Some nights ago, after being over-served at a lovely dinner party, I came home, sent out a few emails, then dropped into bed, completely exhausted. It was one of those nights when your bed seems like the greatest place on Earth — a lush oasis in the desert, a soft spot in the hard row of life — and I fell asleep around midnight and slept all the way until 2 am, which is when the dog decided to projectile vomit, then run around my bed, panting furiously, until I got up to let him out. After a few trips into the yard, he returned to the house and spent the rest of the night like this:
Meanwhile, I cleaned up the floor and waited to let him back in the house, then refilled his water bowl, and climbed back into bed. For me, the night was over, because one of the first things to go when I hit adulthood was the ability to sleep.
Actually, I need to take that back. According to what my mom told me years ago, I never was a good sleeper.
“I could always count on your brother to take a nap. But you, no way. As soon as I left the room, you started crying. It was like you were afraid to miss anything.”
Insomnia stinks. About seventeen years ago, when I was at the Mayo Clinic for other reasons (free advice: don’t go to Rochester, Minnesota in February. I spent a week there and never set foot outside, because the hospital and mall and hotels are connected by hamster tunnels. On the day I left, I walked out of the hotel, looked up at the sun, and was so stunned by natural light that I ran straight into the side of a taxicab), and participated in a sleep study. Nestled into my bed with a pulse monitor attached to my hands and various things stuck to my corpus and some type of colander-like device on my head, I settled down for a good night’s sleep, and promptly fell asleep…and took all the equipment off.
In the winter, my hands get very dry, so I slather on hand lotion and put on little cotton gloves, for maximum moisturization. Every morning when I wake up, I look at the pillow next to me, and see the gloves, which I’ve removed in the night. The weird thing is, I must pull them off finger by finger, because the gloves are always right side out and perfectly aligned, as if they’ve just come out of the packaging. Apparently I’m quite meticulous in my sleep…not so much in my waking life.
Remember about ten years ago, when Ambien was all the rage? People were popping Ambien right and left, and then having bizarre experiences — cooking pork chops, robbing banks, regaining consciousness in the morning covered in blood and holding butcher knives… Not exactly the hallmarks of restful sleep.
I took an Ambien once as we taxied down the runway, and woke up on the tarmac in Rome with no recollection of the flight and a mouth that felt like the inside of a Bedouin sandal. That was my first and last Ambien. I don’t have a clue what I did or said during that flight, much less what was done or said to me. And while I appreciated giving the insipid in-flight romantic comedy a miss, and surely saved myself 82,000 grams of salt by skipping dinner, still….there’s something terrifying about losing eight hours of your life when you are surrounded by strangers.
But there’s no doubt, insomnia sucks. A couple weeks ago, I got to go home, and was SO excited to see friends and get some work done. But aside from one blissful stretch of hours when I actually relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed myself and may have even dozed off, the rest of the time was a blur of “I’m so tired I can barely function-ness.” I went out to lunch with a friend and couldn’t string two sentences together; at one point, I just leaned my head against the wall and started to cry. (Which was not, as the waitress thought, because they were out of the seafood salad). Being that tired is actually physically painful, never mind mentally stressful — as anyone who’s ever had children well knows.
Speaking of, can I just take a minute and hate the women who are all lovely and glowing and serene when they’re pregnant? Heads up, ladies: no one wants to hear that you have never felt more like a woman, or can’t believe how easy the entire pregnancy has been. The first time around, I threw up for five months straight, morning, noon and night. All I could keep down were plain bagels and iced tea, and most of the time, not even that. There are people who are emotionally scarred from having witnessed my being violently ill in a planter at the mall, not to mention just outside the doors of our church.
But I survived. And I will survive the insomnia, too. However, if you are one of those mutants who fall asleep two minutes after getting in bed, and wake up all chipper and tail-wagging in the morning, please — don’t tell me about it.
Love you! Mean it.