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The princess and the pea

by Ada O. Rose 5 months ago in Secrets · updated 5 months ago
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A sleepless girl's bedtime story

The princess and the pea
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds, but nothing seemed to ease the feeling of the pea in my bed.

A night time routine, a new bedroom set, a different pillow weren't of any help.

Late night conversations with a new crush, bedtime confessions to my best friend, sleeping FaceTime calls, neither Netflix series nor audios on Headspace, nothing worked for me and I couldn't get rest.

I tried eating, fasting, music, no music, lights, no lights, dimmed lights - didn't try candles for fear of the fire - phone, no phone, videos, games, reels, meditation, exercise, writing, late night walks, bedtime stories, sleeping pills...

Even crying myself to sleep wasn't at all useful, and if anything, it was only making me more aware of the pea in my bed.

I tried everything - except for drugs - but nothing seemed to appease me and finally put my mind to rest. There was always this thing, the pea under my mattress. It could be the anxiety I was feeling, from my heart beating fast to my restless leg. And those thoughts racing through my mind, and my impostor syndrome, challenging any good feeling I ever had about myself, reassessing my emotions, casting doubts on my relationship, replaying sad memories, shuffling through my insecurities, as a cruel judge looking eagerly for the one lie that would keep me awake that night.

For months, I wasn't sleeping, I was passing out. I was feeling just like a phone that has no more battery life, struggling between zero and one percent because the charger is acting out.

It was starting to show. I had dark circles under my eyes, wrinkles, pale skin, permanent fine lines... Not even the back-to-back sleepless nights for midterms or finals could make those signs appear on me… that’s how bad it had gotten.

"Hey! How are you? You look... tired".

Everybody looks tired every once in a while. Being tired will work for you, if you use it well. When you want to impress but still appear humble, friendly and approachable, you can use "tired days" to remind others you're still human. You seem more authentic, because you appear flawed, and even if people will try to politely embarrass you about it at first, they will mostly be internally stunned and ashamed because they will realize you are, just like them, a vulnerable human who seems to, almost everyday, maintain the ideal they're making excuses for on a daily basis.

I was not that kind of tired.

Being tired is like drinking, really. It's acceptable at particular times, normalized and even encouraged, when it happens at the same time and to a lot of people. Now for sure, you could get tired alone, once. Twice maybe, but not in the same week. You also need good reasons: a huge project at work, a big event at home, kids. A good reason is always well received. But even then, if you were to get tired too often, you could lose everything - your job, your kids, your friends and your family. That's why we hide it. Behind makeup, hobbies, excuses, lies, events, pills, just like alcoholics. We hide the signs that scream that we reached our limit.

And then, there is the breaking point. I was close to reaching it. Most people couldn't read the signs yet, but some could see my bruises. I couldn't hide the signs anymore, that's how tired I was.

Why am I using past tense? What changed? Not much, really... I can still feel the pea. Whenever I try to relax, rest or sleep, I still feel the same discomfort and the pain that comes with it. The only thing that changed is that I talk about it. Just like the princess, I am starting to tell people how I am barely sleeping. I can't explain the reasons clearly, and, as she said, "Heaven knows what's in that bed. I lay on something so hard that I'm black and blue all over"... But I am talking about it.

The pea is still in my bed, but I am making others aware. I stopped trying so hard to cover my bruises and creating excuses to justify my pain. I am tired, and I want to get some rest. And I am gonna get rest, because I am seeking help.

Sometimes we can be so tired that even featherbeds will feel as heavy as lead. Sometimes the pea will feel as hard as a rock because we are built more sensitive to certain things, sometimes we will be so tired already that one more sleepless night will feel like our final straw. But the reason for our bruises, your bruises, my bruises, will and shall NEVER diminish the value we have, you have, I have, as a person.

And you know what? Sometimes, it doesn't even make sense. HOW can one have a bad night of sleep over twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds?? Sometimes the reason behind the excruciating pain hides, seeming ridiculously small, under an amazing family, a great career, a beautiful house, successful studies, extraordinary friends, astonishing talent... I don't even care. Yes, there were twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. Still, the pea was causing the princess a lot of pain.

You don't have to ask yourself how it is even possible that you are so tired. You don't have to compare your situation to others' lives to reevaluate how legitimate it is that you are tired. Hiding your trouble is what destroys you. It's what lost me. Start talking about it. Start saying that you're tired. Maybe you are a princess. Delicate, for sure, but made for greater purposes. The pea, that incomfort, that pain is only there to reveal that your place is somewhere else. You should be doing something else, something different, and more importantly, something made for you, at a place where you belong. Make others aware that there is something odd in your bed. At work, at home, in your relationship, there is something in your bed. Is it a rock? Is it a pea? Is it a speck of dust? "Heaven knows what's in that bed", but it is causing you pain, and you need help to figure that out.

I am still tired... matter of fact, while I am sitting in front of my computer it just turned 3:19 am, and I can't seem to be able to sleep. But I am writing about my bruises. I am seeking help and I am making others aware that it's okay to be tired, just the way I used to wish someone would have told me earlier. No matter how tired I was and still am, my path to rest has started by taking action.

Talk about it. Write about it. Sing, shout, paint, draw, dance about it. But princess, don't you ever, never ever keep the ache you feel to yourself.

- The Princess and the pea, a sleepless girl's bedtime story

Secrets

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Ada O. Rose

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