I have been an insomniac since I was about 13. That’s almost 25 years of very, very poor sleep. In case anyone’s counting. Is anyone counting? OH WAIT I AM. Because I have all the time for it, you see. ALL THE TIME. Because I CAN’T EFFING SLEEP.
I come by it naturally. Every single person on my dad’s mom’s side of the family, going back to…wherever they go back to (I don’t know where, we’re apparently in some sort of ancestry witness protection, because whenever I ask, people just say, “CANADA” and then get shifty-eyes, and when I say, “Well, there must have been something BEFORE Canada, or are we Native Canadian people, or what, exactly?” they clam up and start talking about the weather or snowmobiling or hunting or something. They’re shady, those upstaters. This is QUITE A MYSTERY.)
My dad can’t sleep. His mom couldn’t sleep. None of her siblings could sleep. Her dad couldn’t sleep. I can only assume one of HIS parents couldn’t sleep, and there we go, back to the wilds of Canada or wherever my ancestors are from. I’m going to pretend Italy. Let’s pretend Italy, ok? I’d like to be pretend-Italian. It would explain my love of carbs and insistence on talking with my hands. OOH OR MAYBE ATLANTIS. Yep. That would totally explain all the secrecy. I’m going to start telling people my ancestors are the last of the people from the lost city of Atlantis. This is going to be GREAT.
My main problem is, I can’t turn off my brain. You read my blog. See all this crap? This is not just how I write. THIS IS HOW I THINK. My brain is going a million miles an hour and it’s all Ricochet Rabbit bing-bing-binging around in there. If there were a way to get that all to just STOP, to go to static like the TV used to sign off at the end of the day? That would be great. But brains aren’t like television sets from the 70s. They DON’T EVER STOP WORKING. It’s not even nightmares. It’s that I can’t get my brain to turn off long enough to get to sleep in the first place. I’d WELCOME the nightmares. At least that means I’m SLEEPING.
I have sleeping pills. Well, here’s the odd thing. I went through a million sleeping pills, and none of them worked. First, they tried to do herbal and did the melatonin thing. That worked for a little while, but then I had to keep upping the dose until I was taking about ten of those things a night and they weren’t having much of an effect and when I told the doctor that she was all, “Um…yeah, that probably isn’t a good idea, let’s stop that.” Then she said to try over-the-counter medication, but not to bother with something fancy, just get Benedryl. That did nothing other than make me fall asleep for about an hour, then I’d be awake, and very, very dry. Because it’s for allergies. So it dries you all up. So mostly I was all dried up for a week or two. Not working. Then some herbal calcium supplement, which again, worked for a week or so, then my body was all, “WE’RE HIP TO THIS JIVE” and right back to staring at the ceiling at 3am.
Then she tried precription sleeping pills, but the first couple did nothing at all. NOTHING. It was like taking sugar pills. Which they might have been, I don’t know. I might have been in a whole medical test situation that I didn’t know about.
Then she got frustrated and said, “Here, try these” and wrote me a prescription for something else. When I asked what it was (probably between yawning) she said “Well, that’s a funny story. It was originally marketed as an antidepressant. But people who were taking it as such remained depressed, and then some of them started killing themselves? So doctors knew it wasn’t actually a very good antidepressant and probably just about the worst, actually, so they don’t really prescribe it as that anymore. But a side effect of it is, it makes you VERY DROWSY. So now we use it as a last-ditch effort for people who can’t sleep.” When I asked her if she really thought it best she called that a “funny” story she thought about it and said, “No, probably not.”
Yes, I realize I’m taking pills that failed in their original goal. That’s ok. Everyone deserves a second chance, even pharmaceuticals.
I’ve been taking it for almost ten years now. Up until recently, it’s worked fairly well. FAIRLY well.
