I look at the time on my phone and I see that it’s nearly 2 a.m. I know it’s one of those nights. I have meditated and turned out the lights to see if the dark room and whirring ceiling fan would lull me to sleep. I have taken my daily night-time medication and my insomnia medicine. I have tried every tool at my disposal and, still, I am awake.
The issue, as usual, is not that my body isn’t ready for sleep—my eyelids are heavy and the muscles in my hands are aching as I type—the problem lies within my mind.
I live every day with bipolar disorder and severe anxiety; an unfortunate symbiotic relationship in which one feeds off the other in a vicious cycle. Right now, I am rapid cycling which means I am experiencing both depression and mania on a daily basis. Coupled with anxiety, this pervasive trio sneaks into my brain and takes the wheel.
The thoughts in my head move so quickly that I can’t ever seem to catch one in time to negate it. They are the same thoughts that usually keep me awake and, logically, I know what this is. It’s a clear example of negative self-talk, and I would wager that everyone reading this has faced this same battle in some way or another. In my case, this fight is ongoing, consuming, and typically fought uphill.
I lay in bed as the thoughts take over…
“You will never be enough.”
“You will wind up alone.”
“There is no point in continuing.”
“You’re not strong enough to fight this.”
“You are broken beyond repair.”
This is the regular line up, but they are often joined by visiting friends depending on the day. My stomach is cramping. My muscles are tight. My breathing is shallow and rapid. My marathoning mind is just as much a physical symptom as the way my body manifests its longing need for sleep.
Tonight, I’ve given this negative self-talk too much power, it has taken on a life of its own. I know I’m not alone in this, I’m not the only one awake tonight, listening too closely to the ruminations in my head.
We, as a community of unbroken people who just happen to have a mental illness, need to find a way to tell these crippling thoughts to sit down and shut up. We need to remind ourselves that we would never say the rotten, soul-crushing things we repeat internally on nights like this to anyone else.
Tonight, I do the best I can to quiet the thoughts. Tomorrow, in the light of day, I will reinforce the idea that instead of self-abuse, I will practice self-care. I will work hard to reframe these thoughts differently, in a way that is empowering. Tomorrow, I will say, “Today, I will be better.” It may be another hard day, but I will remember what I wrote tonight. And regardless of what transpires, I will not worry about the next week or even the next day. I will stay steady where my feet are and work to change my present, rather than fear the future.
I will stand at the bottom of the mountain, not yearning for the highest peak, but focusing on my first steps upward, knowing that I will still make it to the summit.