Insomnia & a Lit Up Brain

Imagine a dim room that’s been lowly lit for several months and suddenly lights up very brightly. Everything is so clear and bright, like a day without a cloud in the sky. Those lights stay on for several hours or days or weeks, maybe even months. Sometimes they dim for a few hours, but they come back on just as bright. And then they may finally dim again for a few months or years. 

That is how my brain works. For several nights over the past few weeks, I have not slept at all. When I say I haven’t slept at all, I mean, I might get around 2-4 hours of sleep a night for several nights in a row (two weeks). My mind won’t turn off, no matter what I do or take. And it’s not like I’m worried or thinking about things. I’m truly tired and expecting to sleep, begin to rest, and somehow my brain thinks I’ve had enough rest after a couple of hours. Then I’m wide awake, as if on speed. 

This time’s round of insomnia, I noticed I had no appetite. I don’t get hungry at all and can get by with very little food. I get hyper-focused on something and work on it until it’s done, forgetting all about meals. Sometimes it’s not until I get lightheaded that I realize I have to eat. Any other time, I get hangry about everything if I don’t eat, but not during these episodes.

Although they calm me if I’m anxious, no amount of meditation or yoga or anything natural works to help me sleep when this is happening to my brain. Benadryl doesn’t work, neither does melatonin (often the opposite effect!), nor medical marijuana edibles. When I say nothing works, I mean NOTHING. I have no control over this. 

Obviously, this isn’t typical insomnia from caffeine or thinking about problems. It’s like a natural super high rush of something that speeds up everything… a lighting up of my brain, so to speak. It doesn’t feel bad except that my body needs to rest. My brain gets super clear, like I can read normally and comprehend again but much faster than usual, as well as write at an educated level and punch out blogs and books, as well as apply other academic functions to my work. I am able to take an online class and learn again, as my ability to concentrate increases. Sometimes I use this to my advantage to get things accomplished, but after enough time without any sleep, my mind isn’t as sharp, and body finally crashes… for days/weeks/months.

I have been experiencing insomnia since my first year in the military. I recall being awakened by loud noises (mainly heavy automatic doors slamming) and people talking/yelling near my barracks door). I remember how much it bothered me and wore on my nerves way more than my roommates or other comrades, which I couldn’t understand. (Everything seemed like an icepick at my nerves then in the same way it does now when I hear yapping dogs, leaf blowers, and other whiny equipment.) As a joke, my military roommates made a sign for me at graduation from advanced technical training with my favorite morning phrase: “Shut the fuck up!” That was also the same year I had my first diagnosis of endometriosis, which makes me wonder if all of this is related to the Epstein-Barr virus. 

The last time I experienced extreme insomnia before this round was around 2016, and it didn’t stop for four years. I blamed a lot of that on alcohol, which certainly contributed to it. Of course, hormones are always to blame for women’s issues, so we never get treated properly. (Now I know alcohol is not the issue for any of my health problems, because it will be a year next month since I’ve had a sip of alcohol.) During times I dated a few people, sometimes I would sleep well, which often happens when I sleep next to someone. So… I didn’t sleep soundly for more than a few days or months from 2016 until 2020.

Naturally, lack of sleep throws off everything in my body, doing a number on my already-compromised immune system, and then I end up with something (usually digestive or upper respiratory) like a cold/flu or other infection that lasts at least twice as long as it does for everyone else. This cycle goes round and round. 

This is what I’ve been dealing with for 30 years. Some years are better than others, but the past several, and especially the last two, have rendered me somewhat helpless. Doing it on my own when I was younger wasn’t easy, but I had more strength and stamina. Now I cannot do it on my own anymore. 

The entire situation sucks emotionally for an independent person. And having to seek people that will actually help me without consequences can be quite a task! Helpful people don’t always have the best intentions, and sometimes that is the only help available. 

I began writing this when my brain was coming down from being “lit up.” Normally, I would have this written and edited within a few hours. It’s taken me several days to write it. 

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