Here’s a normal person’s night of sleep:
Gets ready for bed
Gets into bed
Wakes up feeling, for the most part, refreshed
Here’s MY night of “sleep”:
Gets close to bedtime; remember to take your pill so you’ll get sleepy
Wait for an hour for the pill to get you sleepy enough to want to attempt to sleep
Get into bed
Lie there for anywhere from half an hour to an hour tossing and turning, kicking Dumbcat out because he is stepping on you with sharp feet and refuses to JUST STOP IT, thinking about EVERY BAD THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO YOU EVER plus ALL THE THINGS WEIGHING ON YOUR MIND plus ALL THE PEOPLE YOU FORCE YOURSELF TO NEVER THINK ABOUT DURING DAYLIGHT HOURS
Fall asleep (most of the time)
Wake up 3-5 times a night, randomly, and repeat the whole process
Wake up in the morning CRANKY AS HELL and WANTING TO PUNCH A KINDERGARTENER IN THE FACE AREA
(From this, I think you can see why me ever getting married or sharing my bed with anyone but Dumbcat would be a very, very, VERY bad idea. Also, I don’t like anyone touching me when I’m trying to sleep? Because it’s like work, and that’s distracting. I mean, sure, fine, let’s have some sex, that’s nice, that’s good, but then why don’t you go sleep elsewhere because there’s no WAY I’d get to sleep with someone touching and breathing and being all up in my space when I wanted to toss and turn and huff and puff and look at the clock and go “ARGH!” and such.)
At this point, I’ve gotten used to it. There’s no point in NOT getting used to it. It’s not like it’s going to get any better. I know I’m always exhausted; I’ve been that way for the majority of my life. It does make me sad when people say they’re looking forward to bed, though. The only times in my life I’ve slept without a problem are when I’m sick, when I’m depressed, or when I’m not supposed to (in class, when someone’s talking to me, in movie theaters – pretty much when I’m bored and should be paying attention to something.)
The only, only, ONLY good thing is that sometimes I come up with kickass ideas when I’m in bed unable to sleep and it’s 3am. And not all of them are harebrained schemes! I know, right? I know you’re probably wondering, why don’t I get out of bed and do something? I am ETERNALLY OPTIMISTIC. I keep hoping if I stay there, I’ll fall asleep – and even a little sleep is better than none. If I get up, I know I’ll never get back to bed, and then I have no one but myself to blame when I feel like shit the next day.
So anyway, here is last night. Ready? Last night was a BLAST.
The new thing is: panic attacks. Does anyone have those? They are a TREAT.
They’re LIKE a heart attack, only my doctor assures me they’re not. So, that’s nice. You can assure your BRAIN that you’re not having one. HOWEVER. Your heart is beating a mile a minute; your chest hurts; your arm hurts; your neck hurts; and sometimes, SOMETIMES, your limbs twitch uncontrollably and if you’re half-asleep when they hit, YOU SHOUT. Yep. They are the prettiest things in the WORLD, panic attacks are. They were fun when I had roommates, who often thought I was being murdered in the middle of the night, not just panicking over things that weren’t real.
I haven’t had one in a while. I’ve got a lot on my mind. Work stuff. Personal stuff. I’m on stuff-overload. Last night, Panic Attack Time! Wahoo!
So I went to bed EARLY. Well, for me. Because Mondays at work kick my ass and I wanted to face it with ALL THE INTREPIDNESS. Also, I had gotten less and less sleep over the last week. It went from 6 to 5 to 4 hours of sleep over the week. I wanted to get ALL the sleep. So I was just curled up for about fifteen minutes when PANIC ATTACK. The worst one EVER.
“I’m fairly sure I’m dying right now,” my brain said.
“Don’t be absurd, it’s a panic attack,” my brain replied. “You KNOW these can’t kill you.”
“But has my chest ever hurt THIS much? Or my ARM? Also, I bet the morgue is FULL of people who ignored these VERY SIGNS and then their cat ate their face because they are Forever Alone. I think I should call 911.”
“The doctor TOLD you these are panic attacks. You KNOW they are. Do you really want to be the asshole who went to the hospital for a panic attack? Also, your copay is $100. Kiss your laptop fund goodbye, sis.”
So this went on for three hours.
Then I decided, because I was SO TIRED and also WEEPY, that it was the BED’S fault. So I went to sleep on the couch.
Dumbcat was on the couch. He was VERY EXCITED it was playtime.
“Meow? Meow? MEOW?”
“No Dumbcat not playtime let’s sleep so tired” I garbled at him and flopped on the couch.
More panic attacks, but this time with the added “over twenty-pound cat walking to and fro on me because he thought I was a bridge and this was super-fun-playtime and he was KING OF THE MOUNTAIN and I WAS THE MOUNTAIN” accouterment.
