I don’t know if insomnia comes naturally to me or if I artificially constructed it in a bid to get more time to just do things. Pointless, useless but absolutely vital to my mental health kind of things. I do know that it was so long ago – almost a decade – that I can’t really remember anymore. What I am left with is this – a large amount of information on mostly irrelevant things, a deeply intimate knowledge of every single hour the clock chimes after midnight and what looks like chronic sleep deprivation. I always used to pride myself on my ability to get by on 4 or less hours of sleep, night after night with perhaps a couple of nights every 10 days where I crash for 10 hours straight. Yes, I can get by. I don’t know if it is sheer dint of will or it’s the same thing that makes me sit, writing out essays, studying for exams at the very last minute when most people would be succumbing to a panic attack due to the absolute bleakness of prospects. Whatever this thing is – this ability to work under pressure, to put my mind under considerable strain, to just keep going – mentally at least – it used to be an asset. Now, as I get older, the toll it takes is getting harder and harder to ignore. The irritability I can always mask by overcompensating by being cheerful and considerate. The tiredness is combated by coffee and some secret reserve of manic energy. The health issues are not immediately visible and I am human enough to ignore them. And if it all gets a bit too much, I sleep for 8 hours for a couple of nights, get rid of the immediate signs of sleep deprivation and go right back to the same old routine. I don’t know why I don’t sleep on time –even when I have all the time in the world. Maybe I don’t like being left alone with nothing but my thoughts before sleep comes. Maybe I am too addicted to mental stimulation – even it is something as simple as reading. Maybe I just want to do too much and there aren’t enough hours in the day. I used to hope that getting to the why might help me figure out how to conquer sleep. Sometimes, when I am at my most brutally honest (and in the privacy of my mind, I always am –isn’t everyone?) I think maybe that it’s just a combination of laziness and an absolute lack of self-discipline. The thing is – here I sit on a train about to head to Delhi for another busy week. I have slept maybe 2 hours. I will not be getting sleep anytime soon. I am tired but I am so used to pushing that down and out of the way that tiredness is now something that flickers at the edge of consciousness, waving feebly. My tiredness is too tired to make itself felt. I think the problem is that I opened a browser page and googled nausea+lack of sleep and ended up on a page that listed the symptoms of lack of sleep. I think it is a serious reality check when I can identify with about 22 of 33 listed symptoms – ranging from fairly regular to semi-regular. I think this is a problem.
I think blurred eyesight and common headaches and sometimes tremors in my hand are a problem. I think nausea and a weakened immune system and just general tiredness is a problem. I think the fact that my physical stamina for exercise – never great to begin with – is completely shot through. I think it’s a problem that I have vivid dreams that merge into lucid dreaming and it’s hard to tell the difference. I think it’s a problem that sometimes I have dreams that I try to wake myself out of and I can feel my body not moving because of course we are put into a paralysis by our minds when we sleep and lucid dreaming and fighting your brain in your sleep isn’t probably good for the normal processes of sleep. I think that sometimes I feel off balance (literally) because my ENT system is probably a bit effed up too is a problem. I think that I keep picking something fresh to be anxious about every few months is a problem. I think it’s a problem that my memory is a bit not great in the last few weeks and I have noticed my speech patterns being not super fluent all the time is a problem. I think that I feel exhausted and emotional and reactionary is a problem. I think that my skin is a bit pasty underneath the brownness of itself is a problem. I think it’s a problem that my blood sugar and cholesterol and blood pressure all veer towards the high end of normal. I think its a problem that my eyesight used to be perfect and is definitely getting a bit worse as we go along. I think it’s a problem I am almost scared of sleep sometimes. I think it’s a problem that occasional morbidity is something I am too familiar with now. I think it’s a problem that I can’t seem to find the energy or mental concentration to write long things anymore if they aren’t necessary, like essays. I think it’s a problem that I can’t seem to wake up to one single alarm I think it’s a problem that I am sometimes too tired for simple social interaction on social media. I think it’s a problem that I am too tired to return messages and mails and phone calls and do basic things that I need to keep putting off because I.Am.So.Tired.
The good news is that these aren't horrifying, can’t be fixed issues. The bad news is that they could become that. The bad news is that they exist at all. The good news is that I can fix it. The bad news is I don’t know if I will. The good news is that I can see my flaws. The bad news is that I am not sure I won’t let them be till I keep on self-destructing in this most delicate and invisible of ways.
So why did I write all this down? Because I am a rational, very organized brain for all the chaos I create around me. Because if you have an enemy, even if (excuse my dramatics) the enemy is yourself, you need a battle plan. This is mine. This is a written, visceral reminder to myself about what lack of sleep is doing to me. Little by little. Every day. It’s encroaching on life. And there is nothing more I value than myself. Alive and well, preferably. So this is my battle plan. This is my blueprint of military strategies. This is my map of my strengths and weaknesses. And I am making this all public because, every military general needs accountability and second opinions and support and help in battle planning. This is how I conquer sleep. Thank you for your time.