by TRACEY McCLURG
You have to try so hard these days to be truly calm and relaxed.
Signs stare out in markets and shop windows reminding us to “Keep Calm and Carry On”, to “Always Make Time for Laughter”, even to “Just Breathe”.
And they’re right — but when did it become so darn hard to do that?
Six months ago I went through insomnia boot camp. The synapse in my brain responsible for sending me to sleep suddenly went on vacation, leaving no note about when it would be back.
It wound up having a good, long holiday, as all I could grasp was maybe one or two hours each “night” for close to four months.
Four months of living hell.
For most people, the odd bad night’s sleep is normal, forgotten about quickly, like a slow traffic light. But superglue a few sleepless nights together and you begin to notice the effects. It’s debilitating: work feels harder, noises louder, people more irritating, and the urge to leap onto the nearest train track disturbingly appealing.
A few restless nights became three or four sleepless weeks which rolled into months. It was at this stage that my body began to feel detached from my mind, an awkward, perpetually exhausted, lumbering nuisance. You begin to consider seeking help outside your own mind. Within the first few days of my insomnia ordeal, I turned to Google for answers.
Typing symptoms into an internet search engine leads irresistibly to the conclusion that one has contracted a terminal illness and ought to start bidding their loved ones farewell. But there’s a wealth of information out there and different methods for someone willing to try them — and god knows by this stage I was desperate.
Let me run through them; the first DIY attack on my conscious-coma involved soaking in a bath of Epsom salts to ease my muscles, a snack before bed to trigger a shot of serotonin to my brain (though a sledgehammer of serotonin sounded more appealing — and perhaps even just a sledgehammer), and the deep, soothing tones of a catalogue of self-help gurus.
My chosen yogi was Deepak Chopra, whose calm, liquored voice reminded me of a Sunday school teacher running an art class. In other words, really annoying. I tried music, hoping the serenity of an orchestra would shepherd me to sleep; but the melancholic undertones of the music just depressed me.
What about nature? Surely a tranquil waterfall and rain on a mountain stream would ease my jolted brain. But telepathically traversing Peruvian mountain ranges at 2am only took me further away from where I wanted to be — at home, in bed, fast asleep, like I imagined the rest of society must be.