I can’t remember a time when sleep and I didn’t have what my friend would refer to as a “complex relationship”. When I was young, I would wait till my parents went to bed, and turn the light back on and read for another couple hours. As I got older, schoolwork started to be a good excuse to stay up later, although I was still running a morning routine timed to adults with hour-plus commutes. When I started college and moved to the dorms, I stopped having anyone to bother by being awake and went almost fully nocturnal, except for classes. Things evened out a bit more after that, but for most of my adult life I’ve been shorting myself to 5 or 6 hours of sleep during the week and then binging on 12 or 14 hour chunks on the weekends.

It wasn’t until a year or two ago that I really actually understood that this was not normal. When I made an appointment to talk to someone about how my anxiety and depression were getting completely out of control, the doctor asked me “What is the number one thing you’d like to deal with?” and without hesitation I told her “I want to sleep”. I left the appointment with a prescription for a sleep aid. It took me just shy of 33 years to get desperate enough to ask for help. I guess I’m just stubborn that way.

Medicinally-aided sleep is kind of wonderful when it’s what you need to get your feet back under you. Its extremely difficult to deal with the underlying problems that are ruining your sleep, when you can’t think and process because you’re so tired. It’s the kind of long-term drain on your mind and body that you don’t really notice, until it’s gone, and then suddenly you can look back and wonder “how did I live like that for so long?”.

It’s not without it’s flaws, though, and I’m glad that I’ve managed to go back to sleeping somewhat normally without the help of my friend Ambien. I was a little bit afraid of meeting the Ambien walrus and waking up down the block, in my birthday suit, walking someone else’s dog or something equally horrifying. There’s something pretty strange feeling about having a medicine that you have to have a hand-delivered prescription printed on properly embossed and watermarked paper and signed physically by the prescribing doctor in order to obtain.

These days I crawl into bed, turn on some music (I’ve never slept in silence well), curl up around my husband, and actually fall asleep. I wake up to an alarm that does not have a ‘loud’ setting and is not all the way across the room, in an effort to get me to move and wake up. All that actually did, by the way, was teach me how to get up, hit snooze, and crawl back into bed without actually being fully conscious. Sleep isn’t a fix for everything that ails you but it really does build a good foundation for you to stand on while you work on the rest, and I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted again.

Rest well, friends.

A twitter buddy of mine is committing to writing 500 words a day on some topic, and invited others to join her. Feel free to write alongside us, exercise those grammar muscles, and do a little wordsmithing. The hashtag on twitter is #500wordsAbout.