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Oh But to Sleep, To Dream

I love the days when I wake up from a deep sleep and stumble into the dawn with a smile, slowly shaking the last vestiges of the night to feel a true sense of being restored.  I love how with each step the pleasant dreams of far away beaches with setting suns and waves tapping at soothing fade slowly but leave their sheen on the day-to-day world around me.  Ah yes, I love these days.

Yet I know these nights are like winning the lottery.  The illness I possess spins like a psychotic slot machine pulled by a killer clown with a half pack of cigarettes in his mouth, his makeup smudged, his big red nose stained with fragrant curiosities.

I know the chances of hitting the jackpot, of seeing the three wonderful bars of DEEP SLEEP cover the face of the machine are as likely as my ex-wife admitting she was oh so wrong.  Yet every night I sneak around the clown with his haggard breath, sweat soaked neon green wig with the curls out of place and pull the arm, waiting…hoping…praying.

Every time I see my shrink she asks how I have been sleeping.  Some days the question makes me smile, others I wonder if she is asking me if I’ve been in the bathroom snorting coke off a hookers ass.  How have you been sleeping?  The question turns from a diagnostic touch point into an accusation almost, the weight no different than asking an alcoholic how the bar was the night before.  My relationship with sleep is much the same…I want it…I need it….just one more hit and I’ll be OK…but like an addict, I never seem to get what I am looking for.


A new study out of Notre Dame discusses how sleep is critical to making memories…how sleep allows the brain to embed them deeper, remember them more vividly and more importantly, reorganize and prioritize them for easier access.  I guess this explains why there are days when my own history seems so unfamiliar.

I have the memories, I remember what happened when and where, but with each night that passes when I fail to secure the sleep I need…they fall out of order…a house of cards slowly crumbling into piles of images without a sense of time to keep them horizontal.  I can usually dig through the pile and reorder them when I do get a couple of nights of consistent sleep, but those short strings of predictable shut eye are as rare as natural rubies and often just as blood red.

Aye, that’s the rub…on the nights when I can get to sleep at a humane hour, then there is the constant dodging of dreams far too happy to see me.  Give me beaches, mountains, sun sets and sun rises.  Those are the dreams I covet.  But they are also rare…far too often replaced by shadows coming into the now, coalescing into the present with a wicked grin and the razor blade rain of traumatic events of the past.  Getting to sleep is half the battle, staying there is the other.


When I do hit a stretch where I am able to sleep, to have my head hit the pillow and fade quickly into the arms of oblivion, I can let nothing get in the way.  I’m not a fan of this fact.  Sleep becomes the mistress more alluring than the wife naked on the bed, more inviting than curling up with the puppy for an afternoon nap, more of a desire than a fistful of acid, an eight-ball and a room full of possibilities.

Nothing can come between me and sleep.  If it does, I have failed.  My illness is no longer managed and the repercussions when it wakes and rages in my head can be catastrophic.  The most difficult part of this is attempting to help others respect this need…to tell the oh so sexy wife that tonight isn’t the night, to pat the puppy on the head and turn away, to refuse the acid and eight-ball and shut down the possibilities.

See, when I hit that point where I know I could go to sleep…I have to go to sleep.  I can’t stop to talk, I can’t stop to pick up the glasses on the table or find the other sock I tossed across the room.  I might be able to cuddle if you get to the bed at the same time, but the span of time where the hope of sleep lives is so transient there’s no need for it to even keep a toothbrush here.  And it takes next to nothing to speed its departure…perhaps a quick conversation which ends up restarting my head, a need to make sure the cars are locked or my clothes are laid out for tomorrow.

The window for getting to sleep opens briefly and if I don’t jump through without worry for whats on the other side, then I’ll be starring at Susan Summers in the middle of the night while she sells her Kegel machine and the Sham-Wow guys talks about chopping his salty nuts and expects us to forget he had his ass handed to him by a hooker.


And no matter how many 1 to 2 hours naps I seize during the day, these little battles don’t matter.  The war will be won or lost each night.  The days when I get 3 to 4 hours of sleep lead to a need for silence, an intolerance for noises and sounds, an inability to give a shit about anyone else on the planet.  I end up seeing the frayed edges of existence just past the rim of my glasses.  I can see the weave of the afternoon sky as it separates oh so slightly.  I can hear the anger in the voices of friends, the irritation.  Their feelings and emotions wash over me like tidal waves, my ability to operate in any semblance of normal is gone.  I am a buoy battered by the waves of life which grow darker with each breath.

There are nights when I would sell a kidney or shop off a limb for sleep.  I know, sounds extreme.  And it isn’t the exhaustion I fear at all.  That’s a mere annoyance.  But the reality that after several days of sleepless nights or weeks of a few hours here and there, I can feel my internal Jack Nicholson pounding on that door with his axe.  I can see his eyes enflamed, taste his smile and the splinters…

I can feel the mania fighting to be unleashed, wanting to come out and play.  And that is what is unnerving…because as much as I would love to open the door and let the mania in…the resulting fires in my life, the destruction and absolute disregard for consequences is getting to harder to handle as I get older.

I just want to sleep…I just want to rest…but…wait…what’s that….HERE’S JOHNNY!!!!!

One Response to “Oh But to Sleep, To Dream”

  1. sana quijada says:

    this was well said. a good description of your struggles people who haven’t been there struggle to understand. keep talking. u r not alone.

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