In the chronic illness community, there’s a special kind of sleeplessness we call painsomnia. I trust you can figure out its meaning for yourself. Well, I’m having something like that tonight, except it’s more like painsomnia of the heart–and not in the cardiac sense.

For no apparent reason (aside from being “profoundly depressed,” according to my psychotherapy profile), I’m lying here wide awake and suddenly fighting back tears, despite having gone to bed early because I couldn’t keep my eyes open two hours ago. I didn’t have the best day, but it ended well enough. I’ve got plenty to be upset about, but … I don’t know. This is something different from the usual depression.

The best way I can describe it is like I’m mourning something that never happened, feeling a longing and restlessness so intense that it hurts. Again, this is a common element of the sick life: We grieve lost opportunities, what never was, what could have been, our plans changed or put on indefinite hold while we chase diagnoses and cures that may never be. We withdraw from school, get passed over for promotions, and lose jobs for lack of accommodations.

Chronic illness doesn’t give a damn about your dreams. And I wonder why I can’t sleep.


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