It’s around 5:30am on the 23rd December. Christmas has well and truly broken into its chorus, social media platforms have been deserted for those much-needed ‘breaks’, and what for many signals a time to rest.
But for some (in fact, I reckon many) of us, rest during Christmas is a myth. So far this week, I think I’ve seen 3:30am every day. Today I’m winning my chronic insomniac streak having not slept since my 3am lurch into wakefulness and thinking. I’ve got a man coming to the house at what could be any time from 8am, ETA unknown (smart meter fitting). That will then absolutely guarantee a knock from the neighbour afterwards to compare notes on our installation experiences, oh, and I’ve just removed a gigantic slimy slug from the lid of my kitchen bin. On top of a 3am start, it's all a bit much really. That might read like a bit of a moan but quite frankly I need to write this because insomniacs are everywhere, not just for Christmas.
To be honest, I’ve found the function of my insomnia this week is that of time to think. Because in the day, between organising who’s going where and when, what time the pigs are being picked up, which shopping slot is happening when, finishing up work duties, wrapping presents, saying ‘no’ to being put down for the annual family board game, and remembering to check in with friends because that’s what you’re supposed to do… honestly, there’s no time to think, is there?
When the days are so busy, like an overfilled waste bin ramming normal life and Christmas life tasks into one tiny container, is it any wonder that we aren’t sleeping well? And is it any wonder that so many of us feel that we need to switch off? We don’t have control over most of this other stuff, but we do have control over our phones, our social media use, and the devices that we can switch off (or at least we think we do). We can’t say no to Aunty Linda’s fried sprouts but we can say no to these other things. And that sense of autonomy in this system of oppression (sorry, I meant Christmas), it’s good, isn’t it? It gives us a sense of control when life feels completely out of control.
I know I’m not the only insomniac in Christmasville. I’ve seen the forum posts, blogs and tweets from others in similar positions. 3am-ers are a tribe of the night right now because our minds are filled with so much stuff, the only time for ourselves is in its depths. Once you’ve run through your first sleep cycle and those melatonin levels aren’t what they were at 10pm, it’s little wonder that this is precisely the time when our minds will get to work.
When I previously wrote about insomnia, it would be mournful, angst-filled or tales of anxiety. This time it’s different because I know that my own insomnia is telling me something. It’s telling me that I cannot keep running on fast-forward. For once, it’s not social media that I need to switch off from, it’s life. But when you have so much to do and so much disruption to routine, it becomes impossible to switch off. Because even during the evening once all is set aside for the day, you can’t stop thinking about the different things you need to do. The people you need to see, the emotions you need to feel and the way you need to present yourself. So, is Christmas really a time for rest?
The truth is, some of us will have more rest than others depending on our circumstances, our obligations, our home lives and ultimately, our minds. Having been the norm and tradition in our Western culture for so many years, it's become ingrained at the cost of worn-out consumers. I don’t know about you but there is so much to do, I find it difficult to switch off. Even now, as I write this there’s a mental list preparing itself. One telling me that really I should be writing Christmas cards for people who’ve sent me one, perhaps painting my nails or wrapping the last few presents. Well to be quite frank, f**k you Christmas, for now I’m writing. Leave me be.
For anyone who experiences social anxiety around opening Christmas presents, this might help: