I’m not sleeping well lately. To be fair, sleep is not something I’m historically good at. I try but my depression has other plans. I’ve read up on the problem. I know about good sleep hygiene. I try to go to bed at approximately the same time every night. I avoid blue screen light in the evenings. I put on my pajamas, wash my face, and use my moisturizer – I’m no longer young enough to skip that last step. That’s the plan, anyhow. I struggle with implementation at times. Depression can make adhering to programs challenging; I find this to be especially true at night. The “why bother” voice gets louder when the house settles down.
Depression steals sleep. It steals other things too – happiness, contentment, ease, and joy – but sleep is one of the first things to go. It’s one of the markers I notice, something I pay attention to. If my sleep is worse, consistently, then I consider the possibility that my depression is amping up. It can manifest before you’re emotionally aware of it, an odd feature. You’d think, based on the name, a collapsing mood would be the first sign; that’s often not the case. Sleep first, anhedonia next.
So, I’m sleeping poorly and depression is sixty-five percent to blame. The rest of the problem is a self-inflicted injury. You see, I have a cat.
I like my cat, mostly. She’s large, sitting at about twelve pounds, a spotted tabby with two different coloured eyes, green and amber. I like her when she sits on my lap when I’m reading. I like her when she cuddles with me at the computer. I like her when she curls up next to me on the sofa. It’s comforting. She’s not a big purrer but she makes an effort and the affectionate snuggles are enough. She’s indisputably my cat, she’s standoffish with most other people although she will let them pet her before she eats. She likes strokes before settling down to her food. She gets them too, a minimum of ten before eating commences. The humans in her orbit are well-trained.
There are times, however, when I feel less affectionate. Times when I throw a pillow from the bed in her general direction. Times when I hope it hits. You see, she likes to wake me up. A little after three a.m. and again just before five. Fractured sleep is not something I particularly enjoy.
She wakes me up in one of two ways. The first is scratching at the bedroom closet. She started doing it a couple of years ago. She’s curious about it because it’s a place she’s not allowed to go. There’s a hole in the wall and I don’t want her crawling around behind the sheetrock, especially as I have no immediate plans for demolition. Happily, a bathrobe on the floor in front of the door stops the scratching. That’s when she moves onto choice two.
She combs my hair. Insistently. With her claws. Granted they’re only partially extended and she never cuts me but still, it’s not the kind of thing you can ignore. I’ve tried but she outlasts me. I give in, get up, and attend to her majesty’s needs. Cursing the whole while, of course. Damn creatures that rely on you. Except the food is there, the water is there and she’s not in distress. She just wants company in the wee small hours.
My mom used to say to me, “self-inflicted wounds get no sympathy.” While I don’t always agree with this – some self-inflicted wounds need all the sympathy in the world – the situation with my cat is definitely an own-goal. I created this problem. Apparently, one needs boundaries with pets too.
I know the fix. It’s utterly simple. Keep her out of my room at night. Stop letting her curl up at my feet and sleep at the bottom of my bed. Close the bedroom door – although I might need a nightlight – and leave her out in the cold, as it were.
Of course, if I did that, she’d no doubt commence scratching at the door or meowing loudly for entry. And, I know myself. Inevitably, I’d give in. The best solution would be to put her to sleep in the garage. Our pets slept in the garage when I was growing up and it was fine. It’s not awful in there. It’s not like she’s being banished to Siberia. There’d undoubtedly be an overpriced cat bed placed there for her not to use.
But I can’t do it. I like the company. I like that she loves me and wants my attention. And, I anthropomorphize. I worry that I’ll hurt her feelings. I worry that she’ll feel rejected. I project my personal fears onto a furry bundle that doesn’t worry about her boundaries or emotional needs at all. She simply is.
The solution then becomes obvious.
It’s a universal one and applies to so very many situations.
If I’m unwilling to change a behaviour, I need to own the consequences. Complaining about something when you’re unwilling to make adjustments is pointless. It’s boring. People get tired of hearing about it and justifiably so. Complain about how hard the changes you’re working on are and I will listen all day. Complain about things you have no intention of altering and the world should probably cut you off. Whining without ameliorating is a futile and annoying gesture.
Granted, commiseration is nice but how much nicer would compliments on progress be? How much better would it be not to hear the same complaints over and over again?
I’m sleeping poorly. I don’t like it. And, I’m going to stop mentioning it to people until I put in the work to improve the situation.
Maybe if I sleep under the covers?
Do you find yourself complaining about things you have no intention of addressing?