By Cameron Cawston. TW: Suicide
I remember the day I got into Western. I was sitting in class and word started to spread that Western was sending a round of acceptances out – so I checked my email, and there it was. My golden ticket. I cried *happy tears* because I had worked hard to get where I was, and it had finally paid off.
Coming into university, I didn’t know much – I was undeclared, but was excited for university to be the ‘fresh start’ that it was painted to be. I knew I was in – and that’s step 1 right? I’d figure it out eventually.
The first few months were an exciting blur, trying to make friends, find a degree I liked, trying to fit in.
As I progressed in school, I remember the day I received the news that someone I knew had died by suicide.
While it might not have been logical, I remember having so many feelings of regret and guilt. How could I be enjoying my time at Western, when someone else on this earth could be hurting so bad inside? It was this cycle of guilt and impossible questions that triggered my insomnia.
According to my trusty friends at Google, insomnia can be defined as: “A common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or cause you to wake up early and not be able to return to sleep.”
I was so frustrated with myself.
How was it possible that I couldn’t do the one thing my body was ‘programmed’ to do? University students are literally hardwired to be tired, but while I felt tired, I couldn’t actually sleep.
Even when I could, I was met with vivid nightmares. Within my first semester of university, it felt like my world flipped, but that’s supposed to happen, right? It’s not supposed to be easy? Every teacher I had told me that in syllabus week, so this was my new reality. Right? I had very quickly convinced myself that what I was going through was normal, and that I had to push ‘harder’ to come out on top.
As someone who loves a good puzzle, I tried just about everything to fix my insomnia. Melatonin, putting my phone away, reading books before bed. The only issue was that on a bad night, I’d read a book from cover-to-cover. There wasn’t much predictability in my insomnia, making it tough to solve my problem.
Four years out from my first semester at Western, there still isn’t a fix-all for my insomnia. I still have challenging nights, but through trial and error, I’m in a place of acceptance rather than resistance. Now I try to take it day-by-day, because everything will always work out the way it’s supposed to.
While I couldn’t predict what my nights would be like, I could control how I spent my days. I threw myself into every extracurricular that peaked my interest and took classes that challenged the way I thought. This led me to find 2 of my biggest passions: Sophing and Thanatology. Both these programs helped me meet my best friends (Hi Core 4), find my community at Western, and taught me so much about my own resiliency. Heck, they even led me to this job!
If I could sit down with first year Cam – well, first I would give her a hug. University never ‘needed’ to be this hard. Treating others with kindness is part of life, but please know you have the right to receive kindness too. I had my expectations set so high that my first year would be a ‘fresh start’ that when it sucked I thought that was all my fault. The only failure in my story was to myself. I didn’t give myself space to breathe, a place to grow, time to figure out what happens next, and most importantly, room to be a human.