Eventually, I guess I fell asleep. I opened my eyes and was SO EXCITED. Had I conquered it? Surely I had! The BED was the culprit! That damn bed. Was it time to get up? Was it time for work?
Yeah. Twenty minutes had passed. It wasn’t even light out yet.
I went through “panic attack panic attack PANIC ATTACK sleep for twenty minutes” a few more times, then decided I needed some aspirin because the guy in the Bayer commercial told me at the first sign of a heart attack to take some. And since I wasn’t going to the hospital for what might or might not be a panic attack, I was going to take some aspirin to stop the heart attack panic attack so at least when they did the autopsy they’d know I was paying attention to the Bayer commercials. So I got out the aspirin bottle but it has a childproof cap. You know. Because of all my children. NO not the soap opera. So I got it open in a feat of strength that was heretofore unknown in my household only to spill half the bottle on the bathroom floor. Then I couldn’t decide – could aspirin kill cats? Or was that ibuprofen? Did I care enough about Dumbcat and his middle-of-the-night foraging to clean up all these aspirin?
I did. I got on my hands and knees and cleaned them all up on the off chance it would save my cat’s life. YOU OWE ME DUMBCAT.
Then I realized I could have just shut the bathroom door until the next morning and just started BAWLING because I was SO EFFING TIRED SERIOUSLY.
Then I somehow ended up back in my bed. I think I’d forgotten my bed was conspiring to keep me from ever sleeping again? I’m not sure. But in a strange turn of events that I can’t quite explain, I fell asleep with my HEAD near the FOOT of the bed and my feet on the pillow. With no pillow. Or sheets.
At this point in the night it was 5am. I get up at 6:20. So, all in all, I got an hour and twenty minutes of uninterrupted sleep, and two or three 20-minute catnaps, while being walked on by a cat. A VERY DUMB CAT.
Added up: a little over two hours of sleep.
And Mondays are HELL at work during tax season.
So, I was a zombie today. I ran into a wall; I answered questions with the wrong answers (and, not just KIND OF the wrong answers – I was asked, “What’d you do this weekend?” and I said, “Thanks, I got it at Rite Aid,” and when they said, “What?” I said, “The movie was good.” Those kind of conversations happened more than once today), I started crying when a very nice coworker told me it was ok if I left some work for the next day (not because he was giving me permission – I was going to leave it anyway – but because he was BEING SO NICE), I got a call from Adam to Christine, and called Christine, and said, “I have Christine on the line for you, Adam” to her, which was classy and not at all word salad.
My dad is very “WHAT WILL WE DO TO FIX THIS PROBLEM” when I tell him things, so his first thing was, “well, it’s the blogging’s fault, quit the blogging” and I was all, “um, no, can I quit work? I’d sleep like a baby then” and he said I could not. Dammit. My mom said warm milk. WHO DOES THAT. Ugh. I only like very cold milk. THAT’S WHY YOU KEEP IT IN A FRIDGE.
I’ve TRIED all the normal fixes. I know, people love to give insomnia advice. It’s very nice, it is. But when it’s been happening for so long, and when the nights are so damn long and dark and seem endless and all you can think of is how bad the next day will be because your brain will be mush – all the advice in the world can’t fix that. Andreas wrote a very helpful post about how to combat sleeplessness not too long ago, and I loved it – but I’ve tried all the things. None of them work once my head hits the pillow and my brain starts being a hamster on a wheel.
I’m thinking lobotomy, right? Because that would turn off ALL THE THOUGHTS. Good idea? We like that? Yes? Wait, what, we don’t? Ugh, dammit, fine.
Wish me all the best. That bed’s giving me a look I don’t like. A very, “It’s you and me, buckaroo, and only one of us is winning this one,” look. I think it underestimates how very much I like to win. Also, how bone-tired I am. Dumbcat, you’re staying in the living room tonight. Sorry, buddy. Your feet are too sharp and I don’t feel like playing King of the Mountain tonight.
(UPDATE: This was written Monday night, right before bed. I SLEPT LIKE A CHAMP. Didn’t wake up ONCE. Fell asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. Woke up and Dumbcat was sleeping on my face and even THAT didn’t wake me up. BED. I totally conquered you. WIN! WIN!)