Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fearing Insomnia

For about six months now I've been suffering with insomnia, but that's overstating it, because on most nights I sleep like I’m fresh out of the womb. I would actually define what I’m suffering with as a fear of insomnia, even though I don't actually have it. Yeah, I know. Makes no sense to me either.

Of course, in the past I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights, but they were nothing to go crying to mum about. That was up until August last year when I got asked to go on a shoot for this music video. The director contacted me about four days prior asking if I could camera assist. Mind you, everybody involved were complete strangers whom I must have given my resume to somewhere along the way (I hope!). Jumping ahead to the night before, I had to be up at four the next morning for what looked on paper like a grueling twelve hour day in a laundry list of locations I’m not too familiar with. To put it simply, my girlfriend was spending the night, we lost track of time and next thing I knew, I was only going to get roughly four hours sleep, something you don’t want to have before a long day with strangers you want to impress in a strange place at a strange time. And that revelation freaked-me-out! I ended up tossing and turning all night - worried. Worried that I wasn’t going to get enough sleep. How nuts is that? The worry of not getting to sleep was keeping me from sleeping, and the later it got, the more worried I became. I was caught in a whirlpool that I created and I could not get out!

But it all worked out fine in the end. I only got two hours of shallow sleep at best, and of course I wasn’t chirpy the next day, but I did excellent considering. I managed to make it through almost ten hours and two thirty minute hikes - and they were hikes - through a mountainous gun range for the first location without a single drop of caffeine. Ten hours! I did end up grabbing a coffee at about one o’clock at a snorkelling beach where we were about to film some underwater stuff (Clovelly, if anybody’s interested). The sun was beaming down and they didn’t need me for a while, so I laid down on the sand for a ten minute rest and then I woke up an hour later. Thinking back on it, I still can’t believe it. I lasted ten hours on dead batteries, not to mention the six hours of shooting that followed my beach nap.

Afterward, the actress in the video dropped me in the familiar city, where you would think I’d just want to hop on the next train that takes me directly to the Sandman, or even his evil-cousin Krueger, no matter the consequences, but no, I kind of didn’t want to leave the city. So I got some grub, had a drink and dawdled home acting like someone that wasn’t teetering on the edge of unconsciousness. I didn’t even sleep on the ride home! I was a marvel of ‘sleep is for the weak’ that day. This is boasting.

But despite my overall ability to function on little shuteye, albeit uncomfortably, this one single incident has been the catalyst behind an ongoing six month bout of insomnia fears. And it’s not the night that’s the main problem, it’s the day before the night before a big day - when I say ‘big day’, I mean a long one in which I’ll need to be light on my toes and not, you know, lying on the ground moaning. This fear I’m talking about manifests itself as a minute thought in the back of my mind that I can ignore, but not turn off. It says ‘shit! I better get some good sleep tonight’. But as the day progresses and I draw closer to bedtime, that ignorable buzzing in my mind grows into an angry swarm of butterflies in my stomach which I can’t swat away, and then from there on in it’s just like I had caffeine intravenously shot up my arm. My heart beats through my chest, I toss and turn out of utter frustration, I play out the next day in my head starring a zombie-version of me, I juggle the notion of not showing up. It’s horrible...but it’s not really. It’s just me building myself into a night of little sleep and a lot of anxiety for no real reason, is it not? Given that I’m aware of how silly this whole thing is, you would think I would be able to calm myself down, but it’s not enough emotional ammunition to overcome the worry. I need something more.

As little as it makes sense, it is purely just a fear of not getting to sleep at night, and not a fear of anything else. For a bit of backstory, in the past year, I’ve been to shoots before not knowing anybody prior to the day and slept fine; I’ve started new jobs and slept fine; I’ve been to one-on-one and group interviews and slept fine; I’ve worked grueling days in the past and slept fine; fine, fine, fine! During high school, a high school in which I hated so much that it was lucky that I didn’t set it on fire and send a wrecking ball through the remains, I did lose a bit of sleep, but I managed to rectify that by falling asleep to the sound of my television, and I’ve done that every night since with favourable success. But alas, no amount of television can salvage my night when in the throes of my non-insomnia. I need something...something more.

One of the emotions I feel between the tosses and turns that mark a restless night is what I would describe as loneliness. Not physically, but emotionally. I could have one leg over my girlfriend’s hip, but I’d still feel it. It’s a sense that everybody is having a better night than I am, whether that is sleeping better, partying better, whatever. But meanwhile, there I am, studying the ceiling instead of sleeping. Ideally, what I really want - and need - is a buddy in insomnia if you will. Sort of like a buddy you would have from alcoholics anonymous which you can call whenever you’re tempted to drink so that they can talk you out of it. I want a buddy I can call which I know is having the same shit night that I’m having so they can talk me out of not sleeping and vice versa. If only there were insomnia-hookers I could order over the phone, that would great.This is something more.

For the moment, I haven’t found this buddy, but I do have one thing: my lovely neighbours. Most old people I know go to bed early and wake up before they turn SBS back on, but not these people. They are seventy years old but they go to bed in the early AM and wake up long after the sun has risen. They’ve always done it; it’s been a topic of conversation throughout my household since I was a tadpole. We know this because their kitchen window faces the side of our house and if they’re up, rest assured they’re in the kitchen. So all I need to do in order to check if they’re awake is peer out a window. And that brings me comfort. If it’s one in the AM and I see that woman with one of her foreign films on and her hands buried in the sink, I suddenly feel less alone. Somebody else in the world is up, not just me.

Fearing insomnia, but not insomnia, not even close. I realise that some people actually suffer with it and I really sympathise with them, especially after the last six months. If they had a choice between my measly handful of anxious nights and their being anxious every night, I’m sure they would love to be in my shoes any day of the week. So, what else can I say? Perhaps this is just another step I’ve taken into insanity. Or maybe it’s just my age and the pressure of responsibility that comes binded to it sliding down the hill toward me. Who knows, I’m crazy.

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