Almost everything that brought me joy as a child has been crushed by the realities of “adulting” (except for pizza rolls, those are still pretty kickass). Back in the day, I thought being an adult meant I could eat whatever the hell I wanted, when I wanted. Wrong. Adult diets are ruled by aging bodies and nutritionists forcing ungodly amounts of fruits, herbs, and veggies down our throats. No one on earth has the time to eat all this stuff in a single day, so we shove everything into blender and grind out Technicolor smoothies in desperate efforts to regulate our menstrual cycles, or have a successful bowel movement. Welcome to adulthood.
When I was a kid, I thought staying up all night was the bees-knees (is this even the correct spelling for that term?) I remember getting excited when my bedtime was pushed from 8 to 8:30*, and every New Year’s Day, I proudly exclaimed how I had stayed awake through an entire night (which meant I promptly fell asleep at 12:07 AM.) But, being a kid, I was stupid. In fact, I’ve found a lot of what I thought was cool as a kid has turned out to be the opposite.
Beanie Babies are worthless. Earning $3/hour at any job is not a livable wage. Sour Starburst won’t be manufactured forever.
As for staying up all night? It blows. My eight year old self would look at a 2:00 AM clock and celebrate. Twenty-eight year old me sees 2:00 AM and doesn’t even bother crying anymore. It’s the new normal. Others in my family have struggled with insomnia for years, and I used to send them tiny bits of sympathy before I curled up in bed and slept for ten straight hours. I asked them why they never considered seeing a sleep specialist, or just drugged themselves into a coma-like state every night. I couldn’t imagine not being able to sleep, but it wasn’t my problem. I wasn’t worried about joining the Up All Night ranks. I should have been. Karma is a bitch.
I’m not sure what induced my insomnia. When I first moved to the Midwest, I thought maybe it was my unemployment. I was depressed, felt unproductive, and wanted to contribute to society. So, I went out and got a job. But, the work ended up being pretty terrible, and my sleep didn’t improve. For two years I went to work at a job I hated on five or three hours of adequate rest. To put it simply, I was a crotchety, sleep-deprived female in her mid-twenties who was losing faith in humanity. No one was winning this game. I quit, decided to chase my dream, and accepted the harsh reality that I, too, had been struck with the Stevenson curse, and entered the UAN ranks with gusto.
You see, unlike most people with insomnia, I have zero issues falling asleep. None. Nada. Zilch. I can fall asleep in seconds, and have success with this every night. The problem for me is staying asleep. It really shouldn’t be that hard, right? I mean, it’s a basic, human requirement. The body is all “hey, let’s eat food, maybe some chicken, and have a bit of water. After that? Rest would be nice.” I’m happy to oblige with all of the above, but my brain isn’t. It’s cool with the chicken and water, but sleep? It’s feelings towards it are temperamental. I’ll exhaust myself throughout the day, climb into bed, and drift off in peaceful slumbers, but a few hours later, usually around 3 AM, my brain is all “HEY! What are you doing? Sleeping? That’s boring. Let’s wake up and stare at the wall.”
I’m not cool with that.
When this first started to happen, I thought I was dying. Then I reeled back the melodrama and realized I was just falling in line with others in my family cursed with the same issue. A really great breakthrough occurred for the UAN crew when my dad installed a DVR and someone recorded all the Saved by the Bell episodes. The Christmas holidays were never better. I guess if you’re going to have insomnia, it’s nice to know there are others out there suffering along with you. I used to feel alone at night, lying awake and watching the clock. My husband doesn’t have insomnia. In fact, if he ever complains of not being able to sleep, I have to immediately drive him to the ER. I’ve seen him sleep seven hours of the day, and then twelve hours later that night. Me? If I take even a fifteen minute nap I’m @#$%^&. I can’t talk with him when I’m awake in the wee hours of the night. I’ve tried, but his end of the conversation sounds a lot like snoring. It’s not intellectually stimulating. But my sister? She’s my UAN buddy. She complains of having to “wake up at 4:45 AM every morning for work,” as the reason she’s tired on a daily basis, when really it’s because she’s awake at 1, 2, and 3 AM staring at the wall, binge watching The First 48, and Googling Vitamin C lyrics. It’s cool, because every now and then I’ll send her a text before the birds are even awake and we’ll share a virtual fist bump, and I don’t feel so alone.
Jordan asks me why I don’t see a sleep specialist, or drug myself into oblivion. He can’t imagine what it’s like to not sleep through the night. I understand now. It’s not always easy, and staying at other people’s houses is difficult, but I feel I’ve come to know my place in the UAN ranks. I get some of my best reading done when I can’t sleep, and I’ve found more hours to cram all those suggested health foods into my mouth hole. I have people I can talk to with a click of a button, and have more time to just be me. A creative mind craves solitude, and there is no environment more conducive for this than four o’clock in the morning. I’m not alone. I’m not weird, and I’m not sick. I’m just up all night.
– S.S. Dees
* I was definitely NOT excited for this. I cried. A lot.