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I’m a lifelong insomniac. Check it out. Don’t I look like some jacked up three year old? Seriously, my Mom had to invent a nightly ritual of “Get your drinks and potty and get to bed!” This probably helped my sisters from catching the disease from me. I’m sure I wanted company when I crept out to watch TV when I was supposed to be sleeping and had I been left to corrupt them, well.

After I was denied my excuses, I still had to occupy myself during my non sleep. I remember gazing down from the top bunk to look at my sister across the room, with her ringlet curls splayed out on her pillow. (Shampoo salesmen would kill for a picture of that) I used to fold that satiny edge of the blanket into triangles again and again until it fell apart, only to try again and see if this time I could get all the way across. I used to make odd popping sounds in the back of my throat, for hours on end. (hopefully my sisters didn’t end up with a psychological hang up about similar sounds) I used to “swim” to the bottom of my tightly tucked sheets and explore the deep ocean just like Flipper did.

As I grew, I coped as best I could. I was never the most well adjusted kid, but I made it out of there alive. One day, however, I learned that if you sound hysterical enough, you can excuse your own self from school. After my beloved Grandma passed, for a while there was an excess of Tylenol 3 around the house. One night I was desperate enough to see if it would help me sleep.

Well. Yes. It did. I woke up from a nightmare of swirling colors only to find it didn’t matter that my eyes were open. I wasn’t sure if I would ever really wake up. I really glommed on to the song  Bad by U2. Think, a young Bono screaming, “I’m wide awake! I’m not sleeping, oh no no.

After moving out of the family home, I slept much better. It was not until I learned by a painful empty stomach that Excedrin puts caffeine in their headache formula, that I suspected I had a very bad reaction to caffeine. Turns out, I prefer 7up to RC Cola, the two pops my Pop would bring home regularly. I determined that for me, a soda drank at 5 pm would keep me up til 5 am, only for the alarm to go off a short while later. Symptoms were, a yucky stomach, shakes, heart palpitations and breaking out into random rotating accents.

For decades, I religiously avoided caffeine, barring the incidental stuff you get in Chocolate. Then, one day on vacation, it was early and I didn’t have to get to sleep at any particular time and I drank half of John’s Dr. Pepper. Wow! No wonder people are hooked on this stuff. I felt it zinging through me veins trailing delightful happiness in its wake. So, some time later, I was very tired working my swing shift and I thought, Hells, I’m going to get me a Coca Cola from the vending machine. I warned my co-workers that I might spontaneously start mimicking Crocodile Dundee, but I was amazed that it only gently nudged me into being a bit more alert.

I work a difficult shift, even now, when I no longer take the swing shift, and even with the benefit of prescription meds, I have an occasional bout of sleeplessness. I have a special med in reserve, for those times when it seems there is a pattern developing. Not long ago I used it. The next day at work was difficult. I was working in the inspection department, a darkened room, where I am to search for microscopic flaws in glass. So there I am at my microscope, dazedly spinning my part around when, my eyes just would not focus on the part. Crap! This is my job. This is why I was asked back to work after a three week furlough. And I can’t actually see the part I am inspecting. Lovely.

So, once more to the vending machine, dear friends. I got me a nice little 16 oz Coca Cola around 10 am. No matter that I need to be asleep well before 10 pm, I have drugs, I have good drugs. Well, this strategy seemed to be working quite well, until after lunch. I pinched myself, I got a glass of ice cold water, I walked outside with out a jacket, I left my jacket off, but finally threw caution to the wind (caution???) and sprang for a 16 oz Dr. Pepper. The universe tried to talk me out of it. The vending machine stole a $1.50 from me, and even when I insisted on paying double, it tried to keep the bottle capped. But I persevered, egged on by previous successes with tight lids and a growing desperation, I soon downed my second caffeine clogged sugary concoction of the day.

I managed the rest of my shift, quite chilled with my ventilation fan and no jacket. John and I watched the conclusion of a very intense TV series and the tension I felt during the climax raised my shoulders to my ears. Okay. Then the show was over and my shoulders are still high. My lovely guy helped calm me and I was able to get to sleep with the normal dose of Rx. I didn’t dare pull out the big guns since I had to make a 2 hour drive the following day. Still, it was a very interesting drive that left me with a sore throat and bruised inner thighs and red cheeks.

