I have not yet read the book by Thomas Moore bearing the title “Dark Nights of the Soul” but I just added it to my Amazon list. Perhaps the universe is nudging me in that direction. This concept that rises up now and then as I try to anticipate changes ahead.
Lately I have been struggling with some insomnia, despite my commitment to get more sleep and the strategies I have put in place to help me do that. I power down my devices by 8:30 p.m. and try to get myself “wound down” by reading a book (an actual paper book), taking my magnesium and 5-htp supplements and leaving my electronics outside the bedroom.
All of those things help, to be sure. But sometimes my brain still gets stuck in the “on” position. I meditate, I try watching my thoughts and letting go. I try breathing exercises, with nice long exhales to activate my parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” part of the body. And still: the brain latches onto things and spins them.
I trust that someday I will get better at this, and I am practicing the skills to help me get the rest I need. I have struggled with insomnia since my teen years, I think, when anxiety about school or other issues crept into my consciousness. My Dad used to tell me how I needed my sleep, that I would have a heart attack if I did not sleep adequately. I was a skeptic back in those days, and I knew this was extreme. So I did what all teenagers do: ignore their parents’ warnings.
I have always enjoyed mornings, apparently since I was a tiny baby, and my Mom tells me I was a bit colicky after eating. But I always woke up with a smile, and I guess that persists to this day. Well, most days. As long as I have my coffee…
Instead of tossing and turning in bed and waking up my poor husband, I typically go out to the living room and journal things out. It’s a “thought download” of sorts, and I hand write all those spiraling thoughts, to empty out my head and externalize them. It is a practice recommended by psychologists. It can help, but my brain is a determined little monkey.
Reading fiction books is also helpful. But when they are too good? That can be a problem. Liane Moriarty was my “drug” of choice last night, but her books can be too engaging so I suppose that backfired a bit. I finished re-reading Truly Madly Guilty last night and enjoyed it as much as the first time I’d read it. It is a bit of a mystery, you see, and I wanted to see if I could appreciate the craft of the story as much as I had the first time, now knowing the ending.
But I digress…
I tend to do that a lot when I’m sleep-deprived.
What I do now thought, instead of beating myself up for not mastering the process of getting good sleep EVERY night is to acknowledge I am getting better at it. No, I have not mastered it, but with practice we all get better at skills. Humans are fabulously adaptable creatures, when we let go of the need to control everything (which does not work anyway).
So I am going to offer myself patience and kindness. I am going through a transition right now, and there may be a few dark nights of the soul. And that’s okay, I will get through them just fine.