At 11.35 a door strikes when the teenage son of the neighbors comes home from the pub. An hour later, the last tube echoes past.
After that, it's a bit difficult before planes circle above your head, the milkman delivers his load and the birds start the dirty morning chorus that marks the start of a new, endless day. Game over, again.
From July 2010 to about six months ago I could have told you exactly what was happening all night at all times. 24/7. Because I suffered from paralyzing, total insomnia for most of a decade. The doctors shook their heads, friends rolled their eyes, but the truth is that I just couldn't fall asleep. Not at all. For more than eight years.
Miranda Levy (photo), who recently celebrated her 51st birthday, revealed her fight against insomnia that lasted more than eight years
Last weekend, when I picked up the Sunday newspapers, I got a headline, My Sleepless Hell, from Tom Bradby, the ITV newsreader. I drank in the interview he gave about his insomnia. "It's no surprise that intelligence agencies around the world are using sleep deprivation as a form of torture," said Bradby. & # 39; It is really frightening, a dark place. You don't know what's going on. You think you're going crazy.
& # 39; I mean, I was shot in Indonesia in 1999. This was ten times more frightening. & # 39;
Frightening, lonely and impossible for the (slumbering) world to understand. Because if you wave and dial at 3.57 in the morning with only the numbers on the company alarm clock, you think you're the only one awake on the entire planet.
After seeing a psychiatrist, Bradby came to the conclusion that his insomnia was due to an & # 39; underlying & # 39; mental health issue related to the death of his parents. For me it started with the breakup of my marriage.
My husband and I had been together for 13 years, married for nine, but busy careers and the & # 39; competitive fatigue & # 39; caused by two beautiful children born within 20 months meant that things started to break. By the summer of 2010, when I was 42 years old, it was clear that my husband wanted to ask time for our relationship, causing me great anxiety.
This, in combination with a history of depression and a previous episode of severe insomnia, marked the start of a terrible period, the impact of which I have difficulty putting into words, even now.
Miranda (photo in 1999) says a two-week prescription for her doctor's pills didn't work to cure her insomnia
A few days before my son's sixth birthday party, I noticed that I was having trouble falling asleep at my usual bedtime of eleven o'clock in the evening, and waking up a little earlier each morning. During a week, my & # 39; nights & # 39; until I couldn't sleep at all. I remember that I made my son a cake in the shape of a soccer field. Somehow I managed to sleep while baking. I don't remember anything about the party.
I soon realized what was happening, I was here a few years earlier. During Christmas 2005 I suffered from a burst appendix, not diagnosed for three days, which led to emergency operations, peritonitis and blood poisoning. The doctors told me that I was lucky that I was alive.
Although I escaped physically unharmed thanks to the skill of my surgeons, two weeks in a noisy, clear NHS department addicted to intravenous antibiotics severely hampered my sleep.
When I got home to my dark, quiet bedroom, it didn't improve. For a few months, I became incapacitated for work due to insomnia, unable to work as a freelance writer, or to properly care for my children, who were toddlers.
The divorce rate in the UK is highest for women aged 25-29. For 23.6 per thousand married people, this is more than twice the national average
Somehow, with the support of my husband, the time to heal and an empathetic psychiatrist, I got back on my feet. But the second time I had none of those things. I called the consultant who had seen me four years earlier, but he was retired. Did I really want to start again with a new specialist, while all I had done was miss a few days of sleep?
I tried to cope with my doctor and asked for a short sleep cycle. He was sympathetic and wrote me a two-week recipe. But the tablets didn't work.
As long as you keep working, I told myself. I loved my job. I was the editor of the magazine Mother & Baby, a position I had for two years after an 18-year career in newspapers and magazines. I had an intelligent and talented team and I enjoyed the pleasure of putting together a product that we were proud of. But almost immediately, I could not execute.
I was honest with my supportive boss, who told me that I could take time off for medical appointments or even therapy (I was still trying to save my marriage). But within a few days without sleep I slept at my desk. Normally, a decisive, confident person, when my staff asked for advice, I would simply stare at it.
The former editor of Mother & Baby magazine remembers that her workplace made every effort to deal with her health problems before she was fired in 2012 (file image)
I remember sending an email from a TV company asking if I wanted to appear on their morning show about a celebrity who had approved breastfeeding. Normally I was not aware of this kind of request, I sat there for an hour, unable to decide. & # 39; Do I have to do this? & # 39 ;, I asked my 22-year-old new assistant.
During lunch breaks I ran through Central London in search of solutions. Acupuncture, homeopathy, Reiki – nothing I ever believed in, but I was desperate. As a fit person who was proud of her figure, I tried to continue my regime at the gym, knowing that moving was the key to sleep. But my arms could not support my body to make pressure, my legs curved.
Eventually I was taken on sick leave. My boss was right to suspect that a paralyzed jelly was not suitable for running a magazine. Take it as long as you need, she told me.
But my health deteriorated rapidly at home. Because it was the start of the summer vacation, the children had clubs and playing moments. We had a great & # 39; after-school babysitter & # 39; who raised her for hours and took them on a journey.
