Of Course I'm Not OK: Insomnia [EPISODE 6]

of course I'm not OK

Is anyone else losing sleep these days? In this week’s episode, Karen & Katie discuss their struggles with insomnia. Katie explains her ‘Hunger Games’-style dreams, Karen shares the horrors of waking up to a jarring email at 2 a.m., and the pair swap tricks that help them sleep. We’d love to hear your experiences with insomnia & the hacks that help you – email us: notokpod@gmail.com and connect with us on Twitter: @not_ok_pod

Resources discussed in this episode include Lebron James meditations on the Calm app and Arianna Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution. This episode is sponsored by Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast.

Find the episode on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify. Stream the entire episode here or read the transcript. Keep in touch with co-hosts Karen Hawkins and Katie Morell on Twitter and Instagram.


Katie: Hi, I’m Katie Morrell. I’m a creative and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Karen: And I’m Karen Hawkins. I am the founder of Rebellious Magazine for Women and co editor-in-chief of the Chicago Reader.

Katie: You are listening to Of Course I’m Not Okay: An Audio Project. Join us as we talk about mental health, coping with quarantine and what conversations we wish the world was having, and isn’t.

Karen: For some of our episodes, we’ll chat with writers and creatives to get their take. Thank you for joining us on this journey.

Katie: Hi Karen. It’s so nice to see you.

Karen: Katie, It’s so good to see you.

Katie: This is something I look forward to every single week.

Karen: I completely agree, and sometimes I have to resist the urge to text you and be like, ‘So I know we’re not supposed to talk ’til five, but can you talk at like noon?’.

Katie: Oh my gosh. I’m the exact same way, except that sometimes I’m like, I wish I could talk to Karen at 3:30 in the morning. That’s actually how I feel sometimes, but I’m glad we have a very lively text relationship. And so that does help. Although I have not texted you yet at three 30 in the morning, but-,

Karen: Well, I mean-,

Katie: It could happen. I don’t want to bother you though.

Karen: No, I mean, that’s the thing – the theme that we landed on today – I’m probably up. 3:30 your time, that’s what? Did you say 2:30 or 3:30?

Katie: If it’s 3:30 my time Pacific, then it’s 5:30, I guess.

Karen: Oh no, I am just getting back to sleep usually at 5:30 after *sigh* after being up for many, many hours in the middle of the night.

Katie: Yes. Oh, lovely insomnia. I am very happy to be talking about this topic, even though it is a very painful topic, I think for the both of us. And I actually wonder if other people listening are experiencing insomnia as well. I mean, it’s like, there’s just, I don’t want to be super Negative Nancy about this, but there are a lot of things to be kind of worried about at the moment. And yeah, I mean, it’s just, it’s hard to kind of feel in a super Zen place every time you lay down in bed to go to sleep. Or at least I don’t feel that way.

Karen: Even if I do, I feel like my problem isn’t falling asleep. It’s the waking-up-in-the-middle of the night. And I feel like I even have these outlets to talk about things. I have you, I have a magical therapist and I feel like still, I have all of this unprocessed stuff in my head that at like 12:51 a.m. it’s like, ‘Bing! Let’s think about this thing now.’ Like, can we not?!

Katie: Oh my gosh. Okay. Can we talk about dreams for a second because wow. All right. So I have not been, I mean, I’m not really someone who dreams all the time. Like my sister, like she has a dream journal. She’s had for at least 10 or 15 years. She tracks her dreams. They’re very vivid to her. It’s like part of her therapy, like for herself, it’s just, it’s great. Good for her.

Me. I remember maybe two dreams a year. I have had probably six dreams per night for the past six months. And it’s like, and I remember every single minute of it. Okay. I’ll tell you one. So the most recent dream that I can remember very, very well was a former person – I’m trying really hard not to identify this person – but a former person that I used to do business with, who is a very nice person, if you’re listening, you will not be able to identify yourself, but turned into a full on evil villain, like, like a transformer of himself. It is a him. And it became like Hunger Games in his office. And, and I was going around trying to save everybody. And it was just like, I mean, some, a lot of the people that I used to work with with his company, like I’m actually personally friends with and they – like now in real life, not dream life – and I was like trying to save them. I was shielding them behind desks. And he was just like, kind of in this evil, like, ‘ha I’m going to kill everyone, laugh’, you know, during the, during the dream. It definitely woke me up and I didn’t go back to bed for at least three hours. So fun.

