Last night I read something that made an interesting, though somewhat disturbing connection for me. I was reading volume one of Virginia Woolf’s diary and after February 1915, the editor (her nephew’s wife) writes that Woolf went mad and didn’t keep a diary again until 1917. None of that was a surprise for me because I’ve read lots by her and about her. It’s that the editor took time to note how this episode of madness was heralded by nights of sleeplessness and days of anxiety before Woolf completely lost her mental health.
I have to digress for a second to say that reading what Woolf writes in 1917 and comparing it to previous entries is fascinating. After her madness, her topics aren’t as deep. (In fact there’s lots about weather. Yawn.) Her sentences are stilted. The writing shows her mind slowing re-awakening and re-grasping her craft. Pretty incredible…and the only thing getting me through reading about days of pelting rain and farmhands gathering corn.
Back on track…. Reading about the sleeplessness before her collapse tweaked something in me. Having had bouts of insomnia for about the last two years, I could completely understand that tenacious, yet fragile connection between sleep and mental well-being.
I have the type of insomnia where I often wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. Sometimes I feel like a different person during that time because I can have really loco thoughts or worries that I’d never have during the day, even if I’m bored. However, if I don’t get enough sleep for a few days in a row, I can feel the night worries trying to creep into the day-lit hours.
A couple of weeks ago when I had whiplash and some other old injuries were re-ignited, I could feel myself coming very close to being depressed. Sure I wasn’t close to mad, but I definitely was not a balanced, happy camper. You see, the pain from the injuries woke me up and gave me something else to concern myself with. It was one more layer too much.
Thankfully I managed to get myself reined in. I shushed the negative night-time voice that said nothing was going to work. I did some breathing exercises to get back to sleep. At first they felt futile but they eventually worked. And yoga got the injuries calmed down so that they stopped waking me.
But it still creeps me out to feel how close I was to getting into an even worse spiral. The insomnia is bad enough. That’s why I’m finally going to try and conquer it. I’ve signed myself up for an intensive meditation course which starts in February. I’m determined. Whenever I get that way, I succeed. Fingers crossed.