Has always been my number one enemy. My nemesis. The Arch villain.
Being the littlest in the family, I worried that I was missing all the fun. My room wasn’t that far from the living room where company were entertained.
I don’t know if I experienced insomnia as a kid, other than the night before Christmas. I have this nagging recollection that I had a form of childhood asthma that required my sister to listen for my breathing. I know my memory is missing large chunks of data. How would my sister be able to tell if I stopped breathing in the night? I just remember that if I did stop breathing, they would have to put me in a shower to wake me up. That’s why I had bunk beds. Okay, so maybe I made the entire story up. It’s feasible, isn’t it?
I don’t remember if I did the typical sleep forever teen thing. Probably not too much since my growth spurt was rather quick. I know that growing kids need a lot more sleep. I wonder if now that I’m shrinking, the opposite is true. Maybe that’s why I am so tired. What can I call the opposite of growth-spurt?
I didn’t have trouble with insomnia while in college, but as soon as I found the wonders of little pills with nick names of Christmas Tree or Black Beauty and the Cornell Students on the other Hill in Ithaca were more than willing to make and distribute to students like me who knew better but did it for the cause.
By the time I got to college, I was over my head, though that cliche doesn’t really work. I was juggling the student me, the working me, and the athlete me. Imagine that I was using my study skills as the stick to juggle three china plates representing those three me’s. And imagine that my social skills were like millions of little marbles under my feet while juggling those plates.
Within a year, my world collapsed.
I wonder whether my reader would want the Short story long or Long Story short. It is one thirty in the morning for goodness sake and my alarm will be sounding in six hours. Sometimes I bowl better when I don’t get much sleep…
Sleep. In college, I tried all of the traditional methods of staying awake at night. I was convinced that if I just had more time, I could juggle everything. I could be the student, though my being the only freshman in a Sophomore Anatomy class, probably wasn’t the best decision that Coach Kostrinsky and I made.
If I only had more time I could play hockey and lacrosse, do my work-study secretary gig to help pay the high price tag of a private school, and also make friends.
I had friends from all sectors. Aside from the athletes, I had branched out. I had sorority friends. Physical Education sorority that is. One upper classman in Delta Kappa gave me my first nickname. Pup. It stuck, too. My new friends didn’t even know my real name.
I had my student run cafe friends. Even though I worked in an office during the day, I figured out how to help my friends and earn some extra money on the side. I started working nights in the student’s rec. hall. I learned how to cook all sorts of things. I simply would punch someone else’s time card in, work the shift, and then my friend would pay me.
The bonus of this gig was that I could eat as much as I wanted, and I was in my hollow leg phase. No matter how much I ate, i could never get past 120. Now, I just look at it and I gain weight.
Sleep became my enemy, but I also had created friends with connections. When my method of drinking several cups of extremely strong tea only made me throw up, I was given what seemed like a magic elixir. I could stay up and not throw up or see stars when I moved. The stars, come to think of it, were probably little messages telling me that something wasn’t quite right, but as I said in an earlier blog, I’m not always great in hearing or seeing signs and warnings.
Sometimes I think that my mom died so young in order to protect me from myself. Human Beings are so limited in that regard. My mom’s first assignment after she died was to save me after I rode my bike right in front of a car. I was told that I did a lot of bouncing around on the car like a trampoline before I landed on the cement sidewalk. That probably wasn’t even my first concussion come to think of it. I was always running into things. My sister Pam probably still hasn’t forgiven her for making her come and ride in the ambulance with me.
Sleep. There’s a reason why they don’t allow sleep deprivation as a means of torture. Lack of REM can do bizarre things to a brain. But I came from the No Pain No Gain generation. Do it for the Gipper and all of that. So, for the good of the team, I stopped sleeping. I saw so many wonderful Upstate New York sunsets and sunrises. Consecutive. On the average, I slept about eight hours a week.
Little did I know that I was merely priming the well to take on a security guard job that often gave me eighty hour weeks. Sixteen hours of work was the max with an eight hour off. I did notice that the more hours I worked, it seemed the more taxes I gave to Massachusetts, but that didn’t stop me, and I had the miracle pills to help me out. Again, all for the good of the order.
By the time I was twenty-five or twenty six, I checked myself into a drug rehab clinic. White Bird. Great place. Maybe some day I’ll write about how I came to that decision, but that’s a long story that deserves it’s own spotlight.
Talk about disrupting one’s sleep cycle. As a result, I have had to resort to a litany of natural sleep remedies. Skull cap tinctures. Melatonin. Various other calming herbs and later on sleeping pills.
It’s not like I learned my lesson. At least when it came to sleep. In 2007 I landed my first teaching position. I was so excited. I didn’t care that I was getting peanuts and there weren’t any benefits. Being an older new teacher wasn’t getting me anywhere and the military school was willing to give me a chance.
There was so much work to do that I did whatever it took to get the job done. I was back to my eighty-hour work-week, but this time I was salaried. There were no time and a half or double-time when there was a holiday. I had learned to like drinking coffee after attending NA and AA meetings for a few years.
Sleep has never forgiven me. It has been a constant fight now to get to sleep. Instead of taking drugs to stay awake, I’m taking prescriptions to fall asleep. It’s past two in the morning now and obviously I’m avoiding the Ambien. I’m also realizing that without a few hours of sleep and perhaps some REM, I will be worthless to my team in six hours from now. Goodnight.