I've had insomnia since I was twelve, as if the drive to Canada snapped something within me, something that I wouldn't regain for another eight years. But even before then, there were the years of nightmares, and sleep terrors, that I would forget for years. And then exactly three years ago, at 3 AM today, I woke up and it was all over. No more sleep terrors or nightmares, and even the insomnia took a step back.
It wasn't over. My life wasn't all fixed. I was not in a better place. But I had a dream, and as I ripped the sheets off of me I knew that things would never be the same. It was a dream, a nightmare would've meant I was terrified during it, but I was not, I was as calm as ever in that place where you can dream but you're so conscious that you can just reach out and wake up. And I did wake up.
I scrambled around the room, pushing things aside, looking, looking. What was I looking for? I didn't know, but I had to find it. I entered the bathroom, throwing things aside and finally found my razor, but then I saw him. He stared at me across the mirror and I dropped the razor, hands rising to my temples. I wanted to scream, as loud as I could, but I didn't. I wanted to fall to the ground, but I didn't. Instead I ran back into the room, pulling my hands off my temples and looking at my four walls, trying to figure out which one to slam into first. I wanted it to stop, all of it, but I didn't want to make the walls dirty with my blood. I didn't want the razor touching my filthy skin. And I couldn't even fall to the ground, because it deserved better. Within minutes I had gone from a normal 20 year old dreaming at 3AM, to a filthy monster that needed to die.
I pulled on some jeans and my jacket and went out into the night.
Three years ago my life turned upside down by something called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), triggered in the middle of the night and placed me on a fast lane path to an early death. I wasn't doing great before that night, but nothing could compare to those first few hours, the first few days, and the weeks that followed. Insomnia was gone because I didn't sleep except with multiple sleeping pills. There were no nightmares because I never slept long enough to have them and bathtubs and closets are safe. I was safe from everything but myself.
It'd take me four months, two therapists, many sleeping pills and countless hours of overworking myself for me to survive and get stable again. It'd require the use of every single one of my superpowers, or as they're better known to the world, my mental illnesses. I used my depression, anxiety, and my dissociation disorder to combat the PTSD and BDD. To this day I'm not entirely sure how I survived, but I did. I never expected to, but I did.
Today, is my three year anniversary, and even though my insomnia is hitting me hard for the first time since that night I know that things are no longer the same. Back then I woke up to a world that could no longer house me, and I wanted nothing more than to check out from it and leave it behind forever. And I came close, many times during those months. Today though, I am in a place where hope, love and compassion all exist. A place where I am not a monster, and I am not filth that doesn't even deserve to die. Today, I can imagine my life three years from now, and although it's still a work in progress somedays as I discover other things about me; I am well. And because of my experience three years ago; I am whole.
So today, instead of falling apart underneath the weight of that night three years ago I carry it proudly, and I celebrate it for all its worth, more than any other day of the year. I may have been physically born July 28th, but the person I am today came into being on that cold late winter night in March.
Ahmad Abojaradeh is the co-founder and Director of Mental Health for Muslim Community Link, A Global Compliance Engineer, a world traveler, a Peer Support Specialist, a Novelist and the founder and editor of lifeinmydays.com. He hopes to spread awareness of living a life of wellness wherever he is through his writing, workshops and speaker events.