For as long as I can remember, there have been nights when I’ve been held prisoner by insomnia.
Tonight is one of those nights.
Some of it has to do with the fact that I’m a naturally hyper person. In my family, I’m notorious for being the one who can’t sit still, the one who can only be happy if she’s listening to the sound of her own voice. My oldest sister once told me that I had the ability to tell the longest stories about absolutely nothing. When I was growing up, my mom always used to say, “Slow down and breathe, Lisa Marie. Slow down and breathe.” It was good advice then and it’s good advice now.
Some of my insomnia has to do with the various meds I take. When I first left home for college, I’d regularly pop seven or eight capsules of Dexedrine every morning and stay up for four or five days straight. The third day was always the best. That was when my mind was tired enough to be open to any idea yet still so energized that it could explore those ideas. By the fourth or fifth day, I would lie often find myself simply lying in bed and staring up at the ceiling, fascinated and frightened by the shadows taking shape above me. When sleep did come, it was the most wonderful and precious sleep that I’d ever had. It was almost worth staying up for those five days just to get to sleep for 5 wonderful hours.
Of course, there were drawbacks. Nothing is ever perfect, is it? I’ve always suffered from asthma and not sleeping for days at a time certainly did not help my breathing. Sometimes, by the time I finally went to sleep, it felt as if my heart was literally about to explode from my chest. As much as I loved the way Dexedrine focused my mind, my friends complained that I was now distant and defensive. And why wouldn’t I be? I knew how they’d react if they knew the real reason why I was behaving the way I was. I knew they’d sit me down and tell me about all the dangers and it wasn’t something I wanted to hear. It was easier to just force them away on my own terms as opposed to having them abandon me on their’s.
I can still remember once trying to drive five simple miles after having been awake for five days. Sitting in the passenger’s seat was my roommate, Kim. After the third time that I nearly crashed while trying to change lanes, Kim ordered me to pull over and let her drive. For years afterwards, I was so very mad at her for that. Its only recently that I realized she wasn’t trying to make me feel like a child. She was simply trying to get across town without getting killed.
Dexedrine not only eliminated my need to sleep but it also eliminated my need to eat. Now, to be honest, this seemed like a pretty good deal at first. Sometimes, it still does. However, by the end of my first spring semester, I was 5’5 and I barely weighed 100 pounds. When I went home for the break before starting my summer classes, I spent my days feeling listless and weak. My voice was hoarse from days of talking nonstop. My mom asked me if I was sick and I said I was just tired. It had been a long semester. She never asked me if I was abusing my meds but there was something in the way she looked at me. It may have been my own paranoia or maybe she had figured it all out. At the time, all I knew was that I couldn’t continue doing what I was doing.
It wasn’t just the Dexedrine, of course. I’ve always had a tendency to be self-destructive and abusing my meds was just the latest manifestation. All of my life, I’ve indulged in behaviors that, taken alone, posed no threat. Only when combined did they become dangerous. At that time, Dexedrine was just one of the bigger parts of that combination.
I still take Dexedrine for ADD. I take 2 capsules a day and, for the most part, they do their job well. However, depending on when I take them, they do sometimes still keep me up. More often than not, I still have to remind myself to go to bed. Some nights, that reminder is all it takes.
This is not one of those nights.
And then there’s the other things that keep me up. These are the parts of my life that I still have trouble talking about. I hint about them. I write lots of poems about them. But I still can’t bring myself to speak of them aloud. I wish I could and someday, I know I’ll have to. But that day is not today. These are the things that still haunt me when I sleep. These are things that I try to hide in the darkest parts of my mind. I hide them there because I know if I reveal them, most people will no longer look at me and see Lisa. Instead, they’ll just see another victim. That’s probably my greatest fear, to be defined by the actions of others as opposed to being defined on the basis of who I am.
I am not a victim because, in the end, the day is mine.
And someday soon, the night will be too.