Besides not getting hit by a bus, humans need to do four basic things to survive – eat, drink, breathe and sleep – and I suck at one of them. I’ve got that breathing thing down to a science. My brain is so highly advanced that I don’t even need to think about it; I just do it. Eating isn’t really a struggle either, except when I accidentally bite my tongue or burn my mouth. Usually though, I’m good with the chewing (I have most of my teeth). And, aside from mass quantities of alcoholic beverages somehow finding their way down my gullet, or the odd and erroneous intake of liquid into my nasal passages, I don’t have too much trouble consuming beverages either. That leaves sleep.
Sleep: when your body refreshes and repairs what it needs to so that you can function at peak capacity when you awaken. Yeah, I don’t have that. There will be no peak capacity for me; no highs and lows, just a general, across-the-board mediocrity. Yay. That means that, in addition to sleep fail, I also have awake fail. Because as the movie Fight Club so wisely tells us, “When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep… and you’re never really awake.”
My inability to sleep comes in waves. For several weeks at a time, I’ll have little to no more difficulty falling asleep than the average person. I can fall asleep in 45 minutes flat. Of course, I mean with the aid of sleeping pills. I haven’t attempted a natural night’s sleep in years. And I don’t want to at all. Ever. Even if it’s only a placebo, my brain needs to connect the dots between taking sleep medication and the actual act of sleeping. If I don’t take anything, I will lie there forever, kicking myself for not taking anything.
But those are the good times. And like all good things, they must end. The worst is when, for weeks on end, I can’t fall asleep and when I eventually do, I can’t stay asleep. Even sleeping pills don’t help in those long, late-night hours. I also lose the ability to dream. Either I don’t have them because I never make it REM sleep or I am so exhausted I can’t remember my dreams at all. In an ill-fated attempt to convince myself that I could fall asleep at any moment, I stay in bed. Rather than reading or watching TV, I keep the lights out. I lie there for hours, thinking. Thinking is very dangerous. Thinking is the vinegar to sleep’s oil; they never mix.
During these sleepless, half-awake hours, I let my mind wander like a dog in a park, randomly sniffing out this memory or that. Sometimes I stop myself in the middle of a thought and try to trace the random connections between them, like how you can start off thinking about needing an oil change and end up thinking about professional wrestling, even though you don’t watch it.
Then, there are the worst nights of all. I call them the cringe nights. When my mind goes on the offensive and attacks. It’s like a very bad dog, fetching horrible things I didn’t ask for and don’t want. It brings me every terrible thing I’ve ever done or said, every embarrassing moment, every experience I wish I could forget, leaving me wide-awake and looking at a pile of bloody, disgusting detritus. All I can do is cringe as my mind lays them out one by one for me to experience again, as if once wasn’t enough. Those are the nights when I know that, no matter what I do, I’m not going to get any sleep.
But there are lighter times, too. Like when I think of an inside joke which is still damn funny and I find myself lying in the darkness, giggling to myself. Or when I catch myself thinking the oddest things. One night, I went through a long string of random thoughts. It was only when I got to Oregon that I realized what I was doing. I was listing every state in the US in alphabetical order complete with the state’s Post Office abbreviation. Alabama, AL, Alaska, AK, Arizona, AZ… and so on. Why was I doing this? I have absolutely no idea, but I continued on all the way to Wyoming, WY, anyway. The brain is a mysterious thing.
So, Mr. Sandman, if you read this, I have a few things to say to you. A piece of my mind, if you will. I was told when I was a kid that if I was a good girl, you would come and sprinkle sand or fairy dust or whatever on my eyes and I’d have sweet dreams. Well, I am beginning to believe that you don’t exist. I’m starting to think that you were just a fairy tale made up by some parents who wanted me to sleep so they could watch USA Up All Night or something. So, if you do exist, bring me a dream ASAP. I’m jonesing for some fairy dust. And tell Santa Claus he’s been severely slacking for many years, too. You and your goddamn lazy, imaginary friends are killing me.