My reference to this Princess is not an argument against being a passive heroine. Or that women should avoid being caught in “the male gaze”* and stay there. Or that ladies should not be in waiting for rescue by a prince. While it’s true I neither believe nor advocate being any of these things, I’m really just saying that I’m not sleeping. I have insomnia. And it sucks.

The last time I had insomnia was in 2003 (I think), when I was preparing for my comprehensive exams in graduate school. Comprehensive exams are a sort of trial-by-fire ritual many students experience in grad school. It’s a sadistic game where your professors ask, “Hey, why don’t you demonstrate everything you’ve learned in the last four years in the next four hours?” Or at least you have to be ready to share everything you’ve learned because you don’t know what the questions will be. It was a major and stressful ass-kicking. And I didn’t sleep fully for a good six weeks before the exams. I can’t remember how long it took for my circadian rhythm to return to normal afterwards. And it sucked.

I’d give a month’s pay to be back there again. To be getting a major ass-kicking from a finite stressor. The major ass-kicking I’m getting now is from a stressor that seems to have no end in sight. I know, I know. Time heals all wounds and broken hearts mend and all that crap. But right now…it sucks. And honestly, that this will end, that I will eventually let go, makes me just as sad as the loss in the here and now.

Back to the matter at hand. I am not sleeping through the night. I seem to be getting to sleep all right, but I can’t stay asleep. Over the last three weeks, my sleep has ranged from zero to maybe five hours with no consistently. It appears I have acute insomnia, “also known as short term insomnia or stress related insomnia.” So far, I’ve been dealing with it like a good little soldier (or whatever), but I am starting to feel the effects. I can see it in my skin pallor. I am spacing out during the day. I am losing control of my emotions in public settings. If this goes on for another few weeks, I will ask my doctor to recommend an over-the-counter drug. I hate to do that, but I’m worried if it goes on too long, the consequences could get worse.

The other consequence of my insomnia, which is less dire (if that’s the right word) but still alarming to me, is that I am not remembering my dreams. I usually remember a good bit from the night before. I usually work through anxiety and problems through dream recollection and interpretation. Now there is nothing. Tabula rasa. Part of why this is so disconcerting to me is that I usually dream about family (my ancestors) to help my mind work through trouble. And now I can’t see them. I miss them. I need them. But they are elusive. And so my anxiety remains heightened and I am not making progress towards resolve. Have I mentioned this sucks?

Honestly, being Sleeping Beauty sounds pretty good right about now. Especially if I had three fairy godmothers to watch over me, to intervene on my behalf and diminish the effect of this spell. What about you? Have you ever suffered from insomnia? How did you get past it?

* “The male gaze” started as a feminist theory of film, but applies to other art forms. It is the idea that women are displayed — usually passively — for the pleasure of the heterosexual male audience or viewer. It’s a fairly well-known “women are objectified in media” argument.

+ Featured image, “Sleeping Beauty” by Henry Meynell Rheam (1899).