As my eyelids part, the only visible thing amid the pitch darkness is the blurry light from my digital alarm clock on top of my study desk. The all too familiar throbbing migraine that has already set in is making me sick to my stomach as I struggle to make out what time it could be. Twenty five minutes passed mid-night. “Not again! But it has only been two hours since I fell asleep”, I think to myself. As I struggle to sit up, I begin to feel dizzy and weak. Immediately, a cocktail of emotions begin to sweep through me, anxiety, anger, pain, resignation and hopelessness. My heart begins to beat faster and faster, harder and harder as wells of tears start to involuntarily fill my eyes and stream down my face. I desperately attempt to calm down but it seems as though the harder I try, the more anxious I get. I recall the relaxation tutorial I had watched the previous day that suggested deep long breathes for calming down, but my attempts bare no fruit. Sweat bullets gushing from my pores merge with the tears making my beddings wet. I start hyperventilating and feel as if the four walls are closing in on me.
Shooting out of my bed, I knock myself against the desk as I probe in the darkness for the bathroom switch. As the light comes on, I feel sudden pressure and a sharp burning sensation in my eyes. I walk to the sink and reach out to open the tap after which I splash two handfuls of water to my face before turning the tap off. I stare at my reflection in the mirror and almost can’t recognize myself. “Who is this person?” I wonder silently. My eyes are red and swollen, my skin looks pale and I have a weary look on my face. It has been six months since the last time I was able to sleep for more than two hours. Insomnia has completely changed my life and I am no longer the person that I used to be. My days are long and nights even longer. Whenever I am awake, my eyes are burning, my head is light, body is numb and mind full of a plethora of thoughts. My memory and concentration have been so adversely affected that just last week during a history continuous assessment test, my mind went completely blank and I could not recall the facts I had revised prior to the test. The closer we get to the end of semester examinations, the more anxious I get about having a memory lapse and failing. In addition to that, I have been forgetting peoples’ names and getting myself in really awkward positions where I have to explain myself. As I continue looking at myself, I realize how much weight I have lost. I look very skinny, in fact, I look rather malnourished and of ill health. My cheek and collar bones are overly pronounced making the situation even worse. I open the medicine cabinet and reach out for my migraine tablets which I swallow half-heartedly as this has become a ritual and worries of getting addicted to the pills are lurking in my head.
Dr. Chi, my therapist, who I have been seeing for the last four months, suggested a glass of warm milk before bed, a warm bath, hypnosis, relaxation, meditation, diet change, melatonin, yoga, dim lights, and soft music among other remedies all geared towards helping me attain better and longer sleep but to no avail. I have tried each trick in the book and with each failed attempt; I have grown more weary and pessimistic about finding a solution to my problem. My search for sleep has been like the proverbial search of a needle in a haystack or chasing the wild goose. Most days, I sink into depression and battle with bouts of anger over the most trivial of things. Now as I stare at myself in the mirror, the dark circles under my eyes are a painful reminder of a sad reality, that there is a high possibility that tonight, like all other nights for the past six months, I may not sleep any longer than I have.
As I reluctantly turn off the bathroom light and begin to walk back to my bed, I notice a flash of lightning through the curtain which was closely followed by the loud sound of thunder. I walk towards my bedroom window and slightly draw the curtain only to realize that there was a heavy downpour outside. Then and only then do I start to hear the sound of the rain. It must have been blocked out by the endless trail of thoughts that were crisscrossing in my head like swords in a duel. I love the sound of thunder and rain. Another stroke of lightning flashes as I am walking back to my bed and I start to count one…two…three…four…five then thunder follows. I momentarily tuck myself in before jumping out of it once again to fully draw my curtains. This time round, I get a full view of the tree that is right in front of my window that had been perfectly lit by the street light and my neighbor’s rooftop. After getting back to bed for the final time, I realize that there is something strangely calming about the thunder, lightning and rain. Not only do the endless thoughts begin to subside slowly by slowly, but the intense loneliness starts to fade away too. As more and more lightning flashes light the sky, I wonder if I would fall victim to its wrath but immediately find consolation in realizing that the tree outside my room is at a bigger risk.
I turn my head to look at my alarm clock and it is now 5am in the morning. Two more hours to go before I officially wake up and start my day. I close my eyes and begin to take deep breathes to calm myself down and hopefully get some sleep before the day breaks. I picture myself sun bathing on a beautiful beach as the soft coastal breeze brushes against my skin as I watch the perfect blue sky. Maybe this time I will be lucky and will stumble upon my sleep somewhere along my relaxation path. I look forward to that day when my sleeping pattern will go back to normal and all this night watching will come to an end.