A Timeline of Insomnia

Sometimes I can’t sleep because I can’t slow my thoughts. Sometimes I can’t sleep when I’m sick or in pain. Most of the time when I can’t sleep, it’s because I’m worried or anxious. In a short span of time — say, the last four weeks — I’ve battled insomnia because of all of the above.

A few weeks ago
7:00 a.m.
My phone’s clock got a little messed up (OK, fine, I change the clock to sometimes to get more lives in Candy Crush), and I dreamt that I had fallen asleep on the couch around 11:00 p.m., and then got up an hour later and washed up and went to bed. My husband actually woke me up around 7:00 a.m. and told me to go to bed, but I thought it was about 4 a.m. When he woke me up later to tell me he made waffles, I thought it was about 9:30. He came in again at what I thought was 10:00, and I finally got up after 30 minutes of dozing. The reality was that I actually got up at 2:00 p.m. That’s when I discovered my crazy swollen face.

2:00 p.m.
After I showered, I tried to eat the waffle my husband made for breakfast. Eating was incredibly painful. My face was crazy swollen. I had no idea what was going on. I finally palpated the swollen area, and immediately I whispered and gestured to my husband that I had to see a doctor. I’d lost my voice several days earlier, so communication was painful, in more than one way. He called around to try for an appointment, and finally I suggested a clinic around the corner from us by way of handing him my iPhone with the clinic’s info pulled up. He called, and they were ready for us and less expensive than the triage clinic he’d called.

5:20 p.m.
The doc at the clinic suggested that I fill my prescriptions at a Target pharmacy because the most expensive meds were heavily discounted there. The first Target was closing 7 minutes after we arrived, but the pharmacist called around for us. My husband got us to the next Target in minutes, and I had three prescriptions in hand — plus a chai latte — by 5:20.

6:30 p.m.
At this point, I hadn’t really eaten all day and had tons of drugs to take. My pain was awful, I was scared by the diagnosis and sad and miserable. Keep in mind, I could not speak — my throat was so swollen that the doctor ordered me to not even whisper for a week. My husband picked up some tomato basil soup for me from our favorite Italian restaurant (he’s not a total saint; he got himself a giant thing of lasagna, too!). I took my first round of meds and naively settled down with my soup.

I took one sip of soup and burst into tears. The doctor told me I had a peritonsillar abscess, which meant nothing to me. But attempting to swallow a savory soup with lots of pepper and flavor and acid with a raw abscess felt like I was stabbed in the ear with a downward trajectory to the throat. It’s just an area that can’t be soothed. The reality of my condition began to settle on me.

I tried to eat a couple of things, but everything hurt. I was bawling in pain, made worse by the fact that crying made my throat and sinuses hurt even more. Messy, horrible pain. My husband made me some mashed potatoes, which I could swallow enough of to get some food in my stomach with all the medications. I knew that I had to eat enough to take the meds. I also knew that I had to take the meds to feel well enough to eat.

10:00 p.m.
I went to bed, but an hour later I got up and took some cough medicine. Although it helped with the cough, it didn’t help me sleep. The next three hours I mostly spent obsessing about my situation.

I went to bed again, but spent the next hour making mental notes of which med did what to make sure I always have the optimal combination in my system. I slept for about 10 minutes, but I woke up coughing.

At this point, I couldn’t keep my mind off of three things, which kept me awake: The searing pain of that little rib muscle that is only used to cough on my left side that was overused over the last week, the painful swelling in the right side of my face and neck — meaning that sleeping on either side was uncomfortable — and the ever-present song stuck in my head when I wake up. The song changes, but the fact that I always wake up with a song playing in my head does not.

The next three hours went something like this:

Dun dun dun dun, dun dun dundundundun fight you bruins bold,
Go Bears!
Dun dun something something green and gold,
Go Bears!
Dun dun da dun Is the second verse different from the first?
Go Bears!
Are the rhymes the same, or is
Go Bears!
It just the one verse over and over?
Da da da dun, dun dun dun dun dundun dun dun DUN!

(Here is how it actually goes:)

Yes, I woke up with my school’s fight song stuck in my head. With my alma mater on my brain, then I started composing responses to some of the nastier comments I read on Facebook about the whole Big 12 conference getting shut out of the college football playoffs. I saw a lot more vitriol than I care to consume, and part of me wanted to log on the next morning and come out swinging. So, in my mind, I retaliated in the same fashion that I replay a heated discussion or uncomfortable confrontation in my mind and get to say all the things I wish I would have said.

First on my mental list was to shut down the fan-bashing. With pointless, ill-conceived, and clearly an uneducated comment, an acquaintance of mine from high school took to Facebook to accuse the fans of the Big 12 for the conference’s “comical” out-of-conference games.

Thanks for the note, buddy! I never would have thought of that on my own. P.S. You watch too much ESPN.

Thanks for the note, buddy! I never would have thought of that on my own. P.S. You watch too much ESPN.

