Hello from the fugue. Or the fog. I don’t know which it is, and I’m too tired to work it out. I’d forgotten what this feels like. I’ve had six months of sleep now – not non-stop of course, but six months where most nights, most children slept through. And before you hate me, I did put up with six years of broken sleep before that, so I did do some time.
The irony is, when you’re going through it, you just get through it. You adapt to an extent, or at least I did. You can actually get up and go to work despite having been up twice in the night, or having been kicked in the face from 3am onwards. But once you get your sleep back, it becomes almost impossible to handle any hiccups. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, and sleep deprivation for the uninitiated or the recovering sufferer is a special kind of hell.
Today has been one such tortuous day. It started at the ungodly hour of 4.30am, just four hours after I’d gone to bed (I know, foolish). I heard a noise in the kitchen, and ran downstairs. Not for a second did I think it was a plate-clanging burglar – I’d know the sound of child-meets-cereal-bowl anywhere. I found my seven-year-old, fully dressed in her school uniform, about to put some Weetabix in a bowl.
“Hi mum!” she said brightly, as if it wasn’t the middle of the night. “You have to go back to bed!” I wailed, taking the bowl out of her hands. “But why? It’s morning time! Aren’t you happy I got up and dressed without being asked?” Em, no. Happy wasn’t quite the word I’d have used.
We debated for another five minutes until I eventually convinced her to go back to bed. All fine so. But it wasn’t. At ten past five, she was back up again, unable to sleep. I said she could read, so she sat on the landing floor with a pile of books, and I went back to bed. And listened to her leaf through each book, cast it aside, and grab another one – she wasn’t being deliberately loud, but when it’s 5am, and your brain keeps involuntarily counting the minutes until the alarm clock goes off, every sound is magnified.
I won’t bore you with a minute by minute account of the rest of the night, but there wasn’t another smidgen of sleep between us. And so the tortuous day began. Well actually, she was fine – the crash would come later. I was hollow-eyed and bleary, in a way that was so familiar for so long, but which has been gone for some time and somehow seems worse than ever.
I went on auto-pilot to get work done, I drank incredible amounts of tea, and I wallowed a bit. I slurred my words. I forgot some words. I asked my five-year-old to tell me the capital of Dublin – she was very confused. I tried to join a conference call using the calculator on my phone. I lost my glasses and didn’t have the energy to find them. They weren’t going to help with the sandy feeling in my eyes anyway. Instead of a tuna wrap for lunch, I needed soup and bread. And then Toblerone, If it wasn’t for that carefully stashed emergency Toblerone, I’m not sure I’d have made it through the day.
But I did. And I have been painfully reminded not to take sleep for granted (I didn’t! I promise!) And I will definitely go to bed early tonight. Although, now that I’ve made it through the torture, it might be nice to sit down for a few hours. And it probably won’t happen two nights in a row, will it?