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For a couple years now, I’ve had periods of insomnia here and there. Worst was during the summer a couple years ago, where I spent two months not sleeping. That was awful.
So I was super excited when giving up caffeine seemed to help my sleep issues.
It was GREAT for the first couple weeks.
But for the last month, I have had stubborn insomnia which I cannot seem to overcome.
I FALL asleep just fine, no trouble there – I’m usually asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.
But between 1:30 and 3:00 each night, it’s like I have this little alarm in my head that goes off. My eyes pop open and I’m wide awake, as if it were the middle of the day. I shuffle to the bathroom, get a drink of water, then get back in bed and start my evening fall-asleep process all over again.
And then my brain goes, Oh HAI! I’m not sleepy at ALL! Come on, let’s play!
If I were thinking back over long-gone embarrassments, or worries about the future, I think I’d be able to handle the insomnia better. THAT I can handle, I can take deep breaths and tell myself to work with what I have right now, that I’m the moment and there’s nothing I can do about the past or future.
But no. That’s not what my brain wants to talk about.
No, it wants to work out every plot line of EVERY MOVIE I HAVE EVER WATCHED.
Which, ironically, are few and far between. I’m not what you would call a “movie person.” I was a bookworm when I was younger and never got into the habit of watching movies, always preferring the library or a bookstore. I haven’t seen Back to the Future or Goonies or any of the Rat Pack kid movies like Breakfast Club. A friend of mine actually somewhat forcibly held me in his apartment until I watched all three Star Wars movies during winter break in college, horrified that I had never seen them. And I can’t tell you how many times Jeff has asked me, Have you seen… with the name of some movie I probably SHOULD have seen in the 80s. My answer is always, Nope!
Yet that’s what my brain wants to do right now in the middle of the night: go over all the movies I have seen and try and figure out the things I can’t remember.
A couple weeks ago, I spent a riveting hour at 3am thinking about the plot line between Natalie and the Prime Minister in Love Actually.
So he fired her because of her thing with the US President, right? Or did she quit? And then she sent him a Christmas card and he HAS to go find her because she was apologizing for her part in the whole thing? Wait, is that even true? He’s kind of a dick to fire her (wait, Karen, DID he fire her? Or did he just let her quit?) for THAT. Billy Bob Thornton made a good creepy American president there.
So wait, did she quit, or did he fire her?
And the whole time I’m laying there, I was trying to tell my chattering brain, Yo. We don’t need to figure this out now! Can we PLEASE just go to sleep?
If it would STOP OBSESSING FOR ONE MOMENT to answer, it would have said, Yes, yes, of course! In a tone that is agreeable and eager. It’s just that I NEED to figure this out first!
A few nights ago it was Sleepless in Seattle. I have NO idea why that movie popped into my head; I saw it once, a long time after it came out, and I didn’t really understand the appeal. But there I was, trying to figure it all out. Why did they meet at the Empire State Building? Wait DID they meet there, or did they cross paths and meet elsewhere? Shit, how did that go again?
I legitimately sit awake most every night, obsessing over movie plot lines. I’m aware of it while I’m doing it, but I literally CANNOT STOP THINKING. And so I’m awake for 2-3 hours a night while my brain turns over every tiny detail I can possibly remember about a movie, until finally, it tires itself out, and I fitfully sleep until my alarm rings at 5am.
It reminds me of what Anne Lamott says about her brain in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith:
“Still, my mind chattered on, as if the spider monkey had taken acid. My mind is my main problem almost all of the time. I wish I could leave it in the fridge when I go out, but it likes to come with me.”
At 3 in the morning I wish I could take my insomniac movie-obsessed spider monkey on acid mind and give it a bunch of pot, some valium and maybe a glass of wine or two and then stuff it under my pillow, holding it tightly until it passes out and leaves me alone for a few hours.
I need an unbroken night of sleep.
Have you ever struggled with insomnia?