The other night I was falling to sleep when I suddenly saw a dark figure standing over me. I blinked and realised my mind was playing tricks on me and it was just the way the light was shining through the curtains. It shook me up because I remembered how fearful going to sleep could be. 

I haven’t spoken much about the sleep deprivation I experienced throughout my abusive relationship and so I thought I would share some of what I went through. It was progressive throughout the years I was with him. 

It started with arguments that he chose to have with me in the middle of the night. I’m not just talking about before bed but being woken up in the middle of the night by him shaking me to initiate an argument. Usually because of his paranoid and over jealous state that he had worked himself up into. 

There were subtle things like me wanting to go to bed as it was late but he didn’t want to be left awake and I was called boring, not interesting and old for doing so. I knew that him calling me boring would lead to him looking elsewhere for attention, I felt pressured to stay up and I forced myself to be able to. I stayed up until midnight at the earliest, it became a struggle for me when I became a new mum. 

Sleep became a luxury toward the end of that relationship and I was lucky to get a solid block in a night. I did have two children in the mix and obviously the duties I had as a mum took place. A lot of the time I felt like a single mum because it was an old fashioned relationship of me tending to the children. Incidents occurred to which I felt I had to get up so that they weren’t put through any of his shouting, it wasn’t their fault that they had usual child needs. 

The problem with this was that I’d kick myself if I didn’t wake up before him and that was usually through exhaustion. I became ultra-sensitive to hearing them and found I was waking multiple times a night when I wasn’t needed. 

There were times I woke up and he was standing over me, he claimed to be watching me whilst I slept. I found it disturbing and I was always concerned when this happened. I can only remember a handful of occasions but there were other times I could hear him pacing around the bed. 

I remember some occasions I was made to sleep on the floor when I was pregnant and other times I had water thrown on my face.

A lot of this led to me experiencing nightmares, some of them were extreme about been taken away by aliens. I had always experienced vivid dreams and I can wake up and remember the senses and detail to them. When I confided in my partner at the time he went along with it and told me it could have happened. It became a game to him that he could use about the dark figure next to the bed as the alien that came. I have to be honest and say there was a time I considered this could be real, his involvement made me think I was experiencing something. Looking back I think how silly I was but I can also understand just what situation I was in the depth of and that his manipulation was at full effect. He was the dark figure next to the bed and this was something he could use as an illusion.

I remember being so tired that as soon as I would hit the pillow I would be fast asleep. But that wasn’t safe either. 

After the relationship had ended I suffered from nightmares and my new partner could recall when I wasn’t in a good place in my mindset because I would talk or scream out in my sleep. Usually, it was linked to further abuse or incidents with my ex. 

Sleep can still be a tricky one for me depending on what projects I am working on and what I remember from my experiences. I try and work it through and leave the day on a positive note to try and override it all. 

Controlling someone’s sleep is a form of abuse, one which is cruel and can have an impact on your health.

Header image from DomesticShelters.org

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