06/10/2015 12:21 EDT | Updated 06/10/2016 05:59 EDT

How I Get Through My Sleepless Nights

Sam Diephuis via Getty Images

I am awake late again tonight, longtime sleep warrior that I am. Sleep and I, we have not yet found a way to comfortable exist together. I am forever hopeful.

Bouts of insomnia tend to make one feel isolated, cut off from the world, so I try, these dark hours, to think of all the other people awake right now.

The mothers with new babies, sleepily waking to that precious, one of a kind cry that only a very young baby makes and reaching down to pick up soft, new to the world beings, to nurture and nourish.

The shift workers, coming home, tired after putting in a long day at whatever honourable work they do (for work is honourable, just being work) and those just rising, eating breakfast and brushing sleep from the corners of their eyes, setting off for a day's journey at a job they perhaps love, perhaps hate.

The many people in other time zones and across this swiftly tilting planet who are busy in the middle of their day, in the sunlight, dealing with the many slings and arrows a day may throw at them -- love, grief, fear, boredom, passion. Laughter. Joy.

I think of the others, like me, sitting in front of computer screens, whiling the hours away until the day breaks, feeling the angst and struggle that comes with not being able to sleep.

For myself, sleeplessness accompanies twinges of the old "black dog" of depression, as Winston Churchill named his own demon. Depression has been a on and off battle all my life and lack of sleep is a trigger, a reminder. In years past, as an active alcoholic and chaos-creating individual, flailing willy nilly from one catastrophe to the next, one sleepless night could set me straight off on a bender. Like a cartoon character crashing and careening into buildings and off cliffs, I would dive straight into as much mishap and destruction as one small person could wreak, creating damage (mostly to myself) and a trail of debris.

Those days are thankfully (oh, so thankfully) behind me -- today I am sober -- and I can use this sleeplessness as a tool.

The sadness bell it sets chiming somewhere deep in my heart I shall use, tonight, as a reminder to drink water and nourish myself to strengthen my weary body to manage a day's duties come morning, when my son awakes and the day needs tending to.

The loneliness it invokes I will use as a reminder to connect -- through words, through touch, through my imagination as I think about those across the globe awake in their own beautiful small worlds right now.

When all else fails, I walk outside and breathe in the night air. I am reminded that I am alive, and although I feel raw, anxious and resentful at myself for being so silly and self-pitying (oh what a ridiculous and circuitous journey our minds can take us on), life is exhilarating and a new day is a few hours away.

I look in with envy on my son's sprawled out, blessedly sleeping form, whisper kisses into his hair and pull a book from the shelf to while away the last hours. May these words help you, too, on your long sleepless nights. We are all connected, and tomorrow we can rise again and cherish the new day.

"Today, like every other day, we wake up empty

and frightened. Don't open the door to the study

and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

― Rumi


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