Karen: Ouch, ouch. I, that is very specific, like trying-to-tell-you-something very specific. I have a lot of I’m-trying-to-get-out-of-here dreams.

Katie: Ooh.

Karen: Like that is a recurring theme of my Coronavirus-era dreams is being stuck somewhere. I don’t, I wish that my subconscious was a little bit more creative. Like really? That’s the best you got? ‘I’m stuck somewhere. I’m being quarantined.’ Yeah. Duh. Can we just do something more interesting? But yeah, I’m like running, trying to get out of somewhere, going in circles. Like lots of labyrinth dreams. Yeah, it’s not pretty. I’ve had insomnia, I don’t remember really how long. It’s definitely gotten worse during COVID and – super fun – it is also a perimenopause symptom! And I am just like waiting in those blood red waters right now. And so – not to be graphic, I’m sorry-

Katie: Amazing, no-,

Karen: That’s where my brain went. But yeah,

Katie: Don’t be sorry.

Karen: It’s, like, definitely a thing. And so, yeah, I have the pattern of like, I fall asleep. I’m up at like 12:51. If I’m lucky, I’m back asleep by 3:00 a.m. But if I’m not lucky, I’m like, yeah, no, I’m up. And I try so hard to like, not pick up my phone. Well, what am I, what else am I going to do? And again, another shoutout to the Calm app (Calm, if you’d love to sponsor the Of Course I’m Not Okay podcasts, we’d love to have you because I mention you all the time.) But like, that is my, that’s my like, okay, this is not-, nothing else I’m doing is working. I’m just going to go put on the 15-minute deep sleep release and I’m out.

Katie: Really?

Karen: Yeah.

Katie: It helps. I’ve heard that so many times. I’ve heard the Calm app Deep Sleep, Sleep Release. I’ve heard that there’s other Calm, like longer ones that are longer than 15 minutes on Calm. I’ve heard that you can even do like, even on YouTube, I’ve heard that there are like deep sleep, you know, kind of meditations that are free on YouTube. I think Calm is actually free on a certain level. Like, you don’t have to get a subscription if you don’t want to pay but, so that helps you? Like, it’s really good?

Karen: It does. But I have to be like, I have to already have felt like I’ve gotten to a place where I feel like, ‘Okay, I just need to get pushed over the edge into going to sleep.’ Like I can’t do it. Like at, if I’m up at 12:51, I can’t, at 12:52 be like, ‘I’m just gonna put this on now.’ Like, I feel like…

Katie: …you have to like calm yourself down first, or you just have to exhaust yourself of the anger that you’re not sleeping first? Like, that’s usually me.

Karen: Ah, ooh yes. Right? The rage. I also, I don’t know if it’s an old lady thing, I also go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I never used to. I mean, we’d go clubbing and drink our weight in vodka and then just pass out, and not have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Now, not so much.

[musical interlude]

Katie: Hi friends. This is Katie Morrell, cohost of Of Course I’m Not Okay: An Audio Project. I wanted to just pop in to say that if you haven’t heard about Anchor, Anchor is an app and it’s one of the easiest ways to make a podcast. I will explain: it’s free, which is a huge bonus. Karen and I are thrilled to be using Anchor as our podcast creation tool. It’s so easy. Honestly, I’m the biggest technophobe. And I have found it to be super, super simple. There are creation tools that allow you to record and edit your podcast, right from your phone or computer, and Anchor will actually distribute your podcast for you. So it can be heard on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and many more distribution channels. What’s even cooler is that you can actually make money from your podcast, which you can make money with no minimum listenership. It’s everything you need to make a podcast all in one place, or make, in our case, an audio project – we’re a little afraid to call it a podcast yet. But yeah, give it a shot. Download the free Anchor app or go to anchor.fm to get started.

