Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I live my life avoiding bedtime. Like, not only do I avoid it, but as it gets darker and Sean's eyelids get droopier, I start with distraction techniques. Like a marathon of the latest must-see, cliffhanger-heavy non-network TV series. All 6 seasons! And sex! And chicken nuggets! And hot tub! More sex!

But not reading. Reading is bad. Reading makes other people fall asleep even quicker. Reading is a sleep aid to a frustrating number of people. Me? I can never have less than 3 books on my nightstand. I never travel with less than 7. When I'm not sleeping, it's not uncommon for me to read a book a night. A whole night of tossing, turning, snapping on the light, picking up the book, reading, feeling a sliver of hope, turning out the light, pretending it's working, hoping it's going to work any minute, and then tearfully admitting defeat, turning on the light to read and repeat. But Sean? Four pages and he's out. OUT.

And it leaves me alone. And there is no lonelier thing than another night of not sleeping. Nights are long, and I dread them. I truly dread them. They make me sad, and every minute that ticks past 8pm makes me sadder, because I know what's coming: abandonment, frustration, anger, sickness.

It's hard not to feel resentment toward the person sleeping peacefully beside you. I know it's wrong. It's not their fault. They're doing what bodies do, and what life and health require. But it sucks, when you are in the depths of sleep failure, to have a perfect, shining example lying beside you, teasing you, accusing you. It's awful.

It's also incomprehensible. Like, why is my body refusing to do the thing it needs to do? And why me? I pay my taxes. I take warm baths, keep a bedtime routine, don't drink caffeine, exercise, keep my bedroom a "sleep shrine", practise yoga and mediation and deep breathing and drink bad sleepy time tea. I do all the right things. All of them. Sometimes for 72 hours straight. It's not fair, and that hurts.

It's almost funny how quickly frustration at sleep in general (or unsleep in general) turns into anger toward myself. Like, real hatred. I beat myself up for not sleeping. I get down on myself. The negative self-talk starts and then escalates, because it's the middle of the night and your thoughts are the only thing keeping you company so of course they go bananas. And it's all your fault for not controlling them! I start punishing myself. I'm not allowed to have a snack, or even water, because I don't deserve it. I can't watch a movie or check Facebook. I keep myself in strict isolation because if the alternative is bad enough, maybe I'll learn to just sleep already. Except I never do.

And I never will. I know that now. I've been a bad sleeper since day one. I couldn't sleep at night as a baby either. My grandfather summersaulted me over his head because flipping the baby would flip my schedule. Except all I did was barf on my grandfather and went back to not sleeping.

School was the worst. It starts so goddamned early and I would be lucky to fall asleep minutes before I needed to get up. Alarms are an extra layer of pressure for an insomniac. They keep exact count of your failures and count down to your misery. The pressure is this awful weight and every minute is full of rage. Setting an alarm will always trigger my insomnia. Always. But 3 days a week, I have to be at work for 7am which means I have to be up in the vicinity of 5am, which means I won't be getting any sleep that night. AT ALL. So for those three days a week, guaranteed I'm a zombie, and every day I get closer to collapse, but I collapse into a nauseated, achy, head-hurting puddle of CONSCIOUSNESS. I never collapse into sleep. Because it doesnt' work like that. Insomnia doesn't cure itself, it only feeds on itself. Eventually I'll need to give myself a blank space of time where it doesn't matter when I sleep or for how long. But that means carving up pieces of my life, or my work. Because I don't get to be productive or sociable when I'm up by myself in the dark hours of the night. I spend my days barely lucid, and in a great deal of physical pain because the wear and tear accumulates and the muscles never get their needed rest and replenishment.

People can't really understand the toll it takes on your body. Doctors always gasp over your blood pressure. I push through crazy stuff. I keep going. Sometimes I hit a wall, randomly, and have to call to be driven home because I just can't anymore. Which doesn't mean I'll sleep. It just means I'm useless. And that's how I feel half the time. Just completely useless. And I can't do anything about it, nobody can. All I can do is lie there and think good thoughts. Maybe it'll be tonight.


kenju said...

Yikes. I have periods of sleeplessness, but never that much and seldom for more than three days at a time. I couldn't function. Can you take something (that isn't habit-forming?)

Jude said...

This is something I truly understand. The frustration, the alarm setting trigger, the anger because the guy next to me is sleeping like a baby.... but I don't have this happen regularly as you do. Once, many years ago, I had this for an entire year and I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

Have you talked to your doctor about this Jay? And same question as Kenju, have you tried something to help that isn't habit forming?


Jay said...

Pills don't work on me. A decade ago I could take enough to kill a horse and still not sleep.