The day we moved into our new home over a month ago, I lost my sleep.
At first I figured it was the Vastu of the room – we shouldn’t be in the North-east of the house, and our heads shouldn’t be facing north. So we tried sleeping sideways. Then my brother wrote in about some Feng Shui rules in their new California house, and I learnt facing north was okay. (Unless it’s different for North America and Asia, I don’t know).
Then I figured it must be the mattress – I was probably uncomfortable in a new bed, and it was made of foam, which is really unhealthy, you know. So we got a cotton one, natural fiber and all. Worked marginally, but I was still awake.
Then I thought it was too much light in the room; so I covered up the window with chart paper and we painted over it. But no luck.
Then I developed a major allergy and figured it was the blocked nose and sneezing that was keeping me up. So I began taking an anti-histamine. It worked one night and then I was back to lying eyes open in the dark.
By now I had bags under my eyes and my fatigue was unbearable; I had to take a day off from work because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. So I went to an Ayurvedic doctor. They charged me Rs 3,500 and gave me an Abhyangam and Shirodhara, along with some medications. I felt relaxed but still couldn’t sleep at night.
Then I figured I was missing my kids after so many years of sharing their room. So I went to cuddle them and did the coochie-coo and bonding thing for a bit. Didn’t work.
Then I got another Shirodhara and a morning out at a fancy five-star hotel where I did nothing but read and nap, and I came home all very happy and renewed and laughing. But I was sleepless again at night.
In frustration I went to a real sleep specialist at a real hospital. He took Rs 1,000 to tell me that I needed a special diagnostic analysis of my sleep and I’d have to check into a hospital or they’d do it at my home. It would cost me Rs 12,000. He couldn’t give me any medication until then. And I didn’t have the courage to take sleeping pills without a prescription.
In the meantime, I changed my anti-histamine and my diet as per the naturopath in the five-star hotel, and shared my woes with my girlfriends on Whatsapp. One of them said something that struck me pretty hard: “Give yourself a break. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
It struck me hard because I realised I was unable to actually give myself a break and I was killing myself for my sleeplessness. I wanted to be in perfect health. I wanted to be superwoman. I wanted to be able to handle everything without a hitch. Being sleepless and allergic and tired was a blotch on my CV. I was ashamed of being caught human.
So three days ago, I decided to heed her advice. I decided to give myself a break and not be so hard on myself.
It meant giving myself a break to be sick. It meant not being so hard on myself if I was sick. It meant treating myself with some compassion and allowing myself the luxury to be sick. It meant looking at my own sickness the way I would look at one of my loved ones’: Going ‘awww’ and hugging myself, and cooing, ‘Everything will be okay’.
It meant being understanding with myself, and comforting myself saying, ‘You know sweetheart, you have been through a lot lately, marriage and moving and all, and it’s totally natural that your body is a little shaken up. See what Lea Carpenter says: “Certain events sure shift you from center. A wedding, for example.” Give it time, it will be alright in a while. You will find your balance. Time is the greatest healer.’
It meant respecting my body and hitting the sack when I was tired, even if the laundry was yet to be folded and put away. Even if the kids needed me for homework. Even if everyone else was still up.
It’s been three days and I’m sleeping better. Maybe it’s the new mattress, or the new anti-allergy pill. Maybe it’s the new fruit-rich, caffeine-poor diet. Maybe it’s the effect of the Ayurvedic medication, finally.
Or maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s time, and maybe I have learnt what I needed to learn.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I think my God is glad I changed the question.