I lie there, staring into the darkness, the pressing of night around me. The pillow under my cheek is hot. My brain feels like the whole world, there is nothing else but my thoughts.
My thoughts whirr on, they won’t let me sleep. That’s when the thought occurs — am I talking to myself?
Talking to yourself, the first sign of madness. If you’ve had a mental health episode ever you’ll know that feeling that your mind is not under your control, it’s a separate beast from you, one that could tip you over the edge.
Am I going mad?
I’ve had mental health episodes, and I’ve learnt to hold myself back when I see another on the horizon. But when I see one coming, it doesn’t stop the fear.
And fear can turn what was merely a sleepless night into a nightmare.
I’ve learnt to turn down that fear, to dial it into a tiny part of my brain, that still allows me to sleep. This is what I do.
I observe myself with compassion
I’ve been observed by nurses, doctors, psychiatrists, when I’ve been in hospital or as an outpatient. It has taught me a set of unhelpful skills.
It has taught me to observe myself from the outside, judgementally, dispassionately, objectively. I look at my symptoms, and I imagine how they would seem to someone else.
But at three in the morning after an hour of tossing in bed, that is really unhelpful. They are lonely fights, these night fights. Why fight them for someone else.
Instead, I choose to back myself. I choose to think that tonight is just one of those nights, and I choose to draw no conclusions from my sleeplessness. I am not necessarily going mad. And even if I were, it would be better to think about it in the morning.
I choose to trust myself. I choose that talking to yourself is the new normal.
Just because I’ve had a diagnosis, doesn’t make me different from anyone else in the end. It certainly doesn’t mean that I can’t back myself…
If I can’t trust myself, who can I expect to trust me?
I concentrate instead on the sensation of sinking gently away, I don’t try to stop my thoughts, I let them run on unworried, uncensored. They will stop in their own good time, if I don’t force them.
It happened last night — and they did stop, at about three. I wasn’t aware of them stopping, they just slowly petered out. I stopped staring into the darkness, I let them gently drift away from the centre of my vision and into the corner of my eyeline.
And then — then I was asleep.