I pour my health from a bottle
and swallow my sanity
And sleep inside
the sealed bottle of sleep
It’s been a long couple of days. For one reason or another I’ve been having some trouble sleeping. This happens from time to time and there’s really nothing I can do about it but grit my teeth and get through it. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a borderline narcoleptic as well as Bipolar II. Both of which are affected by the amount of sleep I get every night. Thankfully, I didn’t have to work yesterday and so I was able to just relax and hang out, try not to stress my mind too much and just rest. Today was another story. I had to call into work as stress just makes everything worse and I’m way more irritable when I haven’t slept, if you can imagine such a thing. Since I’m sort of an expert on sleep deprivation, let’s talk about insomnia.
There are stages, really, to a night or your first night without sleep. They’re a lot like the stages of grief, actually. First there’s the denial stage where you tell yourself you’re not having problems falling asleep, you’re just not tired yet. There’s no way that you would ever have any problems sleeping because you have slept like dead weight since you were fresh out of the womb. Your parents thought there was something wrong with you because you slept through the night the first night you were home. You’ll fall asleep any minute now and every thing will be just dandy. You hope.
Second is anger. You ask yourself why you thought it would be a good idea to drink that energy drink an hour ago while you were busy working on a paper, playing video games, etc., only to realize you still had a week to work on it or looked at the clock and realized the time. Then you ask yourself why you didn’t read the syllabus because it clearly states that the paper is due next Friday or that last mission really wasn’t worth the loss of sleep. Or, even worse, you start hearing every noise that everyone or everything in your house is making and you are consistently running out of your room to telling people to turn down the TV they’re wearing noise-canceling headphones. Then you start yelling at your brother for having the TV on, despite that it’s muted. But you can hear the electronic whine that it makes and it’s making you just a little bit crazy just like every time you hear the water rush through the pipes above your room every time someone flushes the toilet. You just want to go in there and take the well-used plunger and use it on their face and then stick their head in the toilet… Haha… let’s move on before I start having PTSD flashbacks of my first night in the dorms.
Onward to the third stage, which is bargaining. I don’t know if it helps or hurts to have a clock when you’re in this stage. Basically, this is the part where you try to sleep, not looking at the clock. Then, at irregular intervals you’ll check to see what time it is and calculate how much longer you have until you have to get out of bed. You try to coach yourself through this process as best you can telling yourself that you’ll be fine as long as you get seven hours of sleep. Then you’ll roll over, toss and turn a little, assault someone with a cleaning implement, come back and tell yourself that you’ll be fine as long as you get five hours of sleep. As if somehow, somewhere, the Sandman is hovering around watching you and listening like God when Abraham tried to bargain for Sodom. The point isn’t the number of hours you’ll get, it’s that you’re not getting any, none are going to be spared. So, stop asking. But, you’ll bargain and you won’t get what you want and that leads to the next lovely stage of our process.
Welcome to depression. Number four in our stages of grief and this is probably the most interesting one, really. As I stated, there comes a point when you realize that your bargains are not getting you anywhere and you give up. This is when you realize, for certain, that you are not going to be getting any sleep tonight. If this is your first night, this can be the most brutal (maybe second most brutal but only to anger) stage in the process. You might whine, you might cry a little bit and say, “Woe is me! For I will not be getting any sleep this night at all. And I need sleep because I’ve got that stupid final in the morning.” I sympathize, I do. But anyway, depression just makes the time you’re still awake even longer. It roots you to the moment and makes it very difficult to see that the sun will eventually rise. You will not have slept, you will feel like garbage the rest of the day and you will likely be investing in another one of those energy drinks like the one that may have gotten you here in the first place. Funny how that works. You’ll stare at the ceiling and you will go into “the zone”.
The zone is a place the mind goes when it refuses to shut down and sleep but doesn’t really feel like doing any heavy lifting either. You’re depressed, of course, and this slows down your cognitive processes a little bit, so you retreat into your mind and you stare at things for hours at a time. You’ll imagine what your day is going to be like sans sleep and you already know you’re going to hate yourself all day because of it. You start to wonder if this will be a trend and this makes you even more depressed which makes you think maybe you’ll never sleep again and the gyre continues to spin out of control… That is, until you look at the clock and you have maybe an hour until you have to get up and get ready to leave.
At this point, you’ve reached the final stage. Some reach it faster than others, usually seasoned veterans to the insomniac life. You know, the ones with scruffy beards and long hair. You don’t know anyone like that? Okay, so maybe those are just people I happen to know. No matter, we are talking about acceptance.
Now, that you’ve escaped “the zone” you realize fully and are mostly comfortable with the fact that you just went through an entire night without sleep. You’ve got school or work in a couple of hours so sleeping now would only mean you miss your class and possibly mess up your sleep schedule. Hey, everyone has trouble sleeping once in a while and you’re no exception, right? Right. So, a little earlier than usual you go into your normal morning routine and everything sucks and is going to suck, you’ve convinced yourself already. You’ve accepted this fact. You have successfully completed stage five. Congratulations, the next 14-16 hours of your life before you get back to your bedroom are going to be hell.
