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Diet & Nutrition

My battle with insomnia

It’s a topic often swept under the rug but Kerri Sackville opens up about her battle with insomnia.

When I was a child, and I couldn’t sleep, my mother would stroke me on my head and reassure me.
“Just rest if you can’t sleep,” she would say. “Resting is just as good.”
She was doing the right thing, trying to ease my concern. I say similar to my own kids when they can’t sleep at night.
But even then, I knew she was wrong. Resting isn’t as good as sleeping. And sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. At best it can make you headachy and foggy. At worst, it can cause health problems, intensify anxiety and depression, increase the risk of accidents, and affect your ability to function.
Recently, Kim Cattrall - best known as Samantha from Sex and the City - revealed that she withdrew from a starring role in a London stage play due to chronic insomnia. The actress was operating on three hours sleep a night, which made her feel like there was a ‘three-ton gorilla on my chest’.
Her admission was incredibly courageous. After all, our society still doesn’t readily recognize ‘invisible’ health issues such as anxiety and depression. Though we support people living with physical illnesses, those with mental illness are expected to just battle on quietly. It is no surprise that when Cattrall dropped out of the play it was generally assumed that she had cancer. We don’t consider the possibility of mental illness. It is barely acknowledged as being real.
But anxiety and insomnia are very real, and the consequences can be devastating. I have suffered from long periods of insomnia, and it has reduced me to a blubbering wreck. When my first babies were born, I became so anxious about their night waking that I would be unable to fall asleep after their feeds. I would lie awake in anguish for hours as they slept, and walked around in a fog the next day. I couldn’t have gone to work at that point; I barely functioned as a parent. I developed post-natal depression which took a good two years to resolve. And if my mother hadn’t helped me out by caring for the kids so I could sleep during the day, I am not sure how I would have survived.
So often in life we are encouraged to push through, no matter what demons we are fighting. Anxious? Stop worrying and get on with it. Depressed? Pull yourself together. Not sleeping? Soldier on anyway.
But anxiety and depression and insomnia are real, and sometimes – as Kim Cattrall has so bravely demonstrated – we just can’t push through. Sometimes we have to take time out to deal with our mental health, just as we would for any physical health problems.
My insomnia still rears its ugly head from time to time, but it is rare. I have reduced most of the stressors that intensified my anxiety, and have numerous techniques up my sleeve from my years in therapy. I’ve also arranged my life so that I can have an afternoon nap if necessary, so that I can be as productive as possible. I know how important sleep is, and I know that rest just isn’t as good.
Not everyone can adjust their lives as I have, and not everyone has the resources of Kim Cattrall. Still, our suffering is the same, and the awareness that we are not alone in our experiences is powerful.
But the knowledge that there is hope is the most powerful of all.

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