Confessions of an Insomniac
I’m fairly sure I forgot to lock the door. The windows are open and anyone could scale five stories and climb in. My youngest son has stopped breathing. He fell off the slide earlier and I thought he was fine, though all this time he had a lurking concussion. My eldest son was hit by a car, dragged several blocks, all of which happened so fast there was no time to scream. I’m going to lose my job. The refrigerator is making a strange noise. The voices in the hallway seem to be hovering awfully close to our apartment. Now it’s me who’s been hit by a car, a giant, green Buick, and in an ironic twist, the owner of the car is going to sue me for damage to her fender.
None of this happened. Instead, this is a typical bout of worry when I lie awake in the middle of the night, fighting insomnia for just a few more hours of #sleep. My name is Jon Methven, and I have midnight panics.
Midnight panics are not the equivalent of regular, daylight panics. Rather, they are a non-prioritized list of worries and miscellaneous bouts of irrelevance that, combined, can keep me up for hours.
You might say I have good reason to lie awake at night. I’m a father of two, a husband, and a novelist. I live in a bustling city that never sleeps. Next door to what is most certainly an Airbnb rental apartment, guests of which think it is constantly New Year’s Eve. Above me resides a family with three teenagers who tend to run in a giant herd from room to room. Sleep for me is not an escape. It’s something I have to do so I can function come morning.
And yet, as I lay contemplating these imaginary battles, I know that my mind alone is responsible for a lack of slumber. With the daytime challenges at bay, my brain – so adept at problem solving when I need it for work and child-rearing – goes on solving them even when I wish to turn it off for rest, even when it runs out of real worry and has to invent it: Why don’t ceilings regularly fall in from overuse? How can I be certain the neighbors aren’t cannibals? Isn’t it possible that whoever is in charge of watching the night sky for asteroids missed one?
Night panics are a solitary struggle. Waking my wife and admitting what’s on my mind is too selfish to even contemplate. “Someone is trying to break into the apartment and I’ve just killed our two boys. Also, I’m probably going to lose my job tomorrow.” I can picture her lying awake beside me, now both of us stranded with the midnight panics. Or worse–tapping my sleeping wife on the shoulder and whispering – “I was just thinking: We should probably get a gun?” would no doubt lead to morning discussions about proper bedroom etiquette, and possibly even a reminder about how comfortable the couch is. I keep my midnight panics to myself.
Through trial and error, I have found my own cure. As soon as I start to worry, I stand up and stretch. Then I set out on a brief walk. I check the windows and doors for creatures trying to gain entry. If I find none, I check to make sure that the boys are both breathing and not run over. I give them each a kiss and cover them for good measure. I avoid my cell phone at all costs – another wormhole of paranoia and worry – then climb back in bed and hope for the best. Eventually I fall back asleep.
Unless, of course, I start contemplating the impossible: What if my pillow turns into a giant spider?