I have an confession to make. I am insomniac. Or rather I do sleep well enough once I manage to actually fall asleep. But even with my beloved Hypericum I occasionally do not sleep before 3am. So I wanted to blog about what it is like to be in owl mode. Of course this is all tightly connected to the neglect going on in my life so there is this sob story too. I’m hoping maybe I am not all alone in this. Even if I frequently feel the kind of abuse I was subjected too is not at all discussed anywhere. It always seems to be about narcissists. So here is my story, in hopes I can find others with similar stories.
I started having sleep problems in kindergarten already actually. Maybe even before that. My mother would regularly lie down with me for the midday naps a toddler should have… My mother slept well during these hours apparently. I also could not sleep in kindergarten when everyone else was sleeping. The kindergarteners were very ignorant of my issues and I learnt to pretend I was asleep as good as I can.
My food sensitivities also made a flashy early entrance: I refused to be breastfed. Mother went through quite a bit of trouble because of me foregoing natural reflexes altogether. As a three year old I would only eat one meal, all the time. My various relatives all needed to be kept up to date which was the meal of the year from then on if I came over. There was stuff I liked to eat and there are MANY things I abhored.
At the age of about 10 my parents thought it would be a bright idea to have their children switch their rooms. Mine was in the basement and I stayed there often. I had a bunk bed which I loved. Brother had the room on the first level, same as our parents sleeping room, brother did not stay in his room much during the day. So they thought it’d be a bright idea to force their autistic child into a change the kid did not want and meant giving up beloved things in the process in the name of doing the child some good. They wanted me to see more daylight apparently. And the bunk bed had to stay in the basement. Something about the walls not supporting it.
In hindsight it was *obviously* impossible to buy a self supporting bunk bed because my parents can’t spend money on their children. After all father bought his first motorcycle around that time. Which is of course more important than their children sleeping well at night, now that they see … how much daylight exactly? I just slept longer, during the hours the sun was up. Curtains closed… So that was working out great. I know I was lying awake endlessly before but then and there it became permanent.
I of course was never read bedtime stories unless I read them myself. After all father had to study to get a better job, which left no time for anyone but himself apparently and mother had a similarly self involved reason. So there was no night ritual to begin with. I developed my own. Staring at the ceiling. Looking at the clock and calculating how much sleep I could get if I feel asleep right at that moment. I have spent my nights torturing myself, The pressure from my parents ever present, apparently I was so stupid I needed to be told at night. Without anyone ever bothering to tell me how I was supposed to come up with the ability to do so. Always pressure, pressure, pressure. Nice parenting.
As the years went on my sleep became ever more delayed. As my sleep became more delayed my appetite decreased dramatically. As people grow they normally eat more and more during breakfast. I ate less and less, at some point foregoing talking before someone at school talked to me altogether. Eventually I had to ditch the last cup of cocoa because I was to nauseous to drink even that. The cup of cocoa was eventually replaced with vomitting. Once directly after I got up and once at the bus station in town. That became my new morning routine, which went well with the night ritual. I have been about 16 by then, averaging 4 hours of sleep each night.
Sometimes if my school schedule allowed it (which became increasingly rare as time went on), I went straight to bed after I came home from school. Maybe 2 more hours. It wasn’t very restful. I have by now discovered that I’m much more energetic when I sleep at night. Its not the same sleeping during the day. Your body may not give you rest during the night, but it still operates under the condition that night is meant for rest instead of torture and if you don’t sleep at night you do not rest much.
At that age I also regularly did homework at night and frequently as I tossed and turned I would suddenly remember that 3 page essay due the next morning. I would write it that very night. My parent long since not caring about my school work. They stopped doing so when I was about 10. It became to bothersome after that. The stuff to complicated, not that they ever explained much in first place but apparently once a critical mass of complexity was reached that meant withdrawing all support whatsoever, including not making sure I have done my homework or teaching me organisation skills.
Like everything else I was supposed to just pick that up somewhere. Which works great with autistic people! I recently heard a story about a young man on the spectrum who was advised to use deodorant and proceeded to spray it all over his face. That’s how good we are at picking up clues. Special needs and all. In a way we are blind and we do not understand the language that is spoken around us.
