I’m putting it off because I’m afraid. This is how it is every time. Tonight will be no exception. There are never exceptions.
This is how it goes: at first I’m confident. It would be okay, and tonight wouldn’t be so bad. I stop any mental stimulus early, giving my mind time to rest. I try to reduce caffeine intake. I try to have a positive attitude. I try to clear my mind.
But as I brush my teeth, pacing around the house waiting for my two minutes on the Sonicare to finish, I find myself staring at the empty Ambien bottle on my bedside.
Who am I kidding? I can’t clear my mind on a good day, let alone a night without the only thing between me and hours of a delusional twilight state and nightmares. The anxiety starts creeping up on me, tightening my chest.
What are the alternatives? What’s in the “fail” box of drugs from past attempts at breaking the Ambien dependency? What will I take tonight, knowing it won’t work, but I can’t take nothing because then I know—for certain—I stand no chance against the evil, sadistic bastard known as Insomnia.
Clonidine is a blood pressure medication. It’s supposed to decrease my heart rate and make me sleepy.
Gabapentin is for seizures. It’s supposed to make me drowsy.
Trazodone is for psychotics. It’s supposed to zonk me right out.
It does, but not without severe nightmares and nausea in the morning.
I finish getting ready, opting for the Xanax (I’m on the verge of a panic attack, aren’t I?) and face the inexorable Hell of bedtime. The second my legs slide under the covers, I know I will not sleep tonight.
I swallow the Xanax, knowing it won’t work, my mind running through the same cycle it always does: is it working yet? Do I feel it yet? Am I tired yet is it working do I feel it
Can’t get comfortable. Not the right temperature. Neck hurts. Can’t keep my eyes closed. What do I need to do tomorrow? What will I eat for dinner tomorrow?
I try not to look at the clock, but then I don’t know how long I’ve been awake and I don’t know if the X is working or if I’m past the point where it would’ve worked.
I look at the clock.
40 minutes have gone by.
2 hours have gone by.
10 minutes have gone by.
Time doesn’t matter anymore. I’m in and out of the twilight state where I don’t really know if I’m dreaming or awake. Every time I do fall asleep I’m back in a dream, only it’s more vivid than before.
I dream an entire apocalypse.
7 minutes have gone by.
I dream a flicker of a scene of me shooting someone.
1 hour goes by.
Then that blue light—you know the light—fills the room and I know it must be close to morning.
I’m exhausted now.
I’m finally tired.
I get out of bed. It’s time to wake.
I don’t usually do stories like this that are completely personal narratives, but this time I couldn’t resist. I also don’t do post-story disclaimers, but for this one I feel I have to.
I have severe insomnia and am treated with Ambien. I’ve suffered from it since I was a kid. Ambien is the only drug I’ve found to work. It works consistently and very well with no adverse side effects for me. Now, let’s not get into a big drug debate or slew of alternatives for insomnia. I’m happy with Ambien. It works for me.
Disclaimer two: I do not have a drug problem. I do not self medicate. Per my doctor’s recommendation, I keep spare sleep alternatives because sometimes they do help.
What I’ve written is what I experience every time I don’t have Ambien.
If you know what it’s like to have essentially debilitating insomnia, you might be familiar with the sense of complete hopelessness it brings. Even more so, if you medicate yourself, you know the feeling of complete dread and anxiety if you run out.
It makes me angry, sure, but I’ve had it for so long it’s almost a pathetic cosmic joke. This is why I decided to write about it. If even one of you can relate to anything in this piece of flash fiction, I’ve succeeded in connecting with you. If one of you laughed because you know exactly what it’s like, in that one moment, it helps me know I’m not alone.
And, most importantly, right now, at 1:14 in the morning, anything is better than facing a night without Ambien.