[musical interlude]

Karen: So in the middle of the night – I hope, I hope this person someday listens to this. I’m not going to say your name, Person, but you know who you are. So I wake up at 2, I’m up at 2:33 a.m. the other day. I have my phone in my hand, it’s a bad scene. And I get an email in response to an email that I’ve sent. Why did I read? Katie, why did I read it? Why was I reading my email? I got an email at 2:30 in the morning and I opened it and read it like an idiot. And it was a job candidate. I had sent an email to a bunch of job candidates saying, ‘I’m so sorry. We’ve gone with another candidate. You’re all amazing people. I hope you’ll keep in touch with us.’ Dude wrote me back: Hey Karen – like we’d known each other – Hey, Karen. The flippant manner of your email really does nothing to soften the disappointment and resentment that people feel when they learn that they didn’t get the job. I hope you keep that in mind when you craft these kinds of messages in the future.

Katie: Oh, hell no! Are you kidding me right now?! Okay. You’re going to send them that. You’re going, you’re going to send an email with the word flippant in it at 2:33 in the morning? Also, why would, he’s applying, or he or she, is applying for a job with you? Like that’s not, you know, oof. There’s, there’s a lot of problems with that.

Karen: I was reeling, and my brain just went and I was, it was, it was perfect though, because I had been doomscrolling Twitter and my mind was going crazy. And I read this email and it just, it coalesced so much rage. I was like, ‘This is perfect. I’m going to focus on what a jackass this kid is.’ So I, at 2:30 in the morning, crafted what turned out to be a very reasonable response back to him. Like, ‘I’m so sorry my tone offended you. Here’s what I was trying to go for. I was trying to be encouraging and you know, how I was trying to convey how impressed we were with all of the candidates. And we hope you’ll keep in touch with us. I understand I missed the mark with you. Goodbye.’ Do you know he wrote me back?

Katie: OK wait, can I, can I pause for a second? Because Karen, you are one of the best people I know. To be able to even say, for you to say those nice things in that email? I mean, honestly I would have, I wouldn’t have done that. Like I would’ve said, I would’ve said some not-so-nice things. So I really think that you are a unicorn, wonderful human. I just want to just applaud you and your emotional, like, maturity. So Bravo. Okay. But now tell me, he wrote you back?

Karen: Thank you. Okay. I want to tell you that was not my initial, the like, ‘I’m so sorry. I apologize that I offended you.’ That was not the first, no. And also, in that first one, Sam, my partner, talked me out of adding something like, ‘And as long as we’re trading feedback, never not ever send a mail like this to anyone ever again.’ She’s like, ‘Don’t even do him that favor. Just don’t even do him the favor.’ That he wrote me back was also stunning, and it was something like, ‘No hard feel-, Hey Karen! No hard feelings – Oh my God – I suspect that if I felt that way about your email, that other people did too.’ So he was like a spokesperson on behalf, oh my. It was really like-,

Katie: Oh noooooo.

Karen: Really, it led to an interesting conversation though, with my colleagues about like, Wow, to be a mediocre white man. Like just the, like confidence to write me back, to take this tone with me, like.

Katie: For real.

Karen: The ‘Hey Karen’, the ‘You should know’, it was really, yeah.

Katie: Oh my gosh. Yeah. The confidence, the just like oozing out of him, just like, Oh, it’s such toxicity. Oh that’s disgusting. Ew.

Karen: He ended the mail back to me by saying, ‘You know, hopefully, we can figure out a way to work together again, or figure out a way to work together someday.’ And it was like, dude, you got to know that I’ve set your resume on fire in my inbox. Like, you need to know that like on my watch, never not ever will you have a byline with us. Like, I don’t know why you don’t know that, but I’ll let you think that you will.

