My insomnia story
Ending my 5 year struggle
How my insomnia started
Like so many others, my insomnia started at a very challenging time in my life. I was recovering from a burnout after leaving my previous corporate career. My body and mind were exhausted and my autoimmune condition was flaring. After a year, I was just beginning to feel the ground beneath my feet again.
The initial “spark” for my insomnia happened as I went off of a medication I was struggling with – my body went into withdrawal and insomnia was one of many symptoms. Except when the other symptoms went away, the insomnia stayed and took on a life of its own. If I had known then what I know now – that insomnia is fuelled by anxiety and fear; that conditioned fear responses begin to run on auto-pilot, I could have saved myself so much struggle!
Let's end your insomnia together
so you can get back to living your life
How I got stuck in the fear-insomnia cycle
Instead, I did what most of us do when a whole bunch of really scary physical stuff is happening – I became obsessed with sleep and laser focused on my symptoms. I tried to fix one physical problem after the next – hormones, adrenal fatigue, gut issues, brain problems, etc. When none of this helped my sleep, I doubled down and tried harder. I saw endless well intentioned doctors who tried to mask my symptoms with pills without ever asking why. Why had I stopped sleeping? Why did I have all of these symptoms? I tried everything including cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i), which unfortunately only made my insomnia worse. Twice.
What insomnia felt like for me
The longer it went on, the more I withdrew from my life in an attempt to protect what little sleep I had left. My symptoms left me feeling both scared and confused. I would wake up already in the middle of a panic attack. My heart rate was often so high that I developed a fear of hearing and feeling my own heartbeat. The sound of my heart beating in my ears was sometimes so loud it would keep me up for hours.
When I did sleep, I often woke up hot and sweating a couple hours later. I would stand on my cold bathroom tile to cool down and then turn my fan on high even if it was the middle of winter. I also remember feeling as though my nerves were exposed – like I was wearing them on the outside of my body. Everything felt overstimulating. Of all my symptoms, the way my body would twitch and jerk as I was falling asleep scared me the most. Each twitch felt like a current of electricity running through my body, followed by an adrenaline rush.
Some nights I would lay awake twitching all night, having hundreds of “false sleep starts”. The frustration and exhaustion was overwhelming. But as hard as the nights were, the mornings were the hardest, marked by emotional breakdowns and desperate exhaustion.
As anyone who has gone through this knows, there are physical symptoms and also mental and emotional ones. I often felt like my brain and my body were no longer my own. I experienced an intense loss of control and loss of identity. The part of me that used to feel confident or happy felt absent. I also felt very alone. I used to peer out of my windows at night searching for signs that I wasn’t the only one awake at 4am. And more than anything, I struggled with a lot of shame – why was this happening to me? Would I ever be able to live normally again?
How I started to overcome insomnia
After more than 4 years of trying everything, I gave up on fixing and focused on coping. While there was relief in ‘waving my white flag’, my fear of insomnia was still very much alive until I finally learned what was keeping me stuck in the insomnia cycle. Anxiety and fear were not just symptoms. They were fuelling my insomnia. I stopped chasing my symptoms around in circles; I stopped focusing on my body and instead started understanding the role of my mind in what was happening in my brain and body. Intuitively, I knew that I would be a normal sleeper again. This is when my recovery from insomnia began.
Once I recovered, I knew I wanted to help others do the same. Everyday, I strive to become the kind of coach I wish I had during my own struggle. If you’re looking for help, I partner with my clients to provide support, education, and the tools to make recovery possible.
To learn more about the Hopeful Mind’s mission, follow this link.
Let's end your insomnia together
I’m here to help anyone struggling with insomnia. It’s a mission that means everything to me, and I’ve helped people all over the world rediscover restful sleep. If you’re ready to try help that finally works, I’d love to work with you.