When that time comes as early as 3:15 a.m., it tends not to bode well for the rest of your day, but you know it's as good as you're going to get.
Night has turned into a dreaded time for me. My fevers rage, for no reason, and I sweat and get sticky. The aches of my day must be accounted for - they make themselves known in ways and places that seem impossible, but are normal to me. I toss and turn - top to bottom, back again - and twist myself up, inside and out.
When I'm 'sleeping', it's like being barely under the surface - feeling every twinge, every twitch; hearing every sound; gluing my eyelids shut against the dawn. I struggle to stay 'asleep:' to go deeper, to go under, if just for a few minutes. I want to claim just a few blessed minutes of peace for myself. But I'm just aware enough to panic if the sleep starts to get real, as if I might drown in it, and I freeze in terror at the thought. I'm stuck there, in this half-sleep state, unable to surface, unable to sink.
Which is when the fun really begins. The debates (with myself) about sleeping pills, which really only make me drowsier, which is not something I need help with.
The deep breathing/meditation routine I've got down pat, but by the third time it gets old, and I'm still not asleep. The internal battle over windows open or closed/blankets on or off/pillows up or down/radio babbling or silent. And, finally, the frustration gets to be too much, and the light goes on while I grab for my book, or the TV clicks, blue light floods the room.
Or I come here, where I ramble on about not being able to sleep, and question whether it's coherent enough to post.
“Chronic suffering creates its own chronic sense of time – a thick, stoical knowledge of how long a day takes to be digested, and of the secret folds and crease of time that a sleepless night conceals. Each portion of the twenty-four hours has its own touchy mood as well. The hours before midnight are sometimes hopeful; the darkness seems fresh, and almost like sleep. Even the minutes between one and two a.m. have their mild drama, the sense of a solitary tryst with the self. And in the middle of the night, the need to be brave for the sake of others is mercifully suspended. Everyone else is asleep. Bodies are at rest.
But the time just before dawn requires serious negotiation. These are scary, bottomless hours. It’s as if every night at four a.m. you have to sign a new contract, with many little riders, agreeing to wake up the next day. And this is when the prospect of going under becomes seductive. Struggle seems bogus, the work of a bad actor. At four a.m. fear and the imagination take over, interpreting every new symptom as hemorrhagic stroke and heart attack. Tumors are nocturnal. Like a dog with a bone, the pain runs away with you.
Then there is the loneliness. No one else is up at these hours, and if they are, they don’t want to be. Partners brew tea, droop, and chain-yawn. Even books seemed closed and shuttered for the night. Late-night radio channels voices from the other side – a kind of wacky Australia of exiles from the day light world. Only wolves, ghosts, new mothers, jazz DJs, and people in pain inhabit this corner of the night.
At four a.m., you have no choice but to lie there and accept the weight of time. Lie submerged in it like a boulder in a cold stream, half in the water, half breaching the air. You are bestride two elements now, like an artist in dialogue with the self. Pain has split you into the subject and the object, where, like Emily Dickinson, you can observe yourself decked out in the coffin of the moment.” Marni Jackson, Pain: the 5th Vital Sign