In 2002, I had a baby boy. In 2003, my husband and I separated. In 2006, I started the ($30,000) teacher education program at the university at night while I taught during the day. In 2008 I graduated, and took my son back from his grandparents. That was around the time I became insomniac.
It was a terrible time. For more than two years, I did not fall asleep without assistance – the assistance being either Zolpidem or alcohol. I would alternate so as not to become dependent on one or the other. (To my credit I did not mix them, although the temptation was great.) This was only way I could fall asleep: to have some external force knock me out and force me down. Without assistance, I would lie in bed literally until dawn without ever surmounting that drowsy pre-sleep stage; which is to say, I was relaxed with my eyes closed, but fully conscious for the entire night. I thought maybe I had some kind of physical disorder that inhibited my ability to transition into full sleep.
Well, it is worth considering that the quality of my life was beyond low. I had a mouthy, defiant son; I was constantly putting out fires between my son’s grandparents, who despise one another; I was having to prepare separate meals for my son and me because I’m celiac and he’s not. I was not making anywhere near enough money to pay basic expenses (and yet I made too much to qualify for any manner of assistance); and I was drinking too much, which wasn’t helping with expenses.
The worst factor of all, though, was probably my job in the public education system. The first faculty meeting last year was shocking, as I recall. Mine was a groundbreaking school. We were going to be the first school in the state to do this program and initiate that reform: AVID, SLC’s, School-wide Writing, Pyramid of Interventions, two-week grade checks for all students, monthly peer walkthrough, professional learning communities, IB program, PTP, AP courses, Internship opportunities, Cognitive Tutor, Read 180, Achieve 3000, Project Based Learning, approved comprehensive reform models, and many more projects. Of course, we all want what’s best for the students, but the entire faculty groaned in unison at the thought of the workload that was awaiting us. The principal cut us short and said, “Don’t complain. You have a job.” I felt blackmailed.
But I whittled through the year and tried my best every day to convince students to be functional in the middle of a desert in a classroom without air-conditioning. The worst part of my job, though, by far, was showing up to work to face overwhelming student apathy everyday.
I turned in my resignation last February. I finished the school year off in May, and spent June packing up every last sock and spatula and ear swab I owned. On June 28 I flew to the Mainland with my 18 boxes and 2 suitcases containing my every earthly possession. By the end of July, my insomnia was just a bad dream. I haven’t taken a sleeping pill in at least 4 months. I drink one-fourth as much as I used to. And, even though I don’t have a job – maybe because I don’t have a job – I fall asleep seamlessly every night.