I’m feeling incredibly sleep deprived this week. Just about every morning this week I’ve been up at 4 am – from one side of the day or the other. I think I’ve averaged about four hours of sleep a night. Sometimes this happens because of a mini-manic episode. I’ll have a week or two where I just have a ton of energy and don’t need much sleep. This is not what’s going on this week.
This week, it’s a case of me completely undermining myself. You see, I have to confess something. I’m afraid of the dark. I don’t mean I just don’t like walking into a house with no lights on (I don’t); I’m monsters-under-the-bed, people-climbing-in-the-windows afraid of the dark. I especially hate it when I’m by myself.
Now, the weird thing is that I’ve lived alone four or five different times in my life, sometimes for a few years at a stretch. So how did I deal with it? Well, most of the times I’ve lived alone were when I lived in Philadelphia and NYC. It’s never really dark there. I think every apartment in which I lived alone in those two cities either had a street light shining right outside the window or lights from an adjacent building. Plus, two of those apartments were on the second floor and the other was in a building that was pretty much inaccessible without a key -- not that those things would calm me down in a moment of panic.
The one time I lived alone in San Diego, I developed this ridiculous OCD habit of having to get up and check the lock on the front door three times every night. Sometimes I would get up, check it, go back to bed and not even get the blanket situated again before I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t sure if I had checked it yet. Three times. Every night. For three years.
People that can’t understand my affliction (read: sane people) always ask questions like, “What do you think is going to happen?” Well, if I knew what was going to happen I wouldn’t be afraid of the dark. I’d either not be afraid or I’d be afraid of what was going to happen. I can tell you that the San Diego apartment was on the first floor, open to the street with windows on three sides (at the time I referred to it as "attackable on three sides"). The house I live in now is the same, except that it has windows on all four sides. How can I possibly defend that by myself??
Normally that isn't necessary. I have a roommate who can handle the front half of the house. If someone comes in the front and starts hacking him up, I’ll almost certainly hear it and have time to escape. That leaves me with only half the house to defend on my own. I can sleep with that.
But this week my roommate was away all week. And I spent every night springing up at every creak in the rafters, every skunk waddling across the gravel on the side of the house and every unidentifiable sound that I may or may not have heard.
Now, I’m staying at my friend’s amazing house in Atlanta for two nights. Only he’s not here. And there is barely a sound after about 11 pm (right about now). Last night I lay awake until after 4 am. Probably the same fate is in store for me tonight. By the time I get to the hotel tomorrow night, I’ll be ready to slip into a coma.
You’re probably wondering by now how undermining myself plays into this. Well, I’ve been afraid of the dark forever, so you’d think I’d make allowances for that. Instead, I just exacerbate the situation. Let me list for you some of my favorite television shows during the four years I’ve been sober: Criminal Minds, Numb3rs, CSI: NY, Law & Order (all of them, but particularly Criminal Intent), Rizzoli & Isles. If there’s a dead body and/or a gun fight, I’m watching. Criminal Minds is particularly harrowing because it seems whenever they have a serial criminal attacking people in their homes late at night, it’s set somewhere in Southern California. They’ve had episodes about home invasions of one kind or another set in San Diego twice. It’s no wonder I can’t sleep. I’m surprised I’m not sitting guard all night with a machete and a taser.
But yesterday was for sure my stupidest day ever. Knowing full well that I was coming to a city I’d never been to, to sleep alone in a house in a neighborhood I knew nothing about, I chose to while away my time on the plane by reading an article in Esquire about the home invasion in Connecticut where the wife and two daughters were set on fire and the husband escaped by rolling, hands and feet bound, into his neighbor's driveway and collapsing there. 5000 words about what might have been the most horrific single criminal act in our lifetime and I read just about every word.
So, the reason I was lying awake until after 4 am last night? None, really. I was just waiting to be murdered, dismembered and tossed into an incinerator. Just another Friday night.