Because sometimes a status update just isn't enough.

Because sometimes a status update just isn't enough.

21 June 2011

Insomnia 101

I don't sleep.  I haven't slept in 48 years, more or less, other than my two year or so affair with Ambien and possibly the first year or two of my life, which I can't remember so therefore don't count.  (GOD I miss Ambien.*) 

(*Author's note:   Remember the movie National Lampoon's European Vacation, when the daughter is pining for her boyfriend Jack, and they're in Germany and are served brats and sour kraut?  And she looks at the enormous sausage sitting on her plate and she says, "GOD I miss Jack!"  *snort*)

When I was a little girl, I would lie awake all night waiting to die.  I was pretty sure that if I fell asleep, the Lord my soul would take (thanks to that uber comforting children's prayer, "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep."  The part of "if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take" didn't become politically correct and leave out the death part until the 1980s or 90s.  Until then, children were encouraged to say their prayers and fear God because if they didn't, and happened to die during the night, they'd most likely wind up in Hell). Being a very logical child, I figured that if I didn't fall asleep, I wouldn't die.  (Right?  Makes sense, yes?)  Ergo, the location of my soul would not be an issue.  

My mother went nuts trying to make me sleep.  I was plied with hot milk and honey, cough syrup, and even red wine (again, this was not the politically correct era of the recent past, where destroying your children's brain cells is frowned upon.  This was in the 60s and 70s, when parents were encouraged to drug their children into good behavior) and would still be wide awake, covers clutched against my chin, little body shaking in fear, waiting for the Angel of Death to come and collect me.  I wasn't trying to be naughty, I was just trying to stay alive, dammit.

When I was about 7, our parents left  us with an old German woman as our babysitter.  Since my dad was a high school principal, we usually got really cool cheer-leaders and drum majorettes to come hang out with us while our parents went out, but for some reason, this time we got Freu Hitler.  (I'm thinking my mother got a little tired of perky teen-age babysitters telling us about their boyfriends and allowing us to misbehave, and kinda hoped that the Freu would whip us into submission and, even better, force me to go to bed and fall asleep.)  After an evening of absolutely no fun,  I was still wide awake at midnight and Freu was getting annoyed.  Finally, she asked me why I wouldn't go to sleep.  I explained about dying before I woke (seriously, in all my years of wakefulness no one had ever thought to ask me what the problem was) and to my surprise, she suddenly became very soft and sweet and told me bedtime stories about her childhood in Germany and promised to sit by me all night so that I wouldn't be over-taken by The Lord and His Army of Death Angels.  

(I found out when I was much older that when my parents got home, Freu Hitler chewed my mother a new ass about teaching me such a horrible bedtime prayer and informed my parents why their daughter hadn't slept since she was two.)

The next day, my mother taught me The Lord's Prayer.  

Turns out, she was 7 years too late.  Once a childhood insomniac, always a childhood insomniac.  My parents felt so guilty about ruining my life (my interpretation, not necessarily theirs) that I was generally catered to about all of my sleep fears.  If  a brand new frilly yellow bedspread is what I needed to help me feel safe at night, I had it. A new teddy bear?  Nuff said... here ya go!  Hot milk and a cookie?  No problem!  Just freaking fall asleep already!!!  (They never said that exactly but trust me when I say it was implied.)  

(My grandmother solved the problem quite simply by feeding me liquor and a cookie every night at bedtime when I would stay at her house.  I slept like a baby there.  Not only do French women not get fat, they don't have an issue with giving small children goblets of Creme de Menthe or Amaretto to encourage a good night's sleep.  This led to a slight issue of me expecting to be served a cocktail in the evening before dinner, also, but that's a different story.)  

Adding to my nighttime phobias was a rerun of Lassie, which featured Timmy befriending a blind boy.  I do not remember anything about this episode except the part where the blind boy was explaining to Timmy about the day he went blind.  He said (and I remember the exact words to this day because they had such a huge impact on my life), "Then one day the lights when out and I was blind."

Did I mention how I was quite a literal little girl?  

I took this to mean that someone flicked off the light switch and when they turned it back on, he was blind.  Are you following me?  Darkness = You Go Blind.  

This created my intense fear of the dark.  I was convinced that every time the lights were turned off, there was a high probability that when they came back on, I would be stricken blind.  Once again, my poor parents, in a desperate attempt to get some sleep, catered to my whims.  A pretty green Josef's Original figuring nightlight was set up on my yellow dresser and I would open my eyes frequently throughout the night to look at it and make sure I could still see.  

Looking back, it occurs to me that I was an enormous pain in the ass.  (Not to mention more than a little weird.)  

Who knew?

I did eventually grow out of my fear of being rendered blind, and I did stop fearing the Lord and His Soul Snatchers, but I never figured out how to fall asleep.  

Last night, as I was lying in bed listening to Dan fart and snore, Maisy fart and snore, Trailer Trash Barbie"s little dogs yapping their asses off, crickets chirping and Mr. Awesome banging his latest floozy, I tried desperately to turn off my brain and just fade into nothing-ness.  Unfortunately, every 5 minutes or so my eyes would pop open and I would glance at the bedside clock, with it's glowing numbers, and feel an intense relief that I wasn't blind.  Or dead.  

Therapy, anyone?


  1. You left out Little House on the Prairie - I'm pretty sure Mary went blind while she was asleep, too.

  2. Nooooo Mary had Scarlet Fever!!! If she had gone blind while sleeping I'm pretty sure I would have had my eyelids sewn open. Because I was real sane and logical like that as a child.


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