• "It’s hard to protect your family if you can’t sleep," writes Fernanda Fain-Binda. (The Image Bank RF)Source: The Image Bank RF
My sleeping patterns since coronavirus joined my mental list of worries have been highly unhealthy. I mean, I just don’t sleep.
By
Fernanda Fain-Binda

22 Apr 2020 - 10:22 AM  UPDATED 22 Apr 2020 - 4:06 PM

My daughter Layla leans forward into my face. She draws across my forehead in a fancy glittery eyeshadow pencil that I was saving for a fancy glittery moment.

“Stay still, mum,” she says, exasperated, as I flinch from her drawing across my cheeks in black kohl eyeliner. Later she’ll draw an enormous bumblebee on my chest, to go with the rainbow on my forehead and the funfair next to my mouth.

“Your hair is very messy, mum,” she says as my nose starts to twitch. There’s a lot of stuff on my face now, and little fingers in my eye.

I wouldn’t normally wear a lot of makeup, I tend to stick to the traditional application (eyeshadow on the eyes, no drawing on the upper chest area), but these are not normal times.

Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is laughing at my pathetic fight or flight reflexes.

Right now, the coronavirus pandemic is laughing at my pathetic fight or flight reflexes. I want to protect my family, and I’m worried about my community, and I also really, deeply want to sleep. Two nights out of three, my corona-anxiety won’t let me.

Coronavirus fears are visible, and invisible. A perfect recipe for parental paranoia, with a side dish of worrying about the oldies, too. For weeks now we’ve been racing against the clock of unknown deadlines: when will this nightmare truly strike, and then when will it be over?

During the day I’ll karate-chop away any suggestion that we should all be wearing face masks or that children should be inside, all day, every day. I know that exercise is good for our physical and mental health. I also know that sleep is crucial for the strength we need for this uncertainly long journey.

Late at night, when everyone sleeps apart from me, I tell myself that my job is making sure my children have as much fun the next day as possible.

Late at night, when everyone sleeps apart from me, I tell myself that my job is making sure my children have as much fun the next day as possible. My five-year-old needs to wash her hands and keep away from other people, but she still needs to have a five-year-old-kinda-day.

So, I close my eyes while Layla paints my face. I inhale the powdery colours that she’s pressing into my face and smell the soap on her hands. Right now, she can have anything I can give her. Time and a human canvas are a small price to pay for the satisfaction in her voice.

“You look great, mummy! Look, look!” she says and pushes me into the bathroom. Erm, I don’t look that great. I look like someone tried to make a Lady Gaga video on a $5 budget.

Crucially, time has passed, and no disagreement has been had. Later that evening this is a happy memory, for us both. I tuck her into bed, and she says, “Thank you for a lovely day,” and my heart melts into my indoor shoes. I flop down on to my bed, exhausted, and wait for sleep.

My sleeping patterns since coronavirus joined my mental list of worries have been highly unhealthy. I mean, I just don’t sleep.

My sleeping patterns since coronavirus joined my mental list of worries have been highly unhealthy. I mean, I just don’t sleep.

Some nights I warm up with a little three-hour snooze and then stay up from midnight until 4am. Another night I might lie down trying to sleep for four hours, get up to do something for a few hours, and then creep back into bed just in time to hear my toddler, Ray, wake up.

It’s hard to protect your family if you can’t sleep. It’s hard to play normal when you’ve been up for hours before breakfast, but I think I’ve got it sussed. At least for me.

At night, that’s the only time that I let the fear in. That’s when I give myself the moment to think of a world without my extended family, of Coronavirus getting my parents or my mother-in-law, of not seeing a dear friend again.  Against the visible stats rising and the invisible virus spreading, I torture myself that I’m not doing enough for my kids.

Once morning comes, I realise I am doing enough. I tune in to the Premiere’s address (Daniel Andrews here in Victoria) and resolve to keep to one, official source of news. I realise that Daytime Me is optimistic and busy, whereas Night-time Me lies down and worries. 

So, at night I go through what I need to do in order to feel better, and get Daytime Me to do them, on autopilot. I need to feel more physically tired, so I make sure we go out twice a day for a socially distant walk. I contact the people I’m worried about. My husband and I take turns with the food, while I keep the craft, stories and music turning for our daughter, while her little brother rides his scooter indoors.

So, at night I go through what I need to do in order to feel better, and get Daytime Me to do them, on autopilot.

Daytime Me knows that Night-time Me worries and will use the endless hours insomnia provides to second guess everything. When sleep won’t come, and anxiety rises, the easiest thing to do is panic. But when the sun is shining and the children are happily playing at home, I’m glad that I didn’t panic.

All of us cope with uncertainty in different ways. During the day I know that my decision to keep my toddler in daycare works for me, and at night I worry. But then I hear that he is sleeping, and so is my daughter, and I feel that I’m doing the best I can.

Daytime Me says; we need to give this time. Night-time Me says: we’ve got all night.

You can watch the Sleep episode of Insight on SBS On Demand below:

Fernanda Fain-Binda is a freelance writer.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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