childWhen I was a child, I shared a room with my little sister.  Every night her head would hit the pillow and within minutes she was out.  Not me. Falling asleep would take hours, and knowing I had to get up for school, coupled with the knowledge that I was not going to get adequate sleep and be hit with lethal exhaustion the next day, only fueled terror. I’d make an effort to go to sleep early, knowing that I only had a few hours till the beast of insomnia would hit my room. My clock would stare me down, and panic would take hold.  I’d watch my sister sleep soundly beside me and wonder what is wrong with me?

My family knew not to talk to me in the morning.  They chalked it up to Erica’s not a “morning person” when really I was living with little sleep, and had a hard day ahead of me. A hard day that no one seemed to fathom.  I was isolated in my disease, and had no answers or knowledge of what chronic hypo mania entailed. This symptom of Bipolar II started as far back as third and fourth grade. I found myself sitting in class and waves of dark exhaustion would take hold of my body and mind.  I was a straight A student that always sat in the front row, and I would sit there and try to psych myself out: “You can do this.  Sit up.  You’re a survivor.  Oh God, please stay awake.”  I more or less trained myself to handle my condition all on my own.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, did I learn how the rest of the world started their day.  I recall the first day I took my medication and woke up alive.  I think back to my youth and can’t believe I endured such pain every morning, and periodically throughout the day.

As a parent, it is important to be aware of your child’s sleep patterns.  Talk to them about it.  Ask them if they experiences bouts of exhaustion at different moments throughout their day.  Like I said, living with insomnia can be isolating, scary, and seem hopeless. Children just learn to accept it, and find a way to manage it on their own.  They can’t.  Make sure you keep open lines of communication, and let your child know they are not alone and there are ways to manage and treat insomnia with proper psychiatric help.


How do you explain how the eyes burn?

Sleep is an old habit

So old you forget.

What it’s like to feel your eyes simmer.

You close the steady balls of cotton

Dipped in rubbing alcohol

Smiling open inside


Behind the lids

Stinging more than before.

You are the dead

Alive in the burn.

Like the wood of a bonfire

Almost asleep on the beach

The orange logs get slowly cooked to death

While the sunrises.


Your burn remains.

Child in bed image available from Shutterstock.