I am 32 and up until recently I have been scared of the dark, not only do I struggle with sleep but silence and stillness. I just thought this was my natural high energy not allowing me and I was getting frustrated because I understand the power of sleep, rest and recovery as an integral part of our wellbeing.
I would put pressure on myself to get 7.5 hours minimum at night and I would beat myself up as I would often skip one of the 90-minute cycles of our sleep pattern. I knew so many facts, yet I did not know how to transform into this restful person.
And now working with a sleep and mindfulness consultant, I realise my issues were much deeper.
I was going to write this article about the power of rest and recovery as a ’24-hour opportunity’ to haave 5 cycles of sleep or mindful rest. But in light of recent events, I can’t just share tips on sleep and rest, without sharing my reasons why I was struggling to sleep and the fact that there is also hope and strength in sharing with the right trained professionals.
“I suggest you’re lying, you’re lying”… are still words that ring in my head and come back to me in the dark of the night… echoing from being a victim in court, said by a male defence barrister.
I thought I had healed from that first notable trauma, but really, the more I work through recent and old traumas… the more I have discovered that I struggle with the dark of the night and silence without distraction, which started from then.
I have realised that that trauma in my formative years and the ripple of traumas following that… by men, not all of the men were in a statutory position of power, but powerful in their own way, has impacted my daily life. I have been physically and mentally stopped in my tracks.
That first notable trauma was 20 years ago and I am now 32 and only just dealing with my fear of sleeping alone in the dark. But as someone who has grown up a woman… I have experienced most kinds of abuse from men. From heckling on the street as I jogged with my daughters in a pushchair to assaults.
Also, having previously worked professionally as a dancer in the entertainment industry where ‘everyday sexism’ is still rife, as it is in a lot of society but a lot more brushed under the carpet and covered up … I can honestly say I have seen it all and felt it too.
Whilst dancing, communicating and connecting with other women has been my favourite therapy of recent times… it has taken years to begin to dance freely again.
I stand by all women. All of us understand the daily threat to safety that we feel. From day-to-day rituals we have become accustomed to, just to try to keep ourselves ‘safe.’
We feel powerful when we come together, and together we hold a light for Sarah and all the other women impacted by violence and for those tragically killed too.
I don’t have the right words. There are no words. Nothing is enough to heal the pain and suffering. But I will try not to apologise or ‘say sorry’ because I have been apologising all my life to men for my very existence. I even apologised in the courthouse to that defence barrister for my uncontrollable response of emotion to him shouting “you’re lying, you’re lying” at me down the video link… which was later held against me.
But this isn’t just my story.
All I can do is show unity and love for every single sister out there. Whether you choose to share your story or not. Each experience and situation is valid and we never truly know what is going on behind closed doors, on the streets or in the minds of every woman on a daily basis. Whilst stories are so powerful, you may never be ready to share publicly and, it may not be safe for you to do so physically or mentally. Just choose the right professionals and safe places to share support you.
My heart and your heart, mind and spirit are together all as sisters.
I have finally started working through some of my fear of rest and feel grateful to be working with professional mindfulness practitioners, who combine science and therapy, to help guide me through being ‘mindful even when it’s painful,’ not just mindfulness when it feels good. By implementing more rest and recovery mentally and physically into my days, adopting the normal sleep hygiene of waking up at the same time and then switching off technology before bed and getting into good sleep hygiene albeit perfectly imperfect some days, I have been taking the pressure off ‘having to go to sleep at’ night and ironically with more pausing in between activities in my day, I am feeling sleepier and less alert on an evening.