It’s Allison, your local cat aficionado.
There isn’t anything quite as satisfying as sinking into a plush mattress after a long day of school work. I used to study in my bed, which I sometimes still do, but when I need to stay up late, I sit at my desk, saving my bed as a reward for working hard. My body seems to literally loosen, each muscle untying its dizzying array of knots. It’s a magical feeling, ethereal, wonderful, rewarding. Anyone who has worked for any considerable amount of time before slipping into a cozy bed knows what I mean.
But I’ve also had a complicated relationship with sleep for the past few years.
I’m a teenager, which means I need a lot of sleep (or so I tell myself), but it also means I’m statistically more like to stay up to odd hours of the night or sleep until one p.m. But I’ve always seemed to attach more weight to my sleep than most people.
My trouble with sleep started when I was a freshman. I was distant from my family when I was fourteen. I didn’t really have a close relationship with my mother, and most of my brothers were at college. I didn’t enjoy much of anything or anyone in my life, and I particularly hated being home, so I would slip into my room in the evening and tell my mom I was asleep. I would stay up, alone and content. I didn’t have to speak to anyone I didn’t want to, and I could be myself, albeit in a dark room. It was an escape for me, but it cut into my sleep. Badly. I remember one night I stayed up until three am browsing photography on flickr. I loved artwork and I hated my life, so I lost myself in artistic creation rather than sleep. I awoke with my alarm at five forty the next morning and pressed on. Nights like this weren’t uncommon.
Freshman year turned into sophomore year and things only got worse. I was attending a challenging high school with the single goal that I be perfect. Everything I did was entirely aimed at achieving some lofty, mystical goal of perfection. And sleeping didn’t allow me to be perfect. Sleep was a waste of time, it was an impediment to my goal. So I didn’t sleep. I studied more, or I read, or I wrote, or I did anything besides sleep. When I wasn’t consumed with being perfect, I was consumed with how much I hated myself. I started to use sleep deprivation as a punishment. I didn’t deserve to sleep, because I wasn’t perfect. I didn’t deserve to sleep, because I wasn’t good enough. I always attended school the next day, after barely sleeping, half-zombie half-Allison, and stared at the floors or the walls instead of my teacher. I stared outside of the window instead of my blackboard. The next night, I would stay up later, because I was angry with how poorly my day went or how terribly I did on a test. Sleeping less only made my days worse and my grades lower, but I didn’t question my twisted logic. Months later, teachers told me they felt something was wrong. Friends came to me and said they thought something was off. But no one questioned me at the time and no one really knew. So I carried on. Sleepless nights, torturous days, and a miserable life.
At the end of my sophomore year of high school, I was a shell of a human being. Sleep wasn’t the only thing terribly, terribly wrong in my life (more on that later) but it was a major issue.
But, with the sudden lack of schoolwork to keep me occupied, to push me, I found a sudden lack of will. My intense, sick determination left me defeated. I slept for hours. I barely left my bed. I didn’t want to do anything but sleep. I couldn’t face the impossible standards I had created for myself and I didn’t know how to undo the expectations I had built. So I slept. It was the closest thing I could get to nonexistence.
I spent months like this. I didn’t have a handle on my life, but time carried on, so I went with it. Slowly, I started to rebuild my life. Better friends, better school, and mostly, better sleep.
Sometimes, I still find myself slipping into my bed at noon. My natural reaction to hyper emotion is sleep. When I cannot deal with anxiety, or fear, or anger, or sadness, I sleep.
Sometimes, I still find myself staring at my ceiling at three a.m. My natural reaction to apathetic emotion is staying awake. When I cannot deal with memories, or flashbacks, or worthlessness, or dread, I remain awake.
Last week, I stayed up until five am and only forced myself to close my eyes when I realized my mom would be waking up soon. A few days ago, I slept for fourteen hours. Neither is healthy, but something about sleep is so easily manipulated, that it’s hard to be consistent with a bedtime. People always say that those who are most successful have a structure sleep schedule. But then again, aren’t the greatest ideas born at three am? Aren’t the best hours between two and five a.m.?
Who knows, but it’s pretty late. Maybe I should get some sleep.