Katie: Oh gosh, there’s so much wrong with that. Like that is just awful. I also think that a lot of people will resonate with getting emails in the middle of the night or checking emails in the middle of the night. There’s a whole concept around like, do you have your phone in your bedroom? Do you not have your phone in your bedroom? Like that whole conversation. And like, I always had my phone in my bedroom and then I was like, all I’m doing is scrolling on Instagram 24/7. So now I have it upstairs. But the thing is, it’s like a – I mean, it’s my house isn’t that big – but it’s probably, it would take me about a minute and a half to walk to it, but that’s enough time for – okay, this is, these are my things when I’m, when I’m getting, you know, super spooked at night. So I have like full on spooks. I think that someone’s going to come into my house and chop me into pieces every single night. It’s a thing. It’s always been a thing for me. I had these spooks when I was a kid, I had to look at every single nook and cranny. Maybe I have OCD. I don’t know. Like, I was always just like, this is happening. I must have seen some sort of horror movie. Anyway. And so I keep thinking, like, I love the fact that I don’t have any electronics in my bedroom, but what will happen to me if I wake up and there’s someone in my bedroom and then I can’t call 911. You know, these are horrible thoughts. Like, I don’t think I’m helping anyone’s insomnia by explaining this right now. But I like, I think these thoughts are somewhat common or at least, I don’t know, I hope I’m not the only person, but at the same time, I hope I’m the only person. Cause it’s, it’s not fun.

Karen: I’m sure you’re not the only person. Maybe we’ll put a trigger warning: nightmares on this episode.

Katie: That’s a good idea.

Karen: If you got the night terrors, just skip this one, go listen to Rage again. Yeah. Go listen to Erinn Cox again.

Katie: Go listen to Erinn Cox. She’ll help you sleep well.

[musical interlude]

Katie: I will say, like for people who are struggling, I mean, I will say that when I stopped caffeine, I mean, it helped a lot. When I, when I exercise during the day, even for like 30 minutes, if it’s a walk or something like that, I find that that helps a lot. Also I find that if I don’t eat anything for like three hours before I go to bed, I don’t know what that is, but it seems to help me. I don’t know. But I think your Calm app idea is brilliant also.

Karen: So I love all of those. I wish I was a more disciplined person that I could do those. I don’t do it all the time. And I feel like I just, I feel like I have this irrational fear of getting, like, hooked on this somehow, even though I know it’s not a thing. Don’t flame us. I know it’s not a thing. So CBD oil.

Katie: Ooh.

Karen: Like, not THC, but CBD oil. There’s a place next door to us that sells it. And if I do it before I go to bed, even if I get up, I can go back to sleep right away.

Katie: Oh.

Karen: And I know well, it’s not just an irrational fear of like getting hooked on it. It’s also that it’s like $55 an ounce, like a little dropper. Right? Like it’s not cheap.

Katie: Do you put it like in water or how do you take it?

Karen: You, it comes with a little dropper and you put it under your tongue. You put like three quarters of a dropper under your tongue and you sit for like 30 seconds.

Katie: Oh.

Karen: I know.

Katie: That’s it. Okay. That’s a really good tip because I’ve actually, a lot of my friends take, like, the CBD gummies and they, there are apparently sleep specific CBD gummies that you can take. And they swear by them. I don’t know the brands, but that helps also. But that’s good to know that you can, do you ever take it, do you take it only in the middle of the night when you’re having like no sleep, or do you take it before you go to bed sometimes?

Karen: Before. It’s always, before I go to bed. Cause I have this thing, like I don’t, I don’t really understand that mechanism of action. Like I don’t know why it works, and I’m worried that if I do it at one o’clock in the morning that I’m just like, I’m out. I’m down for the count. I guess I’ll see you guys the day after tomorrow. So I have this fear that like, I only will do it before bed.

Katie: Yeah. That that’s fair. I’ve tried melatonin and melatonin, like, I mean, I think there are certain ones that don’t work for me, but then there are some that have like the like extended release or I’m not sure exactly how you say it, but it’s like, it releases a certain amount at different points while you’re sleeping. And I will say that taking one of those helps sometimes. If I’m a full-on stress case, then it’s really not gonna do anything. But usually it will help. Sleep is tough. I mean, it really is. And it’s like, I mean, I find that, I wonder if other people feel this way too, but like, I’m not very disciplined before I go to bed. Like I’m watching the British Baking show, I’m watching Queer Eye. Like, let’s be honest, I’m eating some dark chocolate, which is not helping me at all. And it’s like, I, and then I’m like, okay, I’m exhausted. And I go to bed and then I try to read something calming and it doesn’t work. But I know that like all of these sleep experts say, you know, do five minutes of meditation or, you know, like turn off your screens three hours in advance. And like, I want to be that person. I really, really do. I’m not yet that person, but I do, I do strive to be at some point.