I rarely skipped school and never because of sleep. Because I was so nauseous all the time I lived off drinking yoghurt, tea and chocolate. Just what you want your 16 year old to eat all day. I just ran on nothing to fuel me properly except my determination and my resolve to overcome this loneliness one day. These were the times when I was contemplating suicide one night. My parents a few short steps away. It never crossed my mind to go to them for help. School work was too complicated already and all the relationship advice I ever got from my mother was to ignore my issues altogether and tell me yet another thing I was supposed to be magically able to do and complete ignorance by father.
I have never reconsidered not asking them for help. It has always been the better decision to not involve my parents. I could ignore issues without my fathers help. I could also do without mothers drama and the guilt trips she was so fond of. As if my bad conscience would give me the skills I need to deal with suicidal thoughts. Sadly time has proven me right time and again.
At the age of 17 my mother sought help for me once again. Unlike my father she was aware my issues were dangerous and unhealthy and some part of her was aware that she was not cutting it at providing me what I needed to go through this. I was admitted to the psychiatric ward before they even met me. Long story short the white coats had their very own brand of abusing me. They also ignored my sleep issues and minimalised them. Forbade me to sleep during the day and drugged me up and pretended it made me sleep at night. It didn’t. Like with my parents I knew not to involve them with my problems after that, they had aptly proved their incompetence and greed.
I managed to graduate with very good marks despite all the stuff going on. I enrolled in university and proceeded with the same determination and developed slightly better habits concerning food and sleep. I would be able to sleep until i naturally awoke much more often and I started teaching myself to cook.
Did you know my father loved cooking, trained to be a chef and had to give up his profession? Well he loved it enough to always cook all our meals. He also basically did the catering for family gatherings. All the while outright ignoring my varying food sensibilities and cook as if I didn’t have any issues at all. Even on my days off school when I slept long enough to be able to eat I had to spent a good 20 minutes of lunch picking onions, bell peppers, cumin and all the other stuff out of my food. I can not stand the sound onions make when chewing them. Most of the meal I was alone, because my family being done much faster punished me for eating so slow by deserting me. Father did not love cooking enough to teach either of his kids anything about it of course.
So I taught myself to cook during my time at university. Like many students upon being independent from their parents ideas of nutrition I started with unhealthy stuff. But by now I am confident in cooking not only my local cuisine but have also branched out into various other non local ingredients, spices and recipes. I have surpassed fathers cooking skills because I just love to cook and am not afraid to google stuff and ever expand my knowledge.
Of course my parents legacy still goes strong. I do not sleep at night reliably. My antidepressant does help but the issues is very much still ongoing. At times I did not sleep before the sun rises. Sometimes not until after noon. That means I am awake during the entire night. I do not know if you have ever noticed but everyone is asleep during that time. Its very lonely. It makes meeting friends impossible. Naturally I cherish my friends in various time zones. Chatting at least is better than nothing.
Aside from the social aspect I of course struggle with planning of any sort. Office hours end before I woke up and grocery stores close at some point as well. Seeing a doctor becomes a struggle. I am often in very very deep sleep when some decided its a nice idea to call me and discuss my health insurance. Taking the rhythm out of sleep is not a torture method for nothing. Lying awake at night all night every night has a way of driving you insane.
At least over the years I have learnt not to be a corpse anymore. No enraged mother entering my room yelling at me not to be so loud. She didn’t do it often, I naturally knew to keep quiet. But the need to be as invisible as possible is still going strong. I only gradually learnt to do my workouts, my cooking, my red tape stuff and all the other things at night. The guilt trips and all the things I’m not supposed to do still looming large. Labouring under the assumption I would sleep if I stayed in bed and do nothing my mother has forbidden me doing pretty much anything at night and did not fail to make her disapproval heard.
Years of malnourishment have left me underweight and with very little appetite. And years of an ever changing and never normal sleep rhythm has me having no rhythm in my day whatsoever. Most people can tell you at which time of the day they will be hungry. They have things they do in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. I have nothing of the sort. Words like morning, afternoon and evening do not have much meaning to me. I know the official definition but that never coincides with my times in the day. I have been admonished for saying good morning 3 hours after I woke up so often. People always assume I’m lazy and thus sleep so long. Because laziness is what has gotten me a university degree with all this going on…