So, there you have it. The 5 stages of grief as they pertain to the wonderful experience that is insomnia. If it happens to you once, you trudge through it and you usually survive without any severe psychological symptoms. If it happens for a second consecutive day you still go through the five stages but you go through them a lot quicker with long rest periods in anger and depression. If you’re a seasoned veteran like me, you just accept the fact that sleep is illusory sometimes and hope the next night you won’t have as many troubles. Kind of like I’m hoping for tonight.
I think you saw me confronting my fear, it
Went up with a bottle and went down with the beer and
I think you ought to stay away from here
There are ghosts in the walls and they
Crawl in your head through your ear.
Do you know the difference between imagination and reality? That is, do you know what is a product of your cognitive faculties and what is real? They say that perception is reality but that statement that says more about the beholder than the one being beheld in my opinion. I have been asking myself these questions a lot lately. Nevermind the circumstances because it’s really not the point, is it?
My brain has been on overdrive this last week. So much so that it has impacted my ability to sleep which then impairs my ability to function during the day. Mental health professionals would call this “catastrophic thinking”. I just cannot get my mind away from all the ways things can go wrong and how it would affect me. The scary part is that there is a little touch of reality to all of the things I think of in that they could happen, they have some grounding in reality. These are things that are often plausible but not probable but a mind that knows no creative boundaries thinks of everything whether it wants to or not. This is the boat I’m in.
Especially at night.
Nighttime is when the shadows dance on the walls and the monsters crawl out from under my bed and into my head through my ear. When I close my eyes I see nightmares when I’m wide awake and they’re so real that it messes with my emotional states. The people are real and I see scenario after scenario where the ending is sad or I am left alone. One time I even imagined myself checking into the local psych ward as a result of the story I was telling myself involuntarily. It plays on my fears, my insecurities and my neuroses until I can’t stand it anymore and I open my eyes. They’re still there most of the time but it can be distracting enough to break it all up for a short time.
I’m so tired.
As I said, my mind has not allowed me to rest much this last week or so. One might wonder why I don’t try and control these thoughts or try and interrupt this treacherous flow of cognitive falsities. Believe me, I’ve tried. But it’s the other side of a double-edged sword I’ve discovered. The creative part of me that lets me put words down on paper, tell stories and write poetry is part of the same creative force that destroys me and gets me so strung out that I have to fight off panic attacks. My mind is in constant motion and, up until a few weeks ago, I was operating on 14-16 hour days where I was constantly engaged in something. Now that my days are about 12 hours long I have to wonder if my brain just isn’t acclimated to the lack of stimulation. It has to be something. Because I’ve spent nights trying to tell my brain to shut up so I can sleep.
And it keeps going… and going… and going.
What I don’t understand is why the lack of rest hasn’t wrestled this problem to the ground. I can function on 4-6 hours of sleep but I rarely wake up rested anymore. I feel like I’m running in my sleep and tripping over my own feet in the process. The morning feels like my face ground into asphalt and my body in a wreck, my mind so jostled from the impact that it doesn’t recognize more sleep is needed and I’m instantly wide awake. I have no motivation right now, no drive. I feel like my mind has rebelled, can’t be contained by the boundaries of my skull. At night all my anxiety, fear and insecurity is trapped in a dark room with me and as soon as they are released they bounce off the walls until they eventually come back to me.
Sometimes, I wish my brain would leave me alone.
“I look tired
It’s probably the insomnia
I sleep like Tyler Durdan
Stickin’ feathers in your ass does not make you a chicken.”
— P.O.S. “Half-Cocked Concepts”
Hello, insomnia. So good to see you again.
For the last three nights i have been struggling with the same thing that I fought with when I was coming of the Seroquel some weeks back. I finally fall asleep and then wake up every few hours, sometimes every hour. I end up severely frustrated and tired and it makes it much more difficult to go to sleep.
I realize some of this may be psychological, simply because I fall asleep faster than most that I don’t realize it. I roll over and the clock has moved forward an hour or two and I don’t realize I’ve been asleep for that whole time. But it’s still frustrating. It’s like someone’s playing with my head so I miss work and my moods generally aren’t the greatest. Then I realize it’s my own brain playing with me and that makes it all the more irritating.
Shouldn’t he be fighting on my side?
In any case, there hasn’t been much that I’ve done that has been of any help. My old tricks put me to sleep but don’t keep me there for very long. I wen to bed at 10pm last night and tossed and turned. Which felt like betrayal considering I was trying not to fall asleep on my futon not 15 minutes prior.
At least the days haven’t been as difficult as before. I got a workout in this morning to make up for missing yesterday and I’m actually currently putting off taking a shower as I write this. It felt good to have some energy for a while but now I’m ready to curl up and go back to bed. Naps have never been my thing.
So, for all of you who have had a crappy day or your day isn’t starting off the greatest, if you got a good night’s sleep before starting it you’re already leaps and bounds ahead of me.