Insomnia sucks. Period. Full Stop.
The benefit of sleeping extremely poorly for about four months after Longhaul Covid turned my already bad sleep situation into one that was slowly killing me was that I didn’t dream. I never slept deeply enough or long enough for dreams to happen. And in many ways, that was a good thing.
Ever since I was a kid, my dreams have been a playground for my worst fears, hosted by a cast of characters I wish lived only in the fictional realm. My first reoccurring dream is one I still remember vividly, I was in my suburban New York home and heard huge footsteps that told me King Kong was coming.
I knew we needed to get the hell out of there because, as the movie showed me, King Kong didn’t mess around and loved stomping on people or putting them in his mouth before throwing them hard into buildings and such.
But the problem wasn’t King Kong. The problem was my mother. She kept insisting that I go get a sweater before we leave, and I couldn’t find my sweater. In fact, looking back, I don’t know if I even owned a sweater at age 5. You see the problem.
Mom wouldn’t leave, and I couldn’t go without her. King Kong was coming, and we were about to get got.
It sounds silly now. It didn’t feel silly then.
A certain segment of my dreams always have felt very real. They don’t happen frequently, but when they do, they’re strong. They are the ones that affect me into the waking hours. It annoys the hell out of my wife sometimes — and rightly so. It annoys the hell out of me.
Last night, I had one of those dreams — one in which a cavalcade of people I’d rather forget had starring roles in a dream centered around high school graduation.
Now, I’m an extremely good dream interpreter. I’ve been doing it for friends since I was a kid. These kind of things are just clear to me. And what this dream was about was letting go of something from my past, battling through some really nasty obstacles that have haunted me for years, and finally arriving at my destination.
In the dream, the walk to my seat to get ready for graduation was done alongside someone to whom I was saying goodbye, someone whom I had walked through part of life on the journey to graduation. But it was a walk that hadn’t ended well, and I knew it was time to say goodbye. I didn’t want to say goodbye to this person, but I knew I had to, that it was 100 percent the right thing to do and that I needed to do it. And it hurt like hell.
But then I graduated. I walked with a broken foot down this long path, seeing different groups of all my classmates headed in the same direction, and I found my diploma, which turned out to be not the real thing but a menu to a restaurant. No worries, I thought. They’ll mail me the real one.
I immediately wanted to go find my wife, who was also graduating.
But I couldn’t find her I ran into a person who has been a huge obstacle for inner peace for me for a long time. In my waking life, I no longer want her to be a part of it. Sounds easy enough. It’s not.
In the dream, she put her arm around me and tried to tell me how proud she was of me, but all I wanted to do was get her off of me and Go. Find. My. Wife. This person was with a relative of mine, a cousin, and in the dream, this cousin had an incredibly pretentious and weird boyfriend I was meeting for the first time. I didn’t want to be a part of that situation. I wanted to Go. Find. My. Wife.
So I threw her arm off of me and walked forcefully away.
And then I found her. My wife. She was looking for me too. We hugged. I cried. She cried.
I woke up feeling … detached. As if I wasn’t me. I was sad. Exceedingly so. To the point where I feel like I sleepwalked through the first hour of my day. Waking Me was bruised by the hurtful goodbye. Waking Me felt that shit. Not just the goodbye but everything that goes along with hellos and goodbyes and all the stuff in between in any relationship. It’s something that consistently gnaws at me — how even the best relationships that last the longest end in tears when one person leaves. I have a good understanding that it’s the years in between that bring the laughter and the joy, but if it always ends in sadness and with a missing piece in the heart of the person left behind, well, what the heck is up with that?
As the day went on, things didn’t necessarily get better. I had a sleep doctor appointment and a chiropractor appointment and a brain doctor appointment, with a huge presentation and another meeting sandwiched in there, all followed by a bunch more work and then some familial duties to make dinner and clean stuff up. Which is only to say that I was busy.
But every time I slowed down, there’s was that dream. There was my modern-day King Kong thudding his way up the street to my house and I needed to find a goddamn sweater before I could get myself to safety.
As night falls, I have a deep appreciation for the journey in that dream. I absolutely adore the fact that I ended up in the arms of the person who matters most, the person who makes the entire shitty journey worthwhile. I have gained a much deeper appreciation over the past two weeks for the role my wife has played in my life from the day we first met as college freshman in 1992. In essence, she provided the safety and stability for my brain to finish its higher-functioning development, which allowed me to become the person I’m becoming today. Without her, there is no me that I actually like.
The fact that I journeyed from a place that felt right but wasn’t, through a person who who has never felt right and isn’t, to end up with the one person in my life who constantly, consistently, reliably makes sense and that to get there I actually graduated from one stage of life to another? Yeah, I get it. But Jesus Christ it wasn’t fun.
The sleep doctor said that when those who have had insomnia for a significant period of time finally start sleeping, their brains can seem to make up for lost time with a period of frequent and intense dreams. I’ve felt that since my sleep apnea finally came under control toward the end of October. I’ve had nights where it seems like I dreamt non-stop. And I’ve had nights where it seems like I was dreaming something really big and transformative.
I would never want to go back to insomnia. As I said, insomnia sucks. Period. Full stop.
But so do these dreams. I understand they have a purpose and that they’re in some way cleansing me and that, likely, my brain is healing from the trauma of a whole bunch of stuff, not the least of which is the insomnia itself and the effects of the Longhaul Covid.
The reality is, though, last night? Last night my brain hurt my heart.
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