It had been three nights since I’d slept. I don’t mean I’d slept poorly, woken up a few times in the night or had trouble falling asleep. When I say it had been three nights since I’d slept, I mean, it had been three nights since I had slept at all — not for an hour or even a minute.
I already knew from experience, as someone who has struggled with sleep for almost my entire life, what would happen next. After days with no rest, you’d think sleep would come easily. You think I’d be so tired that I could lay down and take a nap as soon as my head hit the pillow. Instead, the opposite occurs. My brain kicks into overdrive; my anxiety soars. I start to feel a trembling feeling all over my body, almost like a full body high, but an enormously uncomfortable one. Sleep becomes impossible and I dread the night time, but I also dread staying awake all day, struggling to take care of my children in my worn-down state.
My issue with insomnia isn’t new — it’s practically as old as I am. But now that I’m a mother of two, it affects my life in more intensely difficult ways. I know I’m not alone. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, about 68 percent of women and 57 percent of men with a mental illness are parents. That means there are a lot of us coping with invisible illnesses while doing the hard work of being full-time parents, too.
Here is how dealing with a mental health issue affects us in parenthood.