Life is cruel. You lay your head on the pillow at night and try to go to sleep and your minds synapses start to flare up like a dirty engine, sick with oil, spewing out flames in time with your brains wild flexing. The possibility of a good night’s sleep ebbs away. Thoughts incoherent and disparate, either relevant or not, emotional or frivolous. Jokes and fears merging into one. The familiar swirl of sleeplessness is all of these things.
A cursory Google search in the depths of the night (3am deafening silence) will tell you to listen to whale music or to cut out coffee or to excercise in the mornings – to fine tune and reduce the distractions keeping you awake at night, to hone your sleep patterns to a finely curated therapy session between you and your hibernated state and all of that will work. For a while. When you sleep, your brain disconnects from the WiFi of life, existing offline and static, in complete solitude and silence. Sleeping is the solace you have against a chaotic world, against the howling wind of life. We humans are capable of great things, but it’s so mired in hell that sleeping it off saves us a lot of bother.
I have inconsistent sleep patterns. I go between flights of snoozy bliss and eye-watering sleeplessness. From eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling to then snoozing like a warm kitten, swapping between the two for weeks at a time. What keeps me awake is anyone’s guess – I do not suffer and I do not worry. My life is hassle free most of the time and outside of your usual factory default worries and complaints I’m just… Okay. I’m not rich. I’m not poor. I live modestly in a nondescript part of London. Nothing to complain about but the futility of it all.
It makes me feel selfish, saying things like that, staying awake that much, staring at the ceiling. Knowing there’s no reason you should be wide awake like you are, but the meaninglessness causes a feedback loop. You start to feel selfish and guilty, guilty that people are really suffering out there but you, you’re the one that feels sorry for yourself. You’re the one that feels hard done by, but you look around and have nothing to blame. Not even yourself. If everything is fine, why does it feel so terrible?
Sleeplessness is just a very real form of nihilism. The spiralling nothing of not being able to sleep informs a kind of nothingness that’s hard to shake. It has a hangover period. It lurches over you and the rest of your day, your week. It pulls your eyelids down towards the earth like a thousand tonnes of gravity. And it feels worse not being able to pin the blame on anything.
In many ways, my privilege comes into play here, too. I have never suffered under the weight of racism or sexism. Maybe some classism but that’s an ism that not too many people care for these days, myself included. I do not have some horrible financial burden: I am a terrible bore with my money and never spend extravagantly. I have no children to worry over and no significant other to fawn over. I don’t miss anybody and I don’t want or yearn for anyone or anything. It’s inaccurate to say that everything is terrible. Instead it’s more accurate to say that nothing feels good. Not that those good things are now bad, just that they lack anything at all. It feels like nothing. Zilcho. Nada. Zero. The terrible void, It goes on and on. It’s yawning.
I won’t forget to take sleeping pills tonight. It’s an awful bore to lay awake with your nothing all night and I don’t want to revel in it anymore than I have already. When you’re sleeping, you pull the plug for a while. You put your mind into standby. So tonight I’m going to knock myself out with a stiff batch of sleeping pills and I’m going to wake up refreshed, pointlessness be damned. Maybe one day I’ll make a point to retain my friendships more. Maybe I’ll look after the ones I already have and maybe one day I’ll pull a career out of my ass. Maybe I’ll do that. But for now, I really, really need to shut up and sleep.