Silence. No sounds except the in and out of my own breath and the whoosh of the air from the furnace.
No IV humming. No nurses chatting. No roommate’s annoying bed motor. No intercom pages or codes. No unknown beeping. No fast clicking of doctors’ high heels on the linoleum floor. No other patients trying to distract themselves through talking.
Who can sleep under these circumstances? You’d think I could. After all, I’m home from the hospital and that should solve all my sleep problems right? However, at night when all falls quiet, my thoughts are anything but.
When night comes and I can’t escape the quiet, I take my sleeping pill and rest dreamless and peaceful, untroubled by feelings of fear, worry and sorrow.
But it’s 3 am and I’ve forgotten to take my beloved pill. Thanks to my intravenous (IV) drug regiment of foscarnet, sometimes my brain gets fuzzy and I forget things I would normally remember. My 3 am clouded logic reasons that if I take my sleeping pill now, its’ effects will bleed into my day and that is unacceptable.
I toss and turn and the silence is like a key in my brain, unlocking everything I’ve kept in a strongbox during the day. Fear and anxiety balloon inside me, raising questions I don’t know the answers to. I worry about the fact that with everything my body’s going through it needs a good night’s rest, but I’m not getting it, and the realization only seems to make the situation worse and sleep more impossible to obtain.
My frustration increases, because it comes to endurance, independence and control, I am an expert. I can make my body stay absolutely still without the aid of a sedative during a heart biopsy. I can stop myself from jumping out of my skin when facing the fourth day of a five day week of hospital intravenous (IV) infusions. I can force down pills while facing incredible nausea. I can talk my legs into taking another step, and I can convince my bladder to hold on until I make it to the bathroom, even when I’ve just gotten a litre of fluid from my IV. But somehow I’ve never been able to master the art of making myself go to sleep through sheer will.
I blame this inability on a few factors. One is that in my experience when you push something down, it is bound to come back up, and usually at the most inconvenient moment. The tight control I had over my emotions during the day dissolves as I relax and my guard comes down. Suddenly everything I didn’t want to think about is rushing in without my permission.
The second factor is after spending a lot of my life waiting, resting, and recovering, part of me likes the old adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Although I know my body works better when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I resent the need to rest.
I sleep best when it is light out and I can hear the noise of my family around me. There is something about the darkness and solitude of night that brings up my worst fears. What if I fall asleep and don’t wake up? What if I dreamed my family and I’m really just here all alone? What if night is just some terrible purgatory I’m permanently stuck in? Night deepens and becomes an inky black hell as my insomnia-addled brain gives up reason and runs free like the boys in “The Lord of the Flies.”
Time passes until faint morning light begins to seep through my blinds. It’s 5:30 am and I can hear my Dad in the kitchen beginning his day. Suddenly both the night and the silence have ended and as I drift easily off to sleep, I promise myself I won’t forget my pill again.