What Keeps Me Up at Night...


My cat threw up at 4am. I woke to the squawking “meow” of my cat just before the heaving started. Trying not to wake my partner, I turned on the bathroom light and tried to focus my exhausted eyes on the floor looking for the two wet spots I knew were there. Finally, I washed my hands and got back into bed, desperate to get back to sleep but… nothing. There I laid, wide awake, for almost 2 hours before eventually dozing into that in between state, right before you fall asleep, but… my cat began squawking again, this time to let me know his bowl was less full than he wanted it to be. I wanted to kill him. I got up again, fed him, took in the sunrise coming up over the city and made my way back to bed again. A short while later, I woke to my partner getting up for work and knew he would be leaving at 7:30am. By this time, I was convinced I’d never sleep again. But to my surprise I woke again at 9:30am. This is not unusual for me, this routine of waking and sleeping and waking and dozing. It’s not always due to my cat either, often it’s a sore neck or back or shivering because I kicked all my blankets off, that stirs me from slumber. Easily I wake 3-4 times per night, every night. The thing that keeps me up though is my brain, my thoughts and those moments that I overthink or wish I’d done differently. That’s what keeps me up at night.

Falling asleep isn’t a big issue for me and on the nights it is, I’m grateful for my chewable sleeping aids. Staying asleep on the other hand is impossible. I legitimately cannot remember the last time I slept through a full night. I even went to a sleep clinic and was given heavy duty sleeping pills. I still woke in the night! Groggy and a bit nauseous but I still woke, every night. I know my sleep used to be amazing and that some personal issues and external factors impacted my ability to sleep as deeply and peacefully as before. But for me, the thing I hate the most is when I wake and my brain starts thinking.

This doesn't happen every night but every once in a while my brain will not turn off, it thinks about everything and anything. From what I did that day, to what I have to do the next day, to things that happened 10 years ago and last night was no different. I began thinking about a friendship I had in my early 20’s and the job I had, the drama that ensued and the hurt I felt at the time. I realized that the things that pop in my head and continue to come up are always times that I either didn’t speak up for myself or reneged when I did stand up for myself in order to keep the peace. I spent so long being a people pleaser, wanting everyone to like me and worrying about things I ultimately could not control. I wanted people I didn’t even like to like me and to befriend people I thought weren’t good people. Why did I do this to myself?

I wonder if anything I did or said ever keeps someone else up?

How many other people overthink like I do?

I know now that it’s impossible and ridiculous to be liked by everyone. I don’t want to be liked by everyone because I don’t like everyone. I don’t want to make small talk with people I can’t stand or fake niceties with people who annoy me. I’ve learned who my true friends are and the kind of people I want in my life.

Without those times where I didn’t stand up for myself, I wouldn’t know how to now. But I’d be lying if I said they were all just learning experiences. They were, obviously, but they are also a source of regret. I use to say I’d never regret anything and that all experiences just led me to who I am now. While that is true and I love who I am now and I’m 100% happy in my life; I definitely have some regrets. Some are small and fairly inconsequential to my overall life, while others hurt to even say aloud. For example, allowing my friends to convince me to touch up the colour on my favourite tattoo. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things and not at all done maliciously but it still haunts me every time I look at my wrist, because I wish I just spoke up and said no. Another example, going swimming at my best friends instead of staying with my dad. Turned out to be the last time I’d spend with him at his apartment. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time and desperately wanted to spend time with my friend and the water because I was so upset with what was going on, but it hurts still to this day when I think about it. I left his place and debated just going back, because I had a feeling I should. Those are the thoughts that creep in at 4am, all those times I wish I’d just listened to my inner voice and trusted my gut.

Life is made up of many moments that define us, both small and big. I know in my head that I’ve learned from these moments. I speak up more now, I stand up for myself, I say no when something doesn’t feel right, I don’t care as much about what people think of me and embrace my weirdness. I’m still learning and growing though and I still need reminders and pep talks sometimes. I still walk away from situations and then think of the perfect comeback to the jerk who took up two parking spots or the lady who jumped in front of me in line. But the thing that keeps me up at night is my inability to just let go. My partner is amazing at that, while I’m overthinking our disagreement, he has already forgotten it and doesn’t give it another thought. I want more of that in my life. I try to let things slide off my back and occasionally I am successful too, but not as often as I would like.

I also know who I am. Sometimes I just need to complain about the driver who cut me off so that I can let it go. Sometimes I overthink the outcome of a conversation so that I’m prepared for whatever is about to happen. I cry when I’m frustrated or angry, which is often mistaken for weakness or sadness. I worry a lot about things I cannot control because I like to be in control. I’m OCD about the weirdest things, like which way the towels hang or where the remote controls are placed. We are always growing and changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I’ve learned a lot but I also wish some things were different.

What keeps you up at night?

xo Shawn

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