When I was little, I had a Garfield sleeping bag with bright blues and pinks and purples. It looked like a psychedelic, abstract, watercolor Garfield painting that Andy Warhol dreamed up. Like every little girl, I loved sleepovers in theory, but they always ended up with someone crying and someone having a stomachache and someone needing to call their parents so they could go home. That someone was usually the same person and it was also usually me.
Home felt so far away. I had little concept of time or distance, sort of like a dog. A car ride was a car ride. My friend’s house may have been on the same road as mine, but when I was there instead of at home, it could’ve been on the other side of the planet for all I cared. I would picture my room, decorated in country trim, the bed perfectly made, everything still. I would wonder if my mom left one sad, dim light on so the room wouldn’t be pitch black.
Do Mom and Dad miss me? Does Andy even remember me? Big brothers forget their little sisters, I think. Is my bedroom lonely? Is everyone sitting around the kitchen table without me? Oh God, did Andy say something extra funny? Are they are laughing right now?
The thought of a sleepover was fun until I realized that nobody else wanted to stay up all night. They said they did, but their “all night” was different from my “all night.” I actually meant all night, until the sun came up and breakfast was cooking. I planned to catch up on sleep later that day when I was back at my house. Maybe I’d just stay up until it was bedtime again. The girls who promised to stay up all night with me would drift off before midnight. The second they’d swear to stay awake, their melatonin would kick in. It was like they jinxed themselves. Just the thought of staying up for hours made them instantly exhausted.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had all of the sleep problems you don’t want. I’m not a fun bad sleeper who tries to be social or well fed during my slumber – I don’t sleep walk, talk or eat. I have insomnia plus sleeplessness, which means it’s ridiculously hard to fall asleep. Then when I do, I can’t stay asleep. I also have sleep inertia, which means that whether I sleep for a luxurious 10 hours or my more normal three and a half, I find it impossible to pull myself out of bed in the morning. Nausea and fear greet me when I open my eyes, no matter how silly it sounds to be afraid to get out of bed. I also get nightmares, which means that when I do fall asleep and stay asleep and have plenty of time before I have to be up, I’m immersed in a never ending Hell that I force myself to wake from.
At sleepovers, I would roll on my side, curl up, prop my head on my hands and close my eyes, pretending I was a normal child who would just fall asleep like all the other girls. Eventually, I’d snap my eyes open, wide awake and not feeling even the first wink of sleepiness. I’d look around for someone else who was also awake, but nobody ever was. I’d sit up, wonder if it was too late to call my parents, lay back down, stare at the ceiling and cry a little bit because I was homesick.