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I Miss Counting Sheep

Kyleigh Leist

WhiteFlag Outreach Coordinator


As a child, sleeping was my favorite activity. I couldn’t wait until my mom would say, “Okay Kyleigh, it’s naptime!” I would run to my room with my favorite stuffed animal and nap with no issues. Going to sleep on command was never the matter in question. Counting sheep was never not a recurring theme. Being able to nap for long periods of time was never an area of concern. Oh, how I miss those days…

Transitioning to me in high school, my sleep schedule was a different story. Or, lack of sleep, I should say. I could no longer sleep on command, I could no longer just shut my eyes and nap for hours, and I could no longer sleep through the night. I began to get lucky if I could sleep for 3 hours a night– all while trying to be on the honor roll and be a multi-sport athlete.

Adjusting with insomnia after high school, my sleep pattern was non-existent. No matter what I did – no matter how hard I tried – no matter how many remedies I attempted to use, nothing seemed to work. My bed became my least favorite place to be.

The most frustrating thing about being an insomniac is there aren’t thoughts that keep me up. My mind isn’t racing. I’m not thinking about things I said to someone, or things I didn’t say. I’m not analytically thinking about what I need to accomplish throughout the rest of the week, or things I haven’t gotten done yet. I’m literally just laying there. In silence. Tossing and turning in utter despair. There’s no TV on, I’m not consumed by my phone, nothing. I’m just laying in a pitch black room, in silence until the sun comes up. This still comes into fruition today.

No remedy helps me. No skin care routine, no amount of melatonin, no wind-down techniques, no trying to “tire myself out,” no lack of electronics, and no change of scenery has helped me when I’m going through an insomnia episode. It is a helplessness that is beyond what words can describe.

My relationship with sleep for a few years now has been a complete and utter uneasiness. My sleep issues have consistently increased over time. These issues are so persistent in my nighttime routine, that I have begun dreading going into my room and attempting to fall asleep. There is absolutely nothing more lonely than a long, sleepless night. Seeing the sun come up knowing I didn’t get a minute of sleep is so discouraging. Knowing that I have tried to go to sleep for the past seven hours and there is no sign of sleeping anytime soon makes me feel completely helpless.

In my worst insomniac episode, I’ve gone four days without sleep. In those four days, I continuously tossed and turned. I shut my eyes and next thing I knew, when I looked at the clock, I slept for thirteen minutes. Thirteen minutes total in four days. This lasted for two weeks. One hour of sleep here, one hour of sleep there. For those two weeks my brain and body were crippling me. They let me down. They were rebelling against me and rebelling against each other. It was such a back and forth dynamic that I certainly did not want a part of.

There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to sleep. Something I took such pride in and looked forward to more than anything, has become my absolute antagonist. I had dark circles under my eyes, my memory was absolutely shot, I couldn't remember anything I did or said, I couldn’t form a complete sentence, and my brain was manipulating me into thinking I heard things that weren’t there. I truly felt like I was losing my mind. The agitation became unbearable. The way my baggy sweatpants were sitting on me wrong set me absolutely over the edge. I couldn’t get comfortable and it felt like my world was crumbling underneath me.

When I said I tried everything to make me fall asleep, I mean it. I tried ZzzQuil, Melatonin supplements, sleep drinks, CBD gummies and oil, essential oils, Trazadone, and all the latest sleeping trends. Nothing seemed to work. Some would help me sleep for three hours and then I wouldn’t be able to sleep for the next two days. It has been such a disheartening feeling.

I was unreservedly discouraged. Insomnia affected my job, my diet, my motivation, the way I was a friend, my thoughts, and my depression. My insomnia and my depression have taken a front seat in my life. They are the catalysts to my day–everyday.

There is, however, a silver lining to my insomnia: WhiteFlag. The app is available 24/7 to talk to other fellow insomniacs like me. It helps me talk out how agitated I’m feeling because I can’t sleep, yet also takes my mind off of my brain and body not letting me sleep. The distraction is nice. WhiteFlag allows me to confide in other people who are battling with insomnia, making it nice to know I am not alone. Because, when I’m in my bed tossing and turning, having sleepless nights, like I said before, it is the loneliest feeling in the world. WhiteFlag has made it so much easier to manage my insomnia. Fellow insomniacs, download the app. There is reassurance in knowing there are others on the app waiting to talk, too.

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