My memory is visceral, based upon smell and taste and sound. The smell of my mother’s perfume still leaves me a bit off kilter, if not slightly uneasy. Wood smoke takes me hiking in high school. Hotel California on the radio will forever take me back to 1997.
And a metallic taste in my mouth. . .
I went to my GP on Friday, as a follow up to the neurologist appointment. We ran through a bunch of things – the ways my blood work is slightly off kilter, the way my blood pressure is borderline elevated, the way that I am slightly unhealthy.
I said in a small voice.
It all comes down to a single thing – I am not sleeping. On a good day I get 7 hours. Most days I get 5, interrupted. I have not been sleeping since March. It is the end of June. That’s a long time to go without sleep.
I need to eat more salads, drink more water, drink less coffee, relax, watch more How I Met your Mother and not work with evil project managers.
All of which is easier when you can sleep.
I got some sleeping pills.
I went to my old GP in December of 2007, a small and broken woman. I could not not sleep. I could not close my eyes. My mind would whirl and spin and my world was ending. My GP was insistent that in the middle of the world falling apart, I had to sleep. The rest of it was going to be so very hard that without sleep as a basis, nothing would hold.
I looked very normal and I knew that I was thisclose to insanity.
I’m on the same sleeping pills now. And I’m mostly writing about the memory of grabbing a cough lozenge to overcome the metallic taste. The metallic taste and the taste of the same brand of cough drops. The act of spitting the pill, reaching for the cough drop. The heaviness of my body as chemical sleep overtakes my whirring mind.
I look back on those times with Gabe and I think that the miracle is how insane I did not go. I look back and I think ‘you stupid woman. Did you think there was a prize for the stiff upper lip? Did you think that you got any sort of anything at all for politely not going to pieces? What did you think would happen after you held your baby in your arms, while he gasped for breath and died? What is insanity for – screaming, keening and tearing out your hair, if not that exact moment?”
6 years on I am much kinder to myself about those days. I look back at that woman and I am protective of her. I do not wince at her blunders, I am astonished at how much and how well she managed, so quickly after. Some days I look back at her and I am astonished that she managed at all.
I am trying to cut myself some slack now. I am trying to remember that I have lived through a bit more than three months of project from hell, the diagnosis of chronic disease and the loss of 25% of my colleagues. I am trying, from the place that understands intense difficulty, to remember that I did not understand it in the middle of the difficulty.
And I am trying to remember, that metallic taste isn’t the taste of failure – that I am weak. It’s a sort of victory. I’ve done hard stuff before. I know how hard stuff works. This is hard stuff. It will go better if I can sleep.