I keep thinking about things that have proven difficult throughout my life, like being exhausted, but unable/unwilling to nap due to hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations with sleep paralysis as a kid. Often when I was a child, and still sporadically as an adult, when I start to fall asleep, my body feels frozen in place, with only my eyes being able to move, and I see dark shapes swoop in from the corners of my bedroom (as an adult they came from under the bed more often than anything—so not terrifying, right?). The shapes either hover over me in bed, seeming to press me down into the bed, or they just kind of press in from the edges of the bed looking all creepy. These things are strong symptoms of narcolepsy when combined with my daytime sleepiness and insomnia, but the docs I mentioned it to just said they’re sorry I have nightmares.
In elementary school, I was constantly in trouble in school for “daydreaming.” Turns out it was correctly labeled as daydreaming in a literal sense, but not in the lazy way my teachers accused. My brain tends to enter REM state while I’m awake when I’m under-stimulated or performing routine tasks like driving or doing the dishes. And school was soooooo boring. Luckily, my wonderful Momma pushed for IQ testing, which landed me in gifted classes, but still under-stimulated. In the 80s, gifted class meant writing reports on weird stuff and playing a lot of Oregon Trail. Dysentery was everywhere, and I was falling asleep on the Apple IIe.
As I look back over the last 40 years, I’m noticing that I have a lot of little processes that keep me stimulated and engaged. For instance, I began stealing sips of Mom’s coffee when I was about 6, and by 8 or so, I was enjoying my own mug of caffeine. I don’t imagine this is advisable for most children, but for me, that little caffeinated push made staying alert and engaged possible. In college, I started transforming what had been a pretty laid-back personality into more of a “type-A” personality because maintaining control over all things kept me stimulated. Now I’m so “type-A” that I find it hard to fully relax, but I’m working on reprogramming that by recognizing my stress responses and eliminating agitators as much as possible.
I have high hopes that the next couple weeks or so will show me what it’s like to be well-rested. To wake without the “ugh, it’s morning again” feeling that has become my alarm clock for so long. Hey, at least I never oversleep, so…silver lining?