My balcony's rungs are too cold to lean against. I was here when the sun was still up, and now I'm watching it rise again. My view from here is quite beautiful. I've seen the sunrise from this side more times than I can count. I check my cigarette pack. Fuck, I bought this a day ago, how can there only be ten left? We were walking to Burger King at half past three.
The recommended sleep duration for people my age is seven to nine hours. I tend to function well with at a bit less than nine, enough for six sleep cycles. It's the most important number in my life.
I consider just staying up, but I have a presentation at 4 pm and that's usually around the time my steam runs out. We still have to finish the damn thing, and my code has a few bugs I should probably fix first. I calculate. What's the lastest I can get up and still get away with? I'll skip my classes, that leaves me with 12 o'clock at the latest. Maybe four hours of sleep, if I can get any. Over the years, this kind of mad calculation has become something I do every day. I've become a master at shifting my sleep schedule depending on what I have to do in a given week. Trying to, anyways.
I can't count the times I've had to decline going out or a party because I knew I wouldn't be awake at the time. People use fridays for having a good time. I use fridays to even out the sleep debt I accrued during the week. The routine question my flatmates ask when they see me before noon is "Are you still up?".
The only election I ever won was for "person most likely to sleep in class". Second period was the worst. I started going through a packet of dextrose sugar a day before I stopped what would surely end with me acquiring diabetes. Did you know there's a pressure point in the webbing between thumb and forefinger that gives you a quick energy boost? Very useful for waking up when a teacher just asked you a question.
The best is when I stay up Saturday/Sunday, go to sleep at around 8 on Sunday, get about fourteen hours of sleep. I'll spend the next week in heaven, getting tired at 8 at first, a few dozen minutes later every day. It's incredible what you can get done when you're awake at the same time as other people. Not to mention that feeling of going to sleep because you're tired, and not because you have to get up in 5 hours.
Until I get invited to something, or stay up an hour longer, and it's back to the carousel. My friend's 17th birthday, after everyone went to bed I sat on his porch and read The Wave in its entirety.
I finally managed to drag myself to a doctor two weeks ago. I don't think I managed to describe the severity of my problems to him all that well. He recommended that I only use my bed for sleeping. Bitch, we're way past that. If there's a sleep hygiene recommendation you can think of, I've tried it. He told me to come back tomorrow, they'll draw my blood and check if there's something wrong with my thyroid gland. I actually had a good week and was there in the morning. He'll have the lab results the next day. I should've been there friday afternoon a week ago. Guess what I was doing instead. All last week, I didn't manage to get there. You can only show up without an appointment in the mornings (less people), but I was sleeping in until after 9 (when they close) so as to be productive at all during the rest of the day.
It sounds easy to just say "Fuck it, set your alarm to 7.30 am. Power through the day." Thing is, that's what I already do. Every day. This is my default state. This is how I'm writing my bachelor's thesis, doing my coursework and try to have vestiges of a social life.
Back home, the most cherished tradition my circle of friends has is the "midnight stroll". I'd just grab them at eleven or whatever, and we'd wander the streets of my small hometown and talk about stuff (and later, drink). It originated from people asking what the hell I did at night that seemed to keep me up that long. More specifically, that one night I ran away from home because the tension had reached a breaking point. My parents were never really understanding of why I "had to stay up that". Sometimes, my heart still starts racing because I imagine I heard steps on the stairs, from when my mom used to come up in the dead of night to have screaming matches because I was on the computer at night. Those weren't the only fights we had, but they were by far the worst because they woke everyone up. My room's glass-window door hasn't been fixed to this day from when I slammed it in rage, shattering the glass into a thousand pieces. Every time I'm back home and walk past it, I feel so bad for the shit I put them through. In arguments, I tend to just shut down and shut up because that made the screaming go away faster. Towards the end, they just gave up on trying to talk to me.
They're not special in not being understanding, of course. Try to explain to someone that you can't go to their party because your sleep rythm is fucked six ways till sunday. Name a time of day, and it's just as likely I'm awake at that time than any other. My reddit activity chart isn't a gaussian distribution, it's an evenly distributed bar graph. "Sleep rythm". I hate that word with a passion. I hate that I use it so often. It's clunky, and doesn't explain the complications at all. When does a normal person ever use that word?
For the longest time, I didn't think that this was some kind of sickness. I just needed to go to bed sooner, you know? What the fuck was I doing in bed anyway, reading books for hours on end? Not a single person has ever suggested something else.
It's hard to describe why that has always been hard for me. The best I can describe it is asking normal people to jsut go to bed at 6 or 7. Sure, you might manage to do that (shift workers do!) but why the fuck would you want to do that? You're not tired one bit! You'll just end up lying in bed, trying to go to sleep. I guess you could compare it to jet lag, but I don't know. I don't really get jet lag.
Later, the conflicts with my parents made me dig in my heels and shout back "I can't change it!". But I still didn't seek medical help. I did recognize the hypocrisy when I pushed my then-girlfriend to go see a fucking doctor already for her chronic headaches. Deep down, I was still sure that this was all my fault, somehow.
The first thing I did when I came here to study was look up sleep laboratories. I vowed to finally get looked at. But being freed from the strict schedule of school and a dozen curricular activities quickly led me to believe that it wasn't all that bad: Just take classes that start later! And holy shit, hubski, it got really fucking bad. Everything I experienced in school was tame. In retrospect, pressure from my parents kept me together pretty well. I might've only gotten three hours of sleep a night, but I funtioned pretty well. As soon I had the choice between skipping classes and activities and getting sleep, sleep won out increasingly more often. And then I woke up so late it wasn't worth it to cycle to uni for one last class, so I skipped that too. I became somewhat of a hermit.
Then I spent six months in London on an internship. I had so much fun working in that lab, it was awesome. Not to mention living in fuckin' London. And still, the one big fuckup I made was because of my goddamn sleep problems. If even having this awesome opportunity, and having so much planned to explore the city, so much was ruined by my inability to have normal schedule? This is probably where I actually came around to the notion that I can't fix this thing on my own. I managed to stumble upon Delayed sleep phase disorder, which does describe most of my symtoms, but I haven't been diagnosed, so I'm cautious of hypochondriaching myself.
I mean, it still took me a year to actually do something about it, but accepting that maybe I had a sickness that could be fixed, it's a comforting thought, in a way. Then again, maybe there isn't, and all these years I've just been a fuckup. Ultimately, knowing for sure either way will set me free. Guess I'll set that alarm after all.
This is probably a bit rough, typed out as it was after particularly intense frustration with how much this thing has determined my life. Thanks for reading this rambling, whiny mess.
Also thanks to rd95 for showing me which tags to steal :P