Karen: I know it’s the whole idea of sleep hygiene, like right. How you prepare for sleep and all these things. And I also, I mean I feel like this way in all parts of my life, I wish I was more disciplined and it’s like, ‘IT’S A PANDEMIC BABY! IT’S CHAOS. We just gotta go with it.’ Like, you know.

Katie: Exactly! That’s just true.

Karen: It is true. Yeah.

Katie: We have to give ourselves a break. Like it’s okay if we’re losing a little bit of sleep, not that I want people to lose sleep, but like, to like not be so down on ourselves, if that’s what’s happening right now. Like we’re all just doing our best, you know, like we’re just trying to make it through. It’s like, one more thing to be mad at ourselves about is not helpful in any way, I think. I’m also saying this to myself, so yeah. I’ll be listening to this later. Thank you Katie.

Karen: *laughs*

Katie: Oh, it’s such a struggle though. Like I, yeah. I wish everyone listening a beautiful night’s sleep. I have heard that Arianna Huffington wrote a book about her sleep and like how, that came out a couple of years ago. And like she, I mean, I’ve read a lot of articles about the book. I haven’t actually read the book, but I’ve heard it’s actually good in terms of just explaining how her entire life was just a rollercoaster of, you know, hard work and that kind of stuff. And then she, um, I think she’d collapsed or something like that. And then she eventually realized that she was so sleep deprived, but that she needed to change your entire life. And she did and it helped. But yeah, she’s a huge proponent of like, getting a real night’s sleep.

Karen: So, um, I have, see. Thank you for reminding me of that book. Another shoutout to the Calm map. My favorite meditation right now on Calm is the LeBron James series. I know it sounds crazy.

Katie: LeBron James does something on Calm, are you serious? I have to listen to this.

Karen: He has a whole series of meditations on Calm.

Katie: Wow.

Karen: I want to say there are like four or five of them and he has a whole one about sleep. It’s so good.

Katie: Really?

Karen: Yeah. No, his meditations are amazing. And I know you think LeBron James’ voice and you were like, ‘I don’t want to listen to him telling me anything. He’s gon’ be yelling at me.’ But it’s like, really, he’s great. He’s a huge proponent of meditation. He’s a huge proponent of like, napping and sleeping and having very structured habits around sleep. And he and I like the same rain on leaves soundscape to fall asleep to, which I appreciate, so yeah.

Katie: Oh my, I love LeBron. I would happily listen to LeBron before I went to bed. That makes me happy.

Karen: It’s really good. It’s good. The whole series is really good, about peak performance. And I don’t even remember what it’s called, but there’s one on sleep.

Katie: Okay. Huge tip. That’s amazing. Also, if anyone listening has any of their own sleep tips, I highly recommend that you email us at our new email address, notokaypod@gmail.com. Like we are so excited about our email address. And then we also have Twitter! We have a Twitter account. We have a Twitter! *laughs* We have the Twitters.

Karen: Oh, okay. Not_Okay_pod.

Katie: Perfect. So tweet at us, friends. Tell us your insomnia hacks or your things that really help. Or even if you have a bad insomnia experience, like we’re happy to hear those stories too. And we can either retweet you or talk to you or, we haven’t really figured out how to interact with our listeners yet, but we’ll figure that out. You won’t go unnoticed.

Karen: All four of you are special to us.

Katie: Yes. We love you. Thank you, our one listener. Yes, not_okay_pod, that is our Twitter and notokaypod@gmail.com is our email. And it’s so nice to talk to you, Karen, even if we’re talking about insomnia, I’m happy to talk about any topic with you. So this is just, this is very real to both of us at the moment. So it’s nice to chat. 

Karen: I agree. Thank you so much. Yes. 

Katie: Well, we’ll see you next time. Adios.

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