Falling Asleep, Rising Awake

From time to time, before I fall asleep at night, I have a sudden moment of clarity. My mind empties and everything seems simple.

In these moments, every goal I have in life seems easy. All I have to do is do it, I realize. It’s that effortless.

My anxiety and fear are gone. The voice in my head that accompanies me all day is no longer there. Maybe it’s already fallen asleep without me?

Other times, before I fall asleep, I’m forced to take a deep breath. My mind becomes clear and I realize I’m lying in my bed. It’s as though I’m seeing the room around me for the first time in a long time.

I wonder how I got there. It feels like somebody else has been living my life for months. Like I’ve been sitting as an observer, watching somebody else controlling my body. I often can’t believe where I am in life and feel like the previous few years happened to somebody else. That my life is somebody else’s dream.

Most often, before I fall asleep, I play through the same fantasies in my head. I’ve replayed these fantasies enough times that they don’t entertain me. It comforts me to slip into the body of somebody else. It’s like I’m taking part in a play which I’ve rehearsed a thousand times. I don’t need to think about the lines or my movements.

In one of these fantasies, I am playing football. ⚽ Running down the right side of the pitch. A ball floats down in front of me and I stop it on the spot with my foot. I dribble the ball around some of the opposing players and smash it into the back of the net, scoring a spectacular goal. Once I begin to repeat the scenario a second time, I start to lose consciousness – like counting sheep.

Occasionally, before I fall asleep, I make a list in my head of the many things I need to do at work the next day. I go through each activity and try to prioritize. I need to do this first, then this next, then this last. I imagine myself doing each activity, worrying about the problems I might face.

No matter how many times I go through the list, I need to go through it once more. Scared that I’ve forgotten a crucial element. No amount of mental preparation leaves me satisfied. Eventually exhaustion pulls me to sleep.

Often, the day after those lists are made, I awaken with my heart racing, I’m unable to breath. Slipping back to reality, I am in an instant panic. Overwhelmed by anxiety despite not being awake long enough to think of anything.

Other days when I awaken, I’m not completely awake. I’ve been clenching my teeth in the night, which has lead me to having a nightmare involving my teeth. When I regain consciousness I am unable to move. I’m paralyzed in my bed, still clenching my teeth – afraid they will break. After a few moments of terror I fall back to sleep.

There are days when I awaken feeling more tired than when I went to sleep. I struggle to peel myself out of bed. I just want to sleep some more, but I start thinking about something that worries me. Something big, like COVID-19 or climate change. Or something small like, maybe I left the oven on or did I accidentally send that email to the wrong person yesterday?

Often in the summer, I awaken early on clear sunny days. The sun pours through the bedroom window and I can feel my the soft duvet cover against my skin. I stare at nothing in particular. I think of nothing in particular. I am calm. I enjoy the sensation of silence in my head. I’m content with myself and everything around me. Later once I wake up fully, I tell myself that some people must feel that way all the time and I envy them.

There are days when I wake up happy but by the end of the day I fall asleep sad. There are days when I wake up anxious but fall asleep calm. There are days, days following days, when I’m running on automatic. I fall asleep and wake without even realizing it’s happening. Everything I described above happens – but I don’t really know it’s happening. I go through my days doing one thing, then the next, constantly crossing things off a never ending mental list. Not really conscious at all.

On many days, I’m awake but also still asleep

4 thoughts on “Falling Asleep, Rising Awake

  1. I have the opposite – the moment before going to sleep is the moment the anxiety hits and my brain is in complete panic. Not a clear thought in sight! Think I’ll try the football fantasy idea tonight though.

    1. That happens too. Sometimes about something ridiculous like – oh shit did I accidentally fail to hang up on the video call earlier and all my colleagues have seen me picking my nose…

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