Did you see that movie?  A few years ago? With Al Pacino as an LA cop who goes up to Alaska with his partner to solve a murder.  I gotta see it again – I remember that was a great movie.

Insomnia (2002)

I have always been a good sleeper.  I fall asleep easily, and generally sleep through the night.  I have been told I snore – I hope not too loudly!

This recent summer, after an initial two months into my new life as a single person (with complications), I was loving life.  I was exercising regularly, eating sensibly, and sleeping well.  I felt very optimistic, and was actually surprised that things were going so well.

And, then, I hit an emotional wall. All the classic signs and symptoms of depression crept insidiously into my life. And, one of the most consistent challenges was waking up regularly at 4am.

4am digital

What a horrible hour to be awake.  Sometimes it was earlier. As early as 2am. But, night after night, I never made it past 4am without waking, and then had a terrible time falling asleep again.  I started binge watching shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Then, of course, I’d be tired during the day.  And, like in the movie, losing sleep does start to make you feel more and more like you’re losing hold of reality.  A vicious cycle.

I knew that I needed to get back to taking care of myself – resume the exercise that I had let slide, eat better, avoid alcohol (we all know alcohol is a depressant, so why does it seem so inviting when we feel bad?), get myself out with friends and activities.  But when you’re in that pit of despair, even though you know what you need to do, you can’t get yourself roused to get going and take action. So, i moped around in my apartment, binge-watching movies and shows, and reading mysteries I’d read before.

The depression magically lifted about two months after it began, just as I was getting ready to start taking antidepressants, because I couldn’t stand feeling so bad every day.  I wish I knew what made the depression lift.  I didn’t take any of the steps outlined above, I just started feeling better, and THEN I was able to get moving, and fix the bad habits that I had fallen into.

I have to thank friends who were kind, and my new synagogue community, Beth Am in Baltimore, who were so welcoming, and made my experience of the High Holidays (which I was dreading during my two months depression) so uplifting and transformational.  I have been blessed to find excellent professional help to guide me through and find the other side of the abyss.  Family, who I have often not felt comfortable relying on, were there for me, and surprised me by their kindness and support.

And, now, I am running regularly again, and for the past two weeks, have been practicing yoga every morning.  I am starting to work with a health coach, to help me get on track to more healthy habits (I hope).

But, the insomnia has returned.  I’m waking up at 3:30-4am again.  Not feeling anxious or bad, but very awake.  I end up reading, mostly.  I’m not binge-watching anything anymore – that’s clearly symptomatic for me of the depression.  I can listen to music – something that I have always found I CANNOT do when I’m depressed.  When I’m blue, I can only listen to talking – news, podcasts, audiobooks – but not music of any kind.  But I’ve been on a total music binge lately, listening to my old favorites all the time.  It feels great (even in the face of the horrific news this week).

So, what is up with this early morning awakening?  I suppose I could get up and be productive.  There’s plenty of work for me to do.  But I really like to stay in bed (especially as the weather gets colder – I really hate winter).  And I figure I should try to get at least 7 hours of sleep.  I’m not really tired during the day, especially with the yoga practice to kick-start my energy and flex my body.

So, we’ll see.  I would like to return to my old champion sleeping ways.  Although I am no longer sad and crying at 4am, like I was doing the first half of the summer, I still don’t want to be be conscious.  I enjoy sleeping, and I hope I will again revel in glorious restful, uninterrupted sleep!

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