I am an insomniac. I have been an insomniac as long as I can remember. I complain about my children keeping me awake, and after five and a half years of cosleeping and nightfeeding, I’m allowed an occasional moan, but it definitely isn’t the whole story.
I remember being around eight years old maybe, and having months and months where I would be wide awake at night, for hours on end, worrying. My Mum tried all sorts of ways to try and help me relax and sleep better. In the end we resorted to warm milk, honey and a splash of whiskey!! Not sure it really helped… My sleep got better for a while, but since then I have had quite frequent periods of terrible sleep again.
I guess that’s one of the reasons I try to be sympathetic when my children wake at night. I can empathise!! These days my daughter sleeps through wonderfully. It’s definitely unusual for her to wake at night. My boy is far more variable, but the last week or so he’s been doing pretty good.
Me however? Well I frequently find myself lying awake, with the soft snuffles and snores of my family surrounding me. I know I do all the things I shouldn’t, checking my phone in bed, watching tv on the computer, caffeine, no exercise, and the worst one? Checking my work emails just before bed.
There are lots of things that keep me awake at night, worrying. Work is definitely one. When I was a ward-based doctor I would spend all my time worrying about my patients, how they would be in the morning, what outstanding jobs I had to do, all the things I could possibly have missed out. I think that was a major part of my decision to become an A+E doctor. I like the fact that each patient is my responsibility for a short time, and then their care moves on to somebody else. I found that concept removed so much of the stress for me.
I love the emergency department. I love the craziness and bustle. I love the family I work with, knowing that everyone has my back. I enjoy having to make quick decisions, and looking after really poorly people. I find it really satisfying being able to do simple things to really make a difference to somebody; sew up their cut, put their dislocated shoulder back in, sometimes something as simple as a little reassurance. Obviously there are stressful days, and stressful patients, but generally it feels pretty good.
I will often dream about resus scenarios, but the thing that keeps me from sleeping at all, is worrying about admin. About the emails I haven’t responded to, the mandatory training I haven’t booked, the appraisal I haven’t had, the box I haven’t ticked and the hoop I didn’t jump. The vast majority of the time it doesn’t feel as if any of these things make the slightest difference to actually treating a patient. I am rubbish at work/life/any and all admin really. Nothing is as likely to bring me out in a cold sweat as a form to fill out, and at home I delegate the vast majority to my husband, but unfortunately I haven’t managed to convince him to do my work ones too!! It was one of the many reasons why I am very happy with the thought that I will never be a consultant. I like treating patients. I hate management and admin, and I think it would force my stress levels way past bearable.
Once I get past my work worries then worries about my children take over with glee. I think it has now become an expectation that as a modern mother you need to be permanently worrying about your inadequacies as a parent, and I fulfill that stereotype with aplomb. Nearly always about my complicated daughter rather than my straightforward son, but that in itself makes me worry that I don’t worry about him enough, that I am actually being neglectful in my confidence that he’s doing ok!
I should probably spend more time worrying about how little time I am managing to find to meditate, be mindful, and write in my journal. Maybe I would sleep better if I spent more time doing those things. But right now, between all this worrying, binging on downloaded episodes of The Good Wife, and lying awake in the middle of the night, I just can’t find the time for it.