My head is the ocean. There is a high tide and a low tide each day, and I wonder about my connection to the moon. Yet I know the high tide is pulled in by bedtime, not the moon. I lie down, and suddenly breathing is difficult. Tides rush into my sinuses, and the frustrations of the day continue as I battle with my fear of drowning. It has been like this for a long time, creeping slowly to this terrible point.
I turn to one side, and the tides begin to drift and drain to my left. The nasal drip is slow, inexorable. But my sleep will not come until it has passed, and the way is clear. I roll to the other side, struggling to breathe as my partner snores like a lawn mower that just won’t start. We all have our sleep crosses to bear. At least neither of us has insomnia, I think.
But I don’t realize the seriousness of this tide. I don’t see how my sleep is shallow, a fight to breathe. I’ve been doing this for so long. The tide came gradually. Yet suddenly, it is unmanageable, monolithic and horrible, this nightly struggle to rest and not drown. I wake at 3AM, 4AM, from my shallow sleep full of disturbing dreams. I wake, and I’m angry. I want to be asleep. I thought I was resting. I wait for an hour and fall back into my troubled dreams and try not to breathe through my mouth.
When I wake later, I’m still angry. I count forward to the next time I may be able to rest. It’s more than ten hours away, when I get home from work. I am a slave to this sad sleep, craving it even as I finish a night that left me unfulfilled. I know what I need, just not how to get it. And I will resent the world until I sleep again, then wake angry, and repeat. This is no life.
Later, I will find that I am allergic to our air conditioning. There’s mold in it, lots and lots of mold, and dust, dust for days. My body reacts by producing the tide. My circadian rhythm reverses. I am part zombie. I want to sleep all day, every day because my body tells me to. My body says I’m most awake at 10PM, and most asleep at 6AM. Yet I’m sure I don’t have insomnia because I could sleep anywhere, anytime.
I lie awake at night, listening to my now-husband’s snoring. This is not soft snoring. He sounds like he’s trying to suck a lemon through a waterhose. Sometimes he stops breathing. I hold my breath, waiting for him to start again. I push and shove him till he breathes again, another struggling, snorting breath that leaves his throat raw, he tells me when he wakes later. He can tell when he’s been snoring because his throat hurts in the morning. But he doesn’t believe me when I tell him he stops breathing until I film him one night. What if he doesn’t start breathing again? I’m afraid of drowning in my own sleep, and I’m afraid to wake from drowning next to a dead man. How can I escape this ocean?