no matter how hard I tried to mediate, or use all my tools of “I am not my thoughts” and don’t believe your thoughts and even counting sheep, they kept coming back and back. 

I sat up exhausted. My neck was hurting and had been spasming all day and the more I thought about the stressful scenario I was thinking of (or more correctly the more thoughts about the stressful scenario crossed my mind) the more my neck felt tighter and more painful. 

I then started having shaming thoughts like “look at how you make your own neck hurt by these petty thoughts and overthinking. Making a big deal out of nothing”. “Your neck hurts because you care so much about what others think and don’t have boundaries”. “You cause your own stress.” 

As if it is not enough that I can’t sleep and have racing thoughts and suffering from this, somehow the mind shames me and points out how I am failing and adds to my suffering. Isn’t that smart and brilliant? 

At this point I got out of bed, walked to the living room and sat on the sofa. All I wished for was a benzodiazepines or a medication that would knock me out. I remembered patients begging for meds such as benzo for anxiety or insomnia or opioids for pain. As doctors, we don’t like prescribing these meds because they cause addiction. 

But last night as I laid there, desperate for sleep, thinking about how the next day I have to get up early, do a long commute and work all day seeing challenging patients and I need a well-rested mind, I felt more and more stressed and felt more and more tightness in my neck and unable to sleep and wished for something to knock me out or someone to come and rock me to sleep. 

And then I thought, well, this is sooo painful. How can I suffer less? It doesn’t seem like I can make these thoughts go away. So instead of resisting them, I am just gonna actually actively sit here and think about this issue. I said to myself “It is totally ok if I don’t get any sleep. I’ll be tired and miserable but won’t die from it”  

Also I said to myself “It is totally ok to have neck pain. It is here and I can’t do anything about it and maybe it is meant to be here” in other words, instead of blaming myself for having neck pain and not wanting the neck pain, I just said ok, it can be here cause obviously it is here and not going anywhere. 

I remembered a saying “Where there is suffering, there is room for compassion” So I gave myself love. I hugged myself and cried a bit (which always feels better) telling myself “it is ok love. I know this is painful. It is ok.” And prayed to all the unconditional love in the universe to give me some peace of mind. 

I laid on the sofa with a blanket over me, made myself as comfortable as can be and let myself think about the stressful scenario. As I laid there actively imagining the scenario (neck tight, anxiety in my chest), I realized how much I am trying to say the perfect thing in this future encounter. And my mind kept going in circles and not being happy with the imagined conversation. 

I suddenly remembered a friend of mine who had had a similar conversation with me in the past and I recalled how she just was herself and had spoken her boundaries which has made our friendship last to this day as close as it ever was. I felt inspired at that moment. I thought to myself there is no way I can perfect this. I am gonna just be me

Maybe I can take refuge in just being me. Maybe I can just trust whatever comes out. And if I let myself be me and love me anyways, I might be more tolerant of others and however they come out as well. Realizing maybe they have been tormented by their minds as well when they seem somewhat short with me. Maybe they wanted to be as nice as possible but didn’t know how. Instead of perfecting this conversation in my head over and over, I will just be me whatever comes out at that moment, full permission. 

As I had this epiphany, I slowly felt those sleepy waves and images take over me. And next thing I knew I heard my boyfriend get up to make coffee and it was morning. 

I woke up with the neck pain and tired. Even kept snoozing, but I felt triumphant. And a believer in not resisting what it. Just allowing everything and loving yourself through it. And I am glad I didn’t have the benzodiazepine cause maybe I wouldn’t have had this epiphany. 

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