Because it’s us, the fans, who made the rule that disallows a conference championship, which then led to being force-fed a season-long “one true champion” campaign, only to have feckless conference leadership refuse to back any one team and present co-champions?! The fans are frustrated, and I’ve seen otherwise lovely people get nasty for all the world to see because of it. If I were the least bit confrontational, I’d share with this individual — who clearly watches too much ESPN and knows too little of the Big 12 fans and its conference rules — a more educated perspective, but I’m passive aggressive and take to my own blog, which no one will ever see. At least I can hopefully sleep better feeling vindicated to actually write it down instead of only obsessing about it instead of sleeping.

The next day
5:30 a.m.
More medicine, and then I checked my Twitter feed to distract myself from anxiety about the swelling in my throat that was beginning to impede my ability to breathe and swallow. I read the Our Daily Bears blog and checked the Baylor subreddit, too, because both are usually pretty chill, but I saw I accidentally read one TCU fan’s comment about how “unlikable” Baylor fans are for “storming the field after every win as if they didn’t expect to win.”

In these quiet morning hours, I mentally composed another confrontational message (again, I’m too non-confrontational to say these thoughts to the offender, but just passive aggressive enough to immortalize them for my own jollies on my blog). In calmer moments, I wonder: Shouldn’t other fans accept school traditions they don’t get? I mean, Texas A&M (with all due respect to my niece and many alumni friends) still observes 100 percent of their anti-University of Texas traditions, despite the fact that they will never play UT in any sport ever again. No one cranks about that except me giving my niece some fair natured teasing!

For the record, bitter old horney frog: We’re not “storming the field” like we didn’t expect to win, we’re observing our traditions. We begin the game with students on the field. We end the game with students and fans on the field. In my day, we went onto the field to pray with Coach Teaff and the football team after the teams play their school songs. Then the Golden Wave Band plays the Tennessee Waltz, which is really beautiful to hear on the field.

Before any other cranky horn frogs can bitch about us “storming the field” to hear an irrelevant song, let’s review some more facts. Baylor University was chartered by the Republic of Texas, those very folks who were grateful to and benefited from the volunteer army from the great state of Tennessee. We get to play the damn Tennessee Waltz to honor the volunteer army the same way we play the national anthem, so shut it. C’mon down to the field and give it a listen, because you will agree that it’s beautiful to hear.

Also, why so mean and bitter, horny toad?! The Baylor-TCU rivalry is long-standing, and to my mind, friendly. We invented homecoming for y’all, after all. Granted, traditions are SO MUCH MORE FUN to observe when you win. But you know that, too, horny frogs! You’re just as marginalized as Baylor is as small church school. Baylor and TCU have a lot in common, now more than ever. Let’s be friends and build the Big 12 up instead of tearing each other down.

Two rounds of meds in, the day is easier. My symptoms are reduced, but the pain is not. I sleep. I’m a slave to my next round of meds.

Twenty-five hours later
I’m more confident about what I can eat. Eventually, I sleep sitting up. Laying down is too uncomfortable.

I tried to sleep on a pillow, but it was too painful.

Eighteen hours later
The swelling has significantly reduced. The antibiotics are awful, but the peritonsillar abscess is definitely reduced. The Baylor fight song is finally gone from my mind, and I’m able to focus somewhat on other things.

I nap.

Later, I sleep again upright on the couch.

Three days without significant sleep. I don’t recommend it. From now on, I’m going to the doctor sooner instead of waiting because meds help. Sleep is crucial, and I’m grateful for the help that allowed all my healing sleep.

Twelve days of Christmas
Despite my illness, I dragged myself to stores to buy gifts for my husband. I wrapped them over several days. I had stocking stuffers, but honestly I was too sleep deprived and sick-tired for an all-out Christmas.

Once I felt better, I baked with the idea of distributing baked good to our families. Too bad I had no energy to pack or ship my precious baked goods to Jeff’s family. I didn’t factor that energy need into my plan to shower my husband’s family with lovingly made treats.

I was lucky that my family decided to celebrate our Christmas in the new year. I was super happy that my first married Christmas would be at home, alone, with my husband. His cousin’s family welcomed us on Christmas Eve, and sharing the evening with their whole family was wonderful before we attended a gorgeous candlelight service at church. We are incredibly blessed!

Happy new year
My husband had insomnia recently. I talked to him about anything happy I could think of until he finally drifted off. He’s a much better sleeper than I am, so it seems odd that he needed my help!

Although I’ve had a great deal of anxiety about getting laid off and getting married, this new year signified something in my mind, like I should have resolved all my own unanswered questions and single-handedly created a family budget, complete with joint accounts and easy-to-use envelopes that would make Dave Ramsey weep with joy. Instead I’m still struggling with some questions I’ve asked myself and trying to figure out how to be married financially. A couple of nights ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about these topics, and therefore didn’t sleep until about 5 a.m.

Being that tired definitely affects my work, so I’ve set some new goals for myself about sleep. If I’m feeling anxious at 11:00 p.m., that’s a sign that I’ll be wound up at 1:00 a.m., which means sleeplessness or fitful sleep until morning. If I have any resolutions this year, it’s about addressing sleep. Without good sleep, I can’t be productive. Without being productive, I cannot bear myself.


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