How I Finally Made Friends With My Insomnia

I have never liked the shape of the word insomnia. It looks wiry
and rounded at the edges—nothing like the middle of the
night.

I tend to sleep in sappho pieces: two hours just after midnight,
another two between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., maybe a 30-minute interlude
wedged somewhere in the middle. I sleep in fragments, in chapters.
There is no softness or continuity.

By day, however, I exist among the living, part of the shared
experience of operating in the world: dressing
and brushing
teeth
and consuming things and telling other people about them.
At night, I am this other thing, disenfranchised from the swell of
standard human behavior. I earn a version of agency I never asked
for: an expanse of hours that contain nothing––no routines or
obligations.

Naturally, there are days when the accumulation of waking hours
make the very act of moving my body from place to place feel near
impossible. But typically, I’m okay; I continue to function, more
or less, according to the rules of social normalcy.

I have the luxury of believing my unwavering exhaustion
guarantees me something exclusive: a unique, thoroughly intimate
relationship with the hours between 2 and 4 a.m.

I’ve tried most of the
textbook antidotes
—varied benzodiazepines, sleep
meditation
, hypnotism, one strange electro-current-powered
device my father brought back from a conference in Moscow—but
each makes me feel off-kilter. So instead, I choose to stay awake.
This is stasis for me: I am a broken biological clock, a circadian
rhythm sans metronome.

For all its inconveniences, I don’t find this arrangement to
be intrinsically bad. In fact, it’s become something of an
asset—I have the luxury of believing my unwavering exhaustion
guarantees me something exclusive: a unique, thoroughly intimate
relationship with the hours between 2 and 4 a.m. I’ve developed a
certain rapport with the nighttime. We’ve become cordial,
friendly, even. We pass the time together. And in spite of the
decades I’ve spent rallying against the piece of my brain that so
detests slumber, I’ve begun to treasure all those waking hours
with far more affection than the sleep they’ve deprived me
of.

Naturally, this has not always been true. I was eight years old
when I first heard the word “insomnia.” I watched it slink out
from between a doctor’s teeth, and I understood that it pointed
to some small manufacturing error within me. The word, itself, was
sharp.

At that time, I’d already built middle-of-the-night routines
to occupy myself when sleep wouldn’t come. I’d fill the bathtub
with blankets in place of tepid water and read. When I grew
restless, I would re-order the books on my shelves: first by color,
then by last name, then by subject matter. I learned to say the
alphabet backwards when arranging titles from A to Z grew too easy.
I tried not to cry—and only allowed myself to do so on the nights
that felt particularly, unrelentingly long.

I wanted to sleep desperately—I would lay catatonically
still, unmoving, praying to all of the alphabetized novels in my
bedroom for night to pass.

Then I got older, and all the existential muck that accompanies
adolescence collected in my head like sediment: There were boys to
instant message, girls to look like, The Common App. All of it
reframed the night: That time moved from dull to anxious to a
particular breed of sadness that seemed to cough itself into
existence only between the hours of 4 and 5 a.m. At that time, I
wanted to sleep desperately—I would lay catatonically still,
unmoving, praying to all of the alphabetized novels in my bedroom
for night to pass.

By the time I reached college, my middle-of-the-nights all had
that same residue, but I was more often preoccupied. I worked
through the literary canon in a way that was not so much academic
as it was hungry—voracious even. I stopped lying still, waiting
in vain for a thing that would never come. I determined, instead,
to fill that time up. In the afternoons, I meandered through
assignments, relishing the bizarre fluorescent hum particular to
collegiate libraries—the ambient camaraderie—while at night, I
powered through the meatier coursework on my own, grateful for the
presence of a task while the rest of campus slept.

Sometime around then, I began to write differently: Essays and
strange little prose poems and epistolary odes. I kept a folder on
my computer’s desktop titled “The Insomnia Archives,” and I
filled it with writing that came from some editorial muscle in my
head that seemed to activate exclusively in the dark. Often, these
were nearly incomprehensible. Sometimes, they worked. This was part
of The Nighttime Effect: To my knowledge, I couldn’t write like
this during daylight.

So began a shift in the way “insomnia” sounded to me. I felt
myself marvel at the night in a way that had seemed previously
impossible. I thought the word, itself, could be a little girl’s
name were it not so prescriptive. And I believed the time it
allowed me was perhaps my most legitimate form of personal wealth.
It was a bonus.

Not sleeping is simply more interesting than attempting to
sleep.

Now, I savor the extra time to read, and fold the laundry, and
empty the dishwasher—but in large part, the night is reserved for
more impractical things. For emails and letters crafted purely for
the joy of the recipient, or the preparation of elaborate snacks,
all of which I will consume alone. It’s for news that comes on
actual paper, French lessons through an iPhone application, for
learning about the insular organs of a coy fish. Sometimes it’s
for long, quiet runs through South Brooklyn, and for scrambled eggs
with potatoes priced at $3.99 from the 24-hour diner on Vanderbilt.
In turn, what I’ve learned is both unspectacular and obvious: Not
sleeping is simply more interesting than attempting to sleep.

At times, I am still resentful of the night. Still entirely
vulnerable to the largeness of it. But far more often, I am
somewhat in awe of it. I’m fascinated by the way it unfurls, the
way it quiets whole cities, and by contrast, the way it amplifies
all the noise in my head. It would seem that reverence and fear are
not so different—that night, for me, oscillates nimbly between
the two.

That’s the thing about The Insomnia Archives: They changed the
way I enunciated “insomnia.” Over time, the word softened for
me. In fact, it took a new shape, entirely.

Feature illustration by Mia Christopher.

The post How I
Finally Made Friends With My Insomnia
appeared first on
Man Repeller.

Source: FS – NY Fashion
How I Finally Made Friends With My Insomnia