Insomnia made its appearance when I was in my teens. It found better digs for awhile, but occasionally stopped by now and then just to ruminate about the lack of time and the future of my finances and the argument with so-and-so. And then, in my thirties, it showed up with suitcases, and eventually a U-Haul, and decided to make a more permanent visit.
I lay stiff next to Insomnia as it dissected the direction of my life. I buried my face in my pillow. I began to suspect that one of those boxes from the U-Haul held the weight of the world, and while I was brushing my teeth this irksome presence unloaded that box, right on my shoulders.
I tried to fight it, but I had lead in my bones, the weight of chronic fatigue. I was bedridden and unable to sleep. My doctor prescribed Halcion which I eagerly popped every night, and still Insomnia droned on and on about the bills and the illness and the fear. I tried doing yoga in bed to gain my strength, but Insomnia crowded my six by eight foot world where I lived 24 hours a day. We watched the entire Jerry Lewis telethon together, the remote control just out of reach, and I felt as beat as Jerry looked when he sat on that tall stool with his tie askew, top button undone, singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. I feared he was right, that I would never walk alone, because Insomnia would be ever present.
Then one morning I turned my face to the sunlight and started to wean myself off the sleeping pills. I took a walk around the block for the first time. Insomnia trailed behind, muttering. I set boundaries: “You can talk, but not more than twenty minutes.” Six months later I had the strength to work again, two hours a day. Insomnia became agitated, demanding my attention when I got home.
I limited my time in bed. Insomnia sulked on the couch, so I was able to sleep a few nights in a row until it caught on. I took brisk walks in the morning, letting my eyes drink in the sun to recalibrate my circadian rhythm so I would fall asleep easily, and Insomnia shook me awake at three a.m. To stay asleep, I stared at a natural light at night while Insomnia lounged close by wearing shades, and still I agonized through the pre-dawn hours. I tried melatonin and magnesium and turkey sandwiches and deep breathing and relaxation tapes and I kicked myself for ever opening that door, for listening to all that blather and allowing it to keep me awake at nights.
My unwelcome guest taught me well. Now I associate the bed with wakefulness. Now the mattress has become an island where I spend the dark hours contemplating life’s bogeymen. So I do what any irrational, sleep-deprived person would do: I attack the mattress with my fists.
And then I vow that I will find a way to give Insomnia the boot once and for all.