In case you didn’t know, I suffer from somniphobia, which is the severe anxiety or fear of sleep. That might seem irrational or stupid for some people, but believe me when I say there is PLENTY of reasons for having it.
Personally, I have PTSD; from many causes, but this post is about my somniphobia so I’ll stick to that topic. Sleep is normally a safe time to be locked inside your home and recharge for the next day, but when I was growing up, it was a period of yelling, screaming, slamming doors… Somehow waiting until us kids were trying to sleep was the best time to fight, no matter how loud you were. It gets worse when the people you should be able to trust as a young person begin to take advantage of this time to terrorize you while you’re forced to remain in bed and quiet.
Sh sh sh…
I wasn’t allowed a nightlight as a child.
I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed even if I stayed in my room.
I wasn’t allowed to make a sound, ask for help, go to the bathroom, or get up if something was wrong.
Let me clarify: by ‘not allowed’ I mean that I would be punished for it, which generally consisted of yelling, pushing/slapping, being told how bad or stupid or weak I was, having toys or books taken or thrown away, or being ‘grounded’ from leaving the home at all, from speaking to anyone even in the home without permission.
You’re not allowed to hug Mom while you’re grounded.
You’re not allowed to look at her or be where she can see her.
She’ll bring what food she thinks you should have when you should have it and she’ll be the one to tell you when you can leave your room, go to the bathroom, and go to sleep.
Don’t let her catch you sleeping without her permission.
None of this is helped by the fact that I have had sleep disorders my entire life. Chronic sleep paralysis, graphic nightmares, and night terrors. I remember my first dream. I was five. I was trying to help Winnie the Pooh convince Piglet not to kill himself. I failed.
These things, the rules and punishments, remained the same up until the day I left home at 18. By the time I was teen, I was so afraid of sleep that I would starve myself, self-harm…anything that would keep me awake. Once I was hospitalized because I got sick due to not sleeping for nearly a week. Of course I couldn’t share any of this anxiety or behavior unless I wanted to get in more trouble.
Early in teenhood, I also began developing Schizoaffective Disorder (Schizophrenia & Major Depressive Disorder). You can imagine that did nothing to help. With a family that didn’t believe in mental health and therapy, there was nothing to be done. Doctors’ warnings were ignored and therefore so were my problems.
I once spoke to my mom about a graphic nightmare I had that had me in a bad way at the time. My brother beheaded my little sister. She told me to leave, said she didn’t want to hear ‘that crap.’ My hope had been that there was something that could be done and she blocked out my desperate cry for help before I could even process it.
I’m in therapy for all of this; I’m doing the journaling and art and other exercises and coping techniques I’ve been taught, but right now…the somniphobia is starting to kick my ass. I can’t stop thinking about sleep and how it’s creeping up on me. I’m so anxious. I’m twitchy and irritable. I don’t want to be touched, hugged, reassurances, I don’t want to talk at all because it pisses me off just to hear the sound of another person’s voice.
Nothing’s helping. All I can do is hope that the anxiety will ease up again at some point if I can just make myself sleep and stay on schedule. Keep doing these things to help and maybe…but none of it is working right now…
~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden