It doesn’t take much for me to stay up all night. A good book, a great app, or even a great writing idea that ends up being typed poorly on my phone so I don’t miss good stuff. It takes even less to keep me up if I wake up in the middle of the night. But all rules and habits go out the window if I forget my medicine.
Two nights ago, my family and I woke up to a triggered smoke detector. Well, six of them. If one goes off, they all go off. The house was fine, but I couldn’t figure out what had set it off. This was about 4am. About 25 minutes later, it went off again. I got up again, and rushed upstairs. I listened carefully for the triggering detector. Finally, I pinned it. One of them had a low battery. We all went back to bed and I prayed that I’d get some sleep. God wasn’t helping me count sheep, however.
I was up until sunrise, at which time I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a dozen trucks. I felt like crap, I looked like crap, and I could hardly think. Writing was out of the question. My contract work? Not on the table. I cleaned, I organized, I gathered notes from a couple of projects, and generally got my crap together. I cooked up a bunch of steak, and Jenny made Fettuccine Alfredo. We had Red over for dinner, and she brought a lemon tart, and her amazing salad. After Red went home, we got ready for bed and headed down.
I fell asleep quickly, totally bushed from the night before. At 1:00 am, I woke up from a nightmare. Nightmares are a rare occurrence for me, thanks to effective medication, so this was a little unsettling. Nothing too bad, though. I soothed my brain, reminding it that isn’t my job to keep birds off of the Statue of Liberty, nor is it my job to put monkeys on death row. I watched a cute video, shared it to my Facebook page, and relaxed. Anxiety calmed, I snuggled up with an extra pillow, put a German lesson in my ears, and settled down to sleep.
Two lessons later, it is now after 3 am. I find myself languishing in bed. I am hot. I feel stuck in bed, and unable to relax. I find my eyes focusing on the evil little light of our smoke detector. You don’t see where this is going, despite my meme.
My brain started running in circles, I wrote some notes on my phone, as ever careful to capture my creative brain. I turned off my German lesson and put on some country music. But I still couldn’t relax all the way. I mean, come on, did I miss my meds or something?
Oh, shit. I realize I hadn’t taken my medicine on time (a delay of less than five hours), so I went upstairs, took my medicine, and went back to bed. I continued to be awake for a couple more hours. I did manage to sleep a few more hours, thankfully. I really did have a lot of work today, and couldn’t afford to be a zombie about it.
Today, I set myself an extra timer to remind me to take my medicine. This is a stupid mistake to make, but it shows me just how much my medication helps me. It doesn’t change who I am, but it does make it easier to relax, to be realistic, and to get some freaking sleep.
The moral of the story is this: Being self-aware, truly, truly introspective, is one of the most useful tools someone with mental illness can put in their tool box. I’m still working on this tool. I’ve been making an effort for over eight years now, and I’m still not perfect, but the work is paying off.