About Me, a Former Chronic Insomniac

Hi, my name is Marcia, and thanks for visiting Insomnia Free! Are you ready for a long “about me” page? If you’ve read much of my website so far, you know that one thing I’m NOT is short-winded when it comes to words.

Feel free to skim, I know how it is and I won’t be insulted, trust me. I just didn’t want to leave out any details because there’s a slight chance they MIGHT help someone who suffered in similar ways as I did from this highly annoying malady called chronic insomnia.

How It Began

About ten years ago I was working as a transcriber for a busy publisher. One year later, I was struck with a career-ending repetitive stress injury and couldn’t even touch a keyboard without numbness in my right hand and fingers, and pain in my elbow, shoulder, neck and head! Unemployed and broke, I moved back with my parents and settled down for a while, sleeping on a mat behind their couch in the living room.

I was depressed, anxious about my future, and guess what–I couldn’t sleep very well either.

After months of going to doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors and so on, and researching chronic pain and experimenting with various exercises and techniques, I managed to improve my pain syndrome and got a part-time job. But strangely enough, while the pain was better and the anxiety and depression lifted a bit, my insomnia got worse than ever.

Soon I felt lucky to get three to four hours of sleep per night.
Most of the time, I got one or two. And lots of times, I didn’t get any at all. (My typical “normal” range is seven to eight hours — yes, I’m a long sleeper!)

I got a prescription for Ativan, a medication used mainly for anxiety. It did help me sleep, although it also made me feel rather lethargic and sleepy the next day – until bedtime, of course, when I would get wide, wide awake!

I was afraid of becoming addicted to it, however, and only allowed myself to take it a maximum of three times a week. I started to look forward to those nights because they were the only times I could get anywhere close to a decent night’s sleep. (It wasn’t just the addiction concerns — I was also worried that if I took medication too often it would stop working, and it almost did.)

Insomnia 101

Being a natural researcher, I of course went to the library and checked out a number of books on Insomnia. They all were of the “sleep hygiene” variety, which meant they focused mainly on establishing a consistent sleep schedule, maintaining a sleep diary, limiting my time in bed, avoiding naps, getting more exercise, and so on. A couple of books were quite good and I got some great tips from them. Unfortunately, despite the great info, they provided no long-term improvement in my insomnia.

Now I know why: I had developed a severe case of sleep anxiety, a mental condition that simply doesn’t allow for any “sleep system” to take hold and start working. That’s because once you have sleep anxiety, the more effort you put into trying to improve your sleep, the worse it gets. You are now putting too much pressure on yourself, and the anxiety simply knocks out your ability to “let go” and drift off. But ironically, letting go is the only way you’ll ever get to sleep and stay there!

OK, so it finally dawned on me that since it was sleep anxiety keeping me up, I would have to deal with it directly, head on, one-to-one.

Since I already had some experience with self-help through reading books on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) methods, I began using those techniques to address my anxiety. You can imagine my relief when they finally started to work.

Insomnia Graduate School

It was a long rocky road, but I finally got there. Now please note, it’s not that I didn’t get fast relief from insomnia with my new methods — I did. But as I’m sure you know, relapses happen. Insomnia has a way of creeping back into your life even after a relatively long period of consistently good sleep. So while severe chronic insomnia was greatly improved, intermittent insomnia kept hanging around for the next few years.

Slowly I began to recognize the many connections, both overt and subtle, between insomnia and the rest of my life. I developed a much more holistic view. I soon realized that my state of mind during my waking hours had a profound effect on my sleep.

If I beat myself up during the day, or if I avoided my problems by mentally escaping or procrastinating, I would most likely have a bad night. On the other hand, if I put real effort into confronting and solving daily challenges as well as long-term issues, I had that all-important “my day is done, I’ve done all I could, now I’ll rest and do more tomorrow” feeling. And that usually meant I would sleep better.

I also discovered over the past years, some wonderful mind-body techniques, such as relaxation, letting go, and visualization, that helped me even more. I experienced a sort of “layered” effect, where one technique or new mental attitude would help, then another would extend the improvement even more, and then another… and so on. This is why I know first-hand that PERSISTENCE pays off. Definitely!

What It’s Like for a Former Insomniac

It is now rare for me to have insomnia, and when I do, I just figure I’m not tired and don’t give it any worry. The next night I usually sleep like a log. And if I don’t? Then I know that it’s time, once again, to start confronting the real things that are bothering me and deal with them face to face. And to haul out my CBT journal and get to work on any sleep anxiety that’s come around.

OK, that’s about it. If any of this resonates with you, please continue to explore my website. If you have physical issues that add complications to your insomnia, please remember, you can work on those challenges at the same time you work on your sleep. Understanding the mind-body link has been crucial for maintaining my own health, and I encourage you to explore this connection on your own as much as you can.

Now, just to make sure you know I am by no means a “health expert” please read my disclaimer.

Thank you for visiting!