But when summer changed to fall and the new term started, I was less able to hide. The school mothers could see that something was wrong. I remember on the first day & # 39; hello & # 39; against an acquaintance that I had not seen since the end of my term of office. The shock on her face was palpable. Cheerful Miranda had become a pale spirit.
Miranda (photo) remembers that as the years went by she couldn't function as well, she became too exhausted to even cry
The situation at home was a stalemate. Around the time I stopped sleeping, my husband moved to the guest room. Neither of us went anywhere, but we began to live different lives – and this uncomfortable coexistence would remarkably last for another six years. My husband has taken on much of the daily care of the children, something for which I will be eternally grateful.
I was sick until October, tried to go back but could barely get on the train. My employers have done everything to accommodate me, but in the end of 2012 I became superfluous. Over the next few years, I tried to restart myself as a freelance writer and occasionally submit a sub-standard piece of work.
And so the years of sleepless torture continued. Here is the problem with insomnia: it is a self-imposed nightmare. I didn't have a little baby that kept me awake. I had blackout curtains and a large bed, all for myself.
Sleep deprivation is used as torture worldwide, but I was not attached to electrodes or kept 24 hours a day in a neon-lit cell. The enemy was myself, my own brain. I was more than exhausted, emotionally numb, too exhausted to cry. I don't know how I lived.
As my nights shrank, so did my days. Over the years, I became less able to function. I stopped taking care of myself and hated leaving the house. Often I would continue to read in bed or surf the internet. For a year I watched every second of the Olympic Games, all the way to dressage and kayaking.
Miranda recalls that she was placed on various antidepressants after her doctor referred her to the local NHS psychiatrist service (file photo)
In the worst case, I wasn't even able to speak in sentences, but a kind of babble that made my family furious and angry.
& # 39; Ican & # 39; tsleep Ican & # 39; tsleep Ican & # 39; tsleep. & # 39;
After the first few months I was looking for medical specialist help. My doctor referred me to local NHS psychiatry and I was placed on various antidepressants, which made me feel weird but did not help me sleep.
As I went further into the system, my anxiety sensitivity diagnosis changed to & # 39; normal & # 39; depression in therapy-resistant depression. At one point in the nightmare I became addicted to a drug of the valium type and had to go through the hell of withdrawal.
I spent time in a private psychiatric hospital, funded by my family, and a few days in an NHS department where trains rattled and the lights stayed on all night. It was not conducive to sleep.
I tried a psychological approach. A sensible Hampstead-based therapist saw me for half the price for years, until he finally threw his hands in despair and powerlessness. The local government sent a benevolent assistant for mental health care. I endlessly complain about how nobody believed that I didn't sleep at all. & # 39; Well, would you believe it? & # 39; She asked reasonably. She had a point.
Finally, in August 2016, there was a shift. My loving widow father withdrew from his dental practice. We collectively decided that it would be better for my husband, my children and myself that I move in with him temporarily – at least until my health has improved and the finances have been arranged so that I can get my own place.
Miranda, who began to feel better after Christmas just left, says she began to feel useful again after a friend of her brother sent her a chapter of his novel for her opinion (file image)
Necessarily, the children stayed with my ex. There was never a moment's argument that it was right to do it, and there is no day that it doesn't break my heart.
I didn't improve immediately. In fact, if there was anything, I would get worse. But somehow Christmas started to get better around the bad weather. There was no bright spot or magic drug: I stopped taking one of the medications that brought me to weight.
I started & # 39; dreams & # 39; that lasted a few minutes. Then there were a few hours during the odd night that I couldn't explain. Other things have changed.
My father bought me an iPhone, I have a new e-mail address. A friend of my brother sent me a chapter of the novel he had written for a & # 39; professional & # 39; opinion. For the first time in years interested in something, I felt useful again. We have Netflix and I saw Mad Men and then Breaking Bad. I started watching the news and reading the newspapers.
It is not clear how these little things helped me sleep, but they did. It was a virtuous cycle, a snowball that grew. When I got a little rest at night, I was able to do things that sustained further sleep. I went for a walk and started to spend time with my children when they were there.
Miranda (photo in 1999) says her recovery has not been exponential, but her waking hours are starting to become joy again
A cousin persistently called the house until I agreed to speak and then met her. We recovered immediately and my recovery brought another big step forward.
I signed up for an online creative writing course and earned a few hundred pounds by writing a piece of journalism. I started to take some control, instruct a lawyer and finally face my divorce.
Earlier this month, my two best friends and I went out for my 51st birthday meal, complete with a few glasses of festive prosecco (I hadn't been drinking for years). That night I slept for four and a half hours. My recovery was not exponential: one morning I was happy to spend six hours & # 39; outside & # 39; had been, but last night I only had two and I am exhausted.
I'm not out of the woods yet. Even the writing of this article seems to be the seductive fate, a deliberate two fingers that are held by those invisible powers that may take revenge and steal my slumber.
But my waking hours are starting again to be a joy. On Friday, my two wonderful children chose to spend the evening with me, enjoy an Indian takeaway, and spend the night at my father's house.
As we leaned on the couch and watched Skyfall for the 15th time, I quietly thanked the Gods of Sleep because I was so kind to give me back my life.
Are you suffering from insomnia? And how did you cure it? Let us know at email@example.com
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