Tag Archive: insomnia


It’s about 2:2o in the morning.  I got into bed 90 minutes ago and in that time, I’m not sure how many times I’ve fallen asleep and woken up.  All I know is that every time I open my eyes, I look over at the clock glowing in the darkness and I wonder how it’s possible that so little time has passed. 

I’ve resorted to turning on the TV.  Late at night, Channel 27 stops showing old episodes of Cops and starts showing infomercials.  Sometimes, if I’m lucky, it’ll be a good infomercial like the one for the shakeweight or one of those Songs By People You’ve Never Heard Of music collections.  Tonight, however, our infomercial is for Peter Popoff, a loud and shrill preacher who apparently can heal the sick by touching them.  Even more importantly, if you call him, you can get “free miracle spring water” along with what is described as being a “faith tool.”  I’m not sure what the tool is but apparently, if you get it, you can supernaturally cancel your financial debts.  That’s what the man claims.

Much of what Popoff says makes no sense, on either a logical or a theological level.  Popoff screams, “God wants you to be rich!” in between footage of some old woman jumping out of a wheelchair and dancing.  “Oh!  OH!”  Popoff screams, “she’s dancing!  SHE’S DANCING!  SHE’S GOING TO DO A LITTLE DANCE!”

Peter Popoff -- HEALER!

I hit mute because Popoff’s shrill voice is starting to give me a headache.  I watch as Popoff now silently yells and more people jump out of wheelchairs and toss crutches to the ground.  I notice that almost everyone in the audience is black yet Popoff is very, very white and I wonder why I feel guilty about spotting this.

Graphics flash on the screen.  “Cancel your debt!”  they announce.  Men and women — almost all of them black, almost all of them old — are now silently giving testimonials on the TV.  The closed captioning kicks in and I watch their words flash across the screen.  “I had lost everything…” scrolls across the bottom of the screen.

Suddenly, Peter Popoff and a woman I assume to be his wife are both on-screen.  Popoff is waving around a piece of paper.  I have to look away because I feel like I’m staring at the devil.

From what I’ve seen, Peter Popoff’s claim is that God wants you to be rich.  And who am I to say he’s wrong?  I’m a fallen sinner, after all.  I was raised Catholic.  I grew up wondering if I would ever be strong enough to take vows of silence, chastity, or poverty.  (And the answer turned out to be no for all three.)  Who am I to judge this ranting, scary-looking, lumbering creature who clams he can heal and who claims he can magically erase all of my problems?  Who am I to disagree with a man who buys airtime just so he can claim to be God?

Peter Popoff and friend

I’m nothing but a doubter and late night television infomercials have no use for the doubter or the skeptic.  No, infomercials are all about celebrating the fact that people will believe anything as long as it’s on TV.

It’s hard for me to believe that there was a time before I become a doubter.  This was when I could still look at a priest without wondering if he was going to be arrested on sex abuse charges.  This was when I still believed that men and women were capable of doing things out of their kindness of their heart and nothing more.  This was back when I still believed that mom and dad would be married forever and that neither of them would ever leave me behind.  This was back when I believed that happiness was something more than just an interval between pain.  In my heart, this feels like it was a very long time ago.

And back then, I so admired the men and women who chose to devote their lives to serving God.  I admired them because, unlike Peter Popoff, they served God with the knowledge that it would mean being poor and  that it would mean sacrificing everything that spoiled little girls like me took for granted.  I looked at them and I wondered how can they be so strong

And, today, I just look at them and I wonder if they were all just Peter Popoff in disguise. 

I look back up at Peter Popoff.  The closed captioning informs me that Peter is telling us that God wants us to be rich.  You cannot serve God and money, I think, that’s from the Gospel of Saint Luke.  Chapter 16, verse 13.

Enough of this.  Searching for my last faith isn’t going to help my insomnia.  I pick up the remote and lift it towards the TV, just in time to see that Peter Popoff is finished. 

Instead, Peter Popoff has been replaced with a new infomercial, this one for the Strap Perfect.  The closed captioning tell me that “Strap Perfect is the perfect solution for your bra strap problems.  Stop wrestling with stubborn bra straps…”

I point the remote at the TV and quickly turn the volume back up.

As Seen On TV

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Insomnia

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.

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