Updated: Apr 22, 2020
“School isn’t for you.”
“You shouldn’t be here.” “You need to quit.”
That’s what my counselor said heading into my third year of high school. She wasn’t wrong. Up to that point, I was failing. I very rarely applied myself during school hours and most of my time spent out of class was dedicated to escaping the stress and anxiety that made up my reality. The brutal honesty of this conversation with my counselor was met with bitterness, but it was a blessing. A turning point.
I knew I wasn’t stupid. I also knew I could be more despite the burdens that came with my childhood. I didn’t have to be another statistic. I vividly remember wanting to prove that to people. I simply needed to work. As a result, I ended up putting so much pressure on myself to be successful that I slowly created a cycle of insomnia that would last all the way into my mid-twenties.
My final two years of high school rendered no sleep. The cycle followed me into university, as well. For a time, I justified my lack of sleep because I was able to get more done. I was delivering on my desire to push myself further and I was successfully dishing out spite to those who questioned whether or not I was capable. Inside though, my mind began to unravel. I realized, too late, that this cycle of insomnia had its claws dug in deep.
I tried every technique to loosen its grip on me. Sleeping tablets, speaking with professionals, and even going so far as to try hypnotherapy.
Sleeping tablets left me groggier than the insomnia.
The pros said I was “just stressed” and left it at that.
Hypnotherapy was a waste of money, but a great story for dinner parties.
Even though my doctor did nothing to help, the diagnosis was right. I had put so much pressure on perfection that I’d actually created a cycle of stress. No one is sleeping with adrenaline and cortisol constantly pumping through your veins! It would be years before I accepted that stress built the foundation for almost all of my health issues, insomnia included.
Some of you are likely aware of the narrative:
I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight and, as a result,
- I’m going to fail that exam.
- I’m not going to be able to function tomorrow. - I’m not going to be able to think properly.
- I’m going to be tired all day.
- I won’t be able to go to the gym.
- I won’t be able to go to work.
The pressure I put on myself to sleep, coupled with this internal dialogue, became so bad that I actually feared going to bed!
Bad habits manifested. Those habits bled over into every aspect of my life. It nearly destroyed me. I knew that tackling my stress would be an uphill battle, but I quickly realized that it was a lot easier to undo some of these bad habits first. I needed to fix the only time of day that my body could heal. I had to create good habits surrounding my sleep!