Confessions of a Recovering Insomniac

One woman recounts her (successful) struggle to get a decent night’s rest.

Photograph by Aya Brackett

Joan Didion wrote in The White Album, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” As she suggested, we search for the hidden kernel of meaning in the shifting phantasmagoria that is our life so we can make sense of what is so often senseless—random gunfire that takes the life of an innocent child, an earthquake that kills thousands, a medical diagnosis that rocks us to our core.

But sometimes our stories become fixed, frozen, unchanging—even when change is both possible and desirable—especially the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Here’s a story that until very recently I told myself about the insomnia that has plagued me for 30 years: “My body doesn’t know how to sleep. There’s obviously something very wrong with me. The only way I can fall asleep is to take a pill, and sometimes the only way to stay asleep is to take another pill. I hate how groggy the pills make me, but I am helpless and powerless to stop taking them. If I try, I’ll never sleep. I’ll be a complete wreck and fall apart and not be able to live up to my responsibilities. Sooner or later the lack of…

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  • Mindful Staff
  • September 21, 2023


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About the author

Barbara Graham

Barbara Graham is an author, essayist, journalist and playwright. Barbara is the author/editor of the New York Times bestselling Eye of My Heart: 27 Women Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother, and author of Women Who Run with the Poodles: Myths and Tips for Honoring Your Mood Swings, and most recently Camp Paradox.