Sleep during the pandemic

When someone asks, “how did you sleep?” how are you supposed to respond? Habitually, the answer spewing from my mouth has been “fine.” But let’s be real – that answer is far from the truth. The honest (yet sarcastic) responses might be, “Great! I enjoyed my long night of intense nightmares about suffocating due to pneumonia caused by COVID-19, how about you?” Or, “Fabulous! I dreamed one of my kids died and I divorced my husband for refusing to stop working, blaming the death on him.” Or, “You know . . .  just another nightmare that I died, leaving my kids to grow up without me.” I can’t even begin to choose which one of these has been the most terrifying nightmare. They all cause me to awake in an agonizing terror, uncertain of what the future holds and knowledgeable of the fact that each and every one of my nightmares is a possibility if this virus were to hit our household. Nightmares used to be outrageous fears my unconscious mind fictionalized and turned into a nighttime movie – but now – now they are terrifying possibilities of situations happening all around the world. How does a person cope with that? How do you sleep through a pandemic without waking ten times a night from feasible nightmares? Sleep is essential and I’m essentially getting none.

Let me be clear: I do not have COVID-19 (thank every spiritual being across all beliefs regardless of the fact that I’m an atheist; also, knock on wood and cross my fingers that my family and I never contract the virus). Nevertheless, my 5-year-old daughter and I are both high risk so an intense fear about the possibilities lives deep within me. During the day I have no choice but to control my fears; otherwise, my children would see me do nothing but cry and obsess over it. Obviously I cannot let them see the depth of my fear so I have managed to keep “daytime Jessica” in check. Unfortunately for my sleep cycle, I am unable to control my unconscious mind so these nightmares (and a severe lack of sleep) are the result.

Ironically, despite the feeling of ridiculousness when asking someone, “how did you sleep?” I find myself habitually asking my kids this very question. Perhaps it’s a way to gauge how well I’m sheltering them from the terror I walk through every second of every day. Maybe I take comfort in hearing their tiny voices say, “good mama.” It lets me know they have not yet realized the severity of the danger that faces us . . . especially since their dad is still working. Not only is he still working, he is also: not wearing a mask (which has been mandated); not wearing gloves in stores; has gone to a meeting in another city after the lockdown; and, eats at fast food restaurants daily. But, I digress . . .

So, how should we respond to the question, “did you sleep well?” From here on out, I think I’m going to try the honesty approach. If I’m honest in my response, maybe I’ll see that I’m not alone . . .

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