When My Insomnia Began

I’ll sleep when I’m dead!

People who I know make bad decisions.
My niece Brynn and her friend.


When I was age three to five we lived in Dallas. My room was upstairs, and I think I slept on a daybed. I have hardly any memories of that room. I played downstairs with my sisters most of the time. I have almost no memories of what my sleep was like. I seem to remember wandering downstairs a few times when I didn’t want to go to sleep because I didn’t want to miss out on whatever my parents were doing. They were just sitting in our darkened living room, golden light from the TV illuminating the bowls in their hands. But it was just boring shows with adults talking.

I remember a slight discomfort at waking up in the morning. My mom would wake me up–I have no memories of getting up on my own before Mom came in the room. The feeling of stretching in the morning is so distinct for me. I would stretch, and the feeling of sleepiness would be relieved. Then, as I finished the stretch, the fuzziness of fatigue would settle back into my limbs.

I also couldn’t do buttons in the morning. My fingers wouldn’t work. It would almost hurt. That still happens sometimes but rarely. My mom dressed me all throughout kindergarten. In first grade, I started making my own fashion decisions, but that’s for another day.


It’s only now, as I’m writing this, that I realize that I don’t think I had insomnia before my parents’ divorce. I was seven, almost eight when they split. Maybe it’s a coincidence. But one of my sisters also had a sleep issue arise exactly at the time of my parents’ divorce.

As a kid I remember lying in bed, bored, and wanting to sleep but being unable to.

Dad’s House

When my dad first moved out, he lived in a two bedroom apartment. It was kind of cool. He would cover the breakfast bar with butcher paper. We had a drawer in the kitchen full of just markers–my sister Cory is the one who reminded me of that detail. She’s good at remembering stuff like that.

I also remember shopping for a couch with my dad. The salesmen kept mentioning “sectionals,” and I thought he was saying “sexuals.” I was so scandalized. A couch just for sex? Gross. For my DAD?? Super gross.

My dad gave me a guided relaxation tape to help me sleep. I played it on a red tape player. At dad’s house my two younger sisters and I shared a room. We slept on these convertible foam pads. They were pads that folded out into a bed or folded up into a little chair. And we each had a pillow and a blanket.

The guided relaxation thing was a man’s voice. I remember him talking about a wave of warm relaxation working its way up from your toes to your head. I would picture that I was lying on a white canopy bed with white covers, slowly sinking into the ocean. But, like, in a good way.

Mom’s House

When I lived in Cedar Park with my mom, I had my own room. I loved it. All my furniture was white. My desk had a silver top and white legs. My dresser was a sort of vanity with a full-length mirror. The bedroom was painted baby blue up to a white chair rail. I remember lying in bed, looking at the hallway light coming from under the bed. I would watch it and feel tired and wish I was asleep.

I would hallucinate a little bit as a kid late at night. Clothes strewn on the floor would become tentacles or spiders or monsters, and I would feel frozen to my bed. Once, I even woke up believing that the entire world had rotated ninety degrees. Everywhere I tried to go, I was a quarter of a turn off. And I couldn’t re-orient myself, even when I ran into a landmark, like my dresser. Finally I noticed a light from the door, a light that seemed like it was coming from the wrong corner of the room. I forced myself to walk there even though it made me dizzy. When I opened the door and went into the hallway it felt like I had entered reality from a nightmare.

I’d heard advice somewhere that if you paid attention to the position your body was in when you woke up in the morning, you could put yourself in that position before you went to sleep to fall asleep faster. I tried to notice how I woke up, but I would always move before I knew for sure.

Dear Child Sarah,

You sleep best on your tummy with a pillow under one arm.

I love you,

Adult Sarah

4 thoughts on “When My Insomnia Began

  1. Stuff in the room becoming tentacles and spiders and monsters, totally relate. I find these memories so interesting. Your writing draws me into your past…


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