An excerpt from the book I’ve been working on – tentatively entitled Countdown to a Meltdown. Trigger warning for in-depth descriptions of sensory issues & balance issues, as well as a little bit of interpersonal conflict.
For many people, 5:00 is the perfect time to get up. It’s quiet. The rest of the world is still sleeping. Being up at 5:00 gives them plenty of time to get ready for work and head into the office by 7:00, and get a running start on the day. Many of my coworkers start early and end their day early. They work from 7:00 till 3:30 – and they take a whole hour for lunch. They have kids to get to school and care for. Their lives require them to be early birds.
I, on the other hand, have no children, and I prefer to work a later schedule. I generally get in around 9:30, so I miss the heaviest commute traffic, and then I work I work till 6:00 p.m. or so. Or I don’t take lunch and get to leave earlier.
Starting later means finishing later – not just with work, but with my whole day. Whereas some of my co-workers are in bed and asleep by 9:00 p.m., I’m usually up till at least 11:00 at night. Sometimes later. I try to get in bed at what I consider a reasonable hour (before 11:00), but it doesn’t always work out that way.
Lately there’s been a lot of that. For days on end I haven’t been able to get to sleep till nearly midnight. I’ve been nervous from the pressures at work. I’ve been in pain, with my body locking up from too much stationary sitting. All day, every day, I’ve been sitting nearly motionless at my desk, and my body pays the price in aches and pains. And sleeplessness. Irritation. Agitation. Every day, every night, my sleep deficit increases, and I’m keenly aware of it, as I glare at my alarm clock this morning, begrudging the early hour, anxious to get back to sleep.
I roll over slowly and curl up tight under the covers, trying to move my body into a comfortable position. Eventually I find a position that feels right, and I try to rest, but I cannot relax. I’m dizzy. The room is spinning. Again. And I didn’t even have anything alcoholic to drink last night.
I try another position that feels more stable, carefully moving so that I don’t pull the covers off my partner, who is fast asleep beside me. The silent peace of sleep, the sensation of floating gently on drifting currents, is gone. The bed feels like it’s heaving beneath me like a ship on stormy seas. I have surfaced into what feels like a building storm.
Outside, the birds are starting to sing, and their sporadic symphony of early morning song fills my head. I roll over slowly, feeling the smooth sheet beneath me, trying to quiet my body and mind, but it’s not working. I rearrange my arms… reposition my legs… deep breathe in and out, counting 1… 2… 3… 4… trying to focus wholly on my breath. But it’s not working. I feel acutely fatigued, but I’m unable to do anything about it. Not with the bed rocking beneath me. Not with the room spinning slowly. Not with the sound of the birds. Not with the day before me, as my mind envisions it – planned and plotted out.
Outside, the morning light strengthens, and I look at the clock again.
It’s 6:00 a.m., and I am beside myself with frustration. The room is still, all is silent, and I know the bed is not moving. But I cannot seem to get myself righted. I’ve been trying to think of other things than the virtual movement of my bed – breathing to the count of 4 and back… relaxing y body… running through my lists of the day. The distraction has helped. So has lying flat on my stomach with my arms outstretched to give myself a sense of stability. I’ve tried to close my eyes a number of times, in hopes of getting back to sleep, but when I do that, my head starts to spin again, and I am jolted awake. I feel like if I move, I’ll fall out of bed completely. My stomach turns with sick reaction to something I know is not happening.
I am tired… so tired. And I’m not getting back to sleep.
This is pointless
Frustrated, I decide to just get up. If I’m going to be sick on my stomach, I might as well get on with my day.
I try to rise, but my body isn’t cooperating. My arms and legs aren’t doing what I tell them. With a heave of my weight to get some momentum, I clumsily stumble out of bed. When my feet hit the floor with a loud thud, my partner stirs and complains gruffly that I’m too loud.
“Too loud!” she exclaims, startled from her deep sleep.
Her voice sounds first faint, then reverberates in my head, and I try to think of something to say. But my head is spinning, and I have to quickly reach out to the wall to keep myself from falling. Steadying myself with one hand on the cool plaster, I try to locate my slippers with one foot while I steady myself on the other, and mumble, “Sorry…”
“Too loud!” my beloved says again. “You shouldn’t just throw yourself out of bed! You need to move more slowly in the morning!” Then she turns over and pulls the covers up around her ears.
She often grouses when I “throw myself out of bed,” worried that I’m not being gentle with myself. Plus, I’m waking her up. I don’t always rise with such noisy force, but today is one of those days.
I want to tell her that I can’t move slowly, because if I don’t heave myself up, I won’t be able to get up at all. I’m dizzy. The room is spinning. My arms and legs aren’t cooperating. The only thing in my favor is the weight I can push in a certain direction that might – just might – land me upright beside the bed. But the words don’t come. Only a flash of nauseous temper flares up in me. I pull on my “knockabout” sweatshirt – the same one I pull on over my pajama top each morning, when I get up – and push up the sleeves. The feel of fabric on my wrists – especially cuffs with seams on the inside – chafes and irritates me, and I pull the elastic up around my forearms, just below my elbows.
I need to just get into the day. Just get on with it, already, I think to myself. I have a lot to do, and even if I am in rough shape today, I just have to do it. I try to move quietly, so I don’t wake up my partner any more than I already have. But she’s rolled over and gone back to sleep, and as I hear her breathing deepen, a pang of envy shoots through me, that she can relax so easily.
She’s always been able to just roll over and go back to sleep.
I have never, ever been so lucky.