The Awakening

Let’s talk about sleep. So many of the things that I struggle with seem to come together in sleep. First, sleep involves lying in bed; the sheets touching my skin, my skin touching the sheets, my legs touching each other. The feel of my body is very hard to take. Next, as I lie there and try not to feel my body, my thoughts start racing. In all fairness, I know many people who struggle with this much more than I do. Sad thoughts come and go, but eventually I will fall asleep. As I float off, a box of dreadful memories opens up. In my dreams, the same events happen over and over again, until I wake up sweaty, feeling disgusting, scared and alone (which, on a positive note, allows me to move to the other end of the bed where the sheets are still dry). Last night I had a weird special nightmare, quite different from the others, but I’ll write about that later. Some nights are better than others, but after n cycles of “touching skin – ruminating – nightmare – changing sides”, in the morning there’s always the Awakening.

I want to tell you about the Awakening. It’s the hardest part of sleep. It’s the part where I go: where am I and what happened? If I were a user of exclamation marks, CapsLock and f*-words, I would have inserted many of those in that previous sentence. The Awakening is the moment before realising I am safe and fine. The moment before I realise nothing happened while I was sleeping, nobody touched me and I did nothing that I would not remember now. But during the Awakening, I don’t realise all that just yet. My mind goes in panic mode. And so I turn on my mantra:

I’m safe. Nothing happened. There’s no-one here.
I’m safe. Nothing happened. There’s no-one here.

It helps, even writing this here and now helps. There were times when I would sleep with my phone on my pillow, so that during the Awakening I could stare at these simple sentences on the small blue screen until I could actually read them. I don’t need that anymore these days. There are nights I don’t even need the mantra at all. But let’s be honest, there are other nights where I don’t sleep at all. Also, I’ll admit that these sentences are still in my phone, and that I find that a ridiculously soothing idea. It’s OK to resort to tools like this to keep me safe.

Do you still want to hear about that weird nightmare? I dreamed I was queuing (you may now guess in which country I live) to go see a movie with my entire family. I knew the movie well; in fact, I had just been watching the exact same movie with my parents and siblings. It told the story of a girl who had been sexually abused, and her parents who were ambivalent about what to believe. So the parents called in the filmmakers, who proposed a novel method of truth-finding. The girl, the rapee, would go through a set of unique challenges, earning points by proving the sexual abuse had actually happened. At the very end of the movie, the filmmakers revealed the rapee’s total score, leaving the parents and the viewers to judge for themselves. As I was standing in line to see the movie again, this time surrounded by my aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, I knew that the girl would earn a grand total of zero points. As my mum starts telling my aunts and uncles that the movie is actually about me, I feel more abandoned and humiliated than ever before.

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image source: Ladybird Books

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