I once didn’t sleep for two weeks, and ended up in a state of permanent dream where my girlfriend, Lou, was a celtic witch, my friends were nurses and I was restrained in a secure unit.
At one point I was trapped in infinite stair cases, completely unable to comprehend where I was in a house I’d lived in for nineteen years. I could see how the traffic lights were sending signals to the drivers who were keeping watch on me. I tried desperately hard to think sane enough when they were red for the van to get the signal that I was clear, and they didn’t have to take me away yet.
I could see how everyone was staring at me, keeping an eye, watching for one false move.
At one point, my friends persuaded me to try going to a pub. Try to do a sane thing. Convinced that I’d walked into a pub with a BNP general meeting on one side, and a meeting of the St Albans multi-ethnic community improvement trust on the other, I suddenly felt like my dick was hanging out of my trousers. How on earth could I keep the peace with my penis flapping around? I could see that my trousers were fully on, but all I could sense was this absence and exposure. I suspended my knapsack in front of my groin and fled, almost crying.
When I got home I kicked Louise, the only person who was looking after me, out of the house. Thankfully she managed to persuade me to give her a key, but how she managed when I thought she was trying to destroy me I don’t know.
She came back and held me as I cried and didn’t sleep some more.
At one point I was idly toying witeh some fabric scissors, running the blades up and down my wrists exploratorily. I wasn’t trying to kill myself, though a faint part of me was aware that that’s the sort of thing that could happen. I was uncomprehending of the nature of my flesh, and curious what would happen if I punctured it. Burst the membrane between the inside and the outside.
It was just curiosity.
Louise stopped me. Took the blade, and looked terrified.
I assured her I probably wasn’t going to do anything like that, I was just thinking. I don’t know if I was right or not.
All of this is a mixture of dream and memory. I have no idea how real anything that happened in those two weeks was. I must have slept some amount, and I must have dreamed or hallucinated some of the weirder experiences of that period. But I don’t know. It’s impossible for me to thread it together.
Eventually, my friends got me to a doctor. Lou came with me all the way. When I couldn’t talk to the doctor, she came in and explained what was happening.
He prescribed temazepam. It got me to sleep.
Sleep is important.
Illustration by Emma