So, last night, I was so tired I wasn’t sure if I had even taken my Rx. I decided to take 2 thirds of the dose, in case there was some already in my system. It wasn’t until I should have been asleep 3 hours ago, that I remembered some tricks for sleeping when you find it difficult. A few Ohms and I was able to sleep, somewhat fitfully for the next 4 hours. I didn’t stress out about it. I told myself I could cope. Even with out caffeine. Really. But oh, if caffeine could only be a sane option for me…

Strange how when I am overtired, I can feel the little shocks of adrenaline coursing through my veins in a familiar way. It’s all good. I made it through my shift, through my 35 mile commute to arrive home safely and slightly dopey. A fine time to write a blog.

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Comments on: "Caffeine, Caffeine, my kingdom for caffeine" (8)

  1. You know, I snuck out to watch TV at least once. 🙂 I don’t think I knew your struggles have been going on for that long.

    • I think a lot of people don’t believe someone can be a lifelong insomniac. I don’t know if I even believe it. But, I haven’t been sleeping well lately, so that accounts for my seeming contrariness. 😛

  2. I snuck out to watch TV too, at least once. Probably more. I won’t comment more for fear of sounding like a psychologist!

    • Well, I don’t care if you sound like a psychologist, but I understand if you can’t. I would love to hear more of your thoughts, though.

  3. I think you have a very powerful computer in your brain and it is capable of running many subsystems. I have days where I am concerned I will not feel rested because my brain refuses to shut off but more often than not I feel just as rested after a period of laying still. I don’t know if it’s part of the Navy sleep deprivation training but the less I fight not being able to sleep the more comfortable the rest period. Do you have the option to take naps throughout the day? Maybe you aren’t meant to be a long sleep period person? Do you always sleep in the same place? Switching up may change the way your pattern is running. My favorite place to nap is propped against something cool in a sitting up position, like a file cabinet or under the counter in the kitchen with a comfy jacket on for cushion. I would imagine you don’t miss much in the world around you as you are always awake to notice… My empathy box is trying to gauge what insomnia feels like… I think I would become a ramblin’ woman and travel like a hobo just watching the world interactions, developing sequences and connections that may not exist, and randomly passing out like a narcoleptic… Here’s a random thought…Slaying the Sleep Dragon with the Circadian Rhythm. I think it would be a slightly awesome title to something. I would like to tell you now that I did read your blog entry and I liked seeing this moment of you. Thank you for sharing Elaine!

    • Routine is very important to the insomniac. Google sleep hygiene. It’s not about taking a shower before bed, or anything like that! It’s all about creating a routine, schedule, or even ritual before bed, and it is key that you do everything exactly the same, as much as you can.

      Before my adventures with medications, I could be relied upon to drive the wee hours of a continuous road trip. There was no possibility I would drift off to sleep or even lose my focus, because it is impossible for me to sleep in anything less than ideal conditions.

      I don’t consider backpacking trips, mostly for this reason. A hobo I will never be. Unless it is a wild eyed insane hobo who never sleeps and has lost track of reality. The only interactions I would observe would be hallucinatory ones, I fear.

      I would really like to experiment with finding my own natural rhythms for sleep, but no luck winning the lottery so far. I am doomed to arrange my schedule around employers. Sigh. But I suspect the results of such an experiment would prove that I only need to provide myself with a sleep schedule, regardless of when it is.

      I totally get what you are saying about just having a rest period. I have a tendency to get real excited when I don’t sleep well, anticipating disproportional disaster. Not real good for inducing relaxation.

      Happily, during my latest riffle of sleep derivation, I chose to ride it out peacefully. I told myself I will be just fine if I haven’t had enough sleep. I can deal with the difficulties it presents, and I will get a good nights sleep in the coming hours.

      And I did. I slept well last night. 🙂

  4. Writing by Kendra said:

    As a result of life-long bipolar, I have also had sleep issues all my life. Most of the time it’s because my brain won’t shut off and so I’m awake more than sanity allows. Even when severely depressed and I end up sleeping more at one time, I’m up longer afterwards.

    If I sleep more than six hours, I’m up far longer than I should be. For example: if I sleep for 7 or 8 hours, I’m up for almost 24 hours afterward. If I sleep for 9 hours (rarely, even when depressed), I don’t go back to bed for almost 36 hours.

    You learn to live with it, one way or another.

  5. Reblogged this on Taciturn No Mo and commented:
    This is my other identity. Just a little background on one of my major disorders. Plus, I like that goofy picture of me.

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