Well, I guess I’d have to say that I’m doing ok, but not great.
I’ve been sticking to my plan of getting up at 9-30. Sunday into Monday I basically didn’t sleep. I probably snatched a few minutes here and there. I was trying to read, but it was hard to concentrate, and then I got too scared. I tried to work out why I was scared, and it dawned on me that this is the first time I’ve tried to read a new fictional book in a very long time. Recently I’ve been reading non-fiction, or re-reading something I’ve already read. Because it’s fiction, anything can happen. The only limit on events is the quality of the author’s imagination, and I found that I just couldn’t cope with the fact that I didn’t know what was going to happen. So I just lay still instead, and waited for my alarm to go off.
When I came up with my action plan I knew that lack of sleep was likely to be an issue, although, I hoped, a less serious issue than totally fucking-up my sleeping patterns. Yesterday, I got a good sense of how much of an issue tiredness may become. For a lot of the day, I could hear voices. Not recognisable voices. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I recognised the cadences and rhythm as being the same as radio newsreaders. There were two voices – one male, one female – and they alternated, although the male voice was most persistent.
It sounded as though there was a radio on, either at normal volume but a long way away, or nearby, but with the volume so low that I couldn’t make out words. For a while I was convinced that I was actually hearing a radio. I wondered aimlessly round my flat trying to find it and switch the damn thing off. Eventually I realised I’d checked all three of my radios several times already, and that I had to go about this methodically.
I walked into each room in my flat and listened. I could hear the ‘radio’ in each room, and the volume was the same. Then I went back into each room, and opened the windows, and listened again. The radio didn’t seem to get any louder, which is what I’d planned to find out – maybe the radio was outside somewhere. As I was shutting the windows I realised that the ‘radio’ had stayed at exactly the same intensity – just below the threshold of being able to make out the words – even though, with the windows open, there had been a lot more background noise. I was coming to the conclusion that the voices were not on a radio, but I still wanted to be sure. I went through my flat, listening intently to all the electrical equipment, in case some of it were somehow acting as a radio receiver, but the voices still got no louder and no quieter. I looked at the clock, and realised that enough time had gone by that it was utterly unfeasible that even the most talky of talk radio stations wouldn’t have been interrupted by something – a snatch of music, a time signal, anything.
So. The ‘radio’ wasn’t real, and therefore the voices were – most likely – hallucinations. (I was going to write that they were hallucinations, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Logic tells me they are, but I’m simultaneously certain – unshakeably certain – that they were real, and I can’t just override that level of certainty.) The ‘radio’ was very distracting, probably more distracting than it would have been if I had been able to hear what the voices were saying. A couple of times I became almost desperate thinking that there was a radio, and that by being on all this time it was wasting electricity, or flattening its batteries, and that I had to find it and shut it off to save power.
I tried to do what I could to set aside these feelings. I found I couldn’t concentrate on the TV or radio – I had sort-of hoped that listening to the radio might have solved the problem in a set-a-thief-to-catch-a-thief kind of way, but it didn’t. Reading was also difficult, although that was, I think, more to do with the fact that I was in a rather anxious shit-I’m-getting-weird-again mood than the effect of the voices themselves. I remembered that, in these circumstances, the obvious thing to do was to follow my action plan, and try to write a blog post to distract myself.
I settled down to writing at about midday, and, so WordPress tells me, finally posted at ten past nine. Nine hours is a long time to work on a post of 2156 words – in fact it works out as just under 4 words per minute – no secretarial job for me, then. But I am not going to beat myself up for that. I think it is, frankly, fucking amazing that I managed to write anything at all in the circumstances, and especially something which actually hangs together pretty well. I re-read it this morning, and I can tell that it was written under a certain amount of … oddness. Some of the paragraphs don’t flow into each other as well as I might have liked them to, and so on. I responded to the first few comments earlier today, and that bit of writing is much more back to my normal self. But, anyway, this is something I’m giving myself a gold star for, I don’t care how self-congratulatory that makes me.
After I posted, I realised that it was dark – I hadn’t turned the lights on, and had been seeing my keyboard by the light coming off my screen. I pulled the curtains and turned on the lights, and suddenly felt a great deal better. I made myself a cup of tea, and carried on feeling better. As I was drinking it I realised that the reason I was feeling better was that – at some point – the ‘radio’ had stopped. I hadn’t noticed it happen, which means that writing the post had in fact succeeded in distracting me in the way I had hoped it would. This is very interesting, I think, and a definite ‘score 1′ for my action plan – I mean, I might actually have had some idea what I was waffling on about.
While I was still feeling good about that, I also realised that I had failed to go out for my 45 minute walk, that I was very hungry, and that there was, basically, no food in the house. (I did toy with the idea of trying to make a meal out of plain spaghetti and popcorn, but decided that wasn’t really on – I’m supposed to be eating healthily, after all.) I decided to go to the Chinese takeaway. (Mixed veg chow mein and a portion of chips if you’re wondering. What? It must be healthy. It’s got plants in it, and everything…)
I started to feel a lot less good while I was out. There were a couple of young teenagers – one male, one female – hanging round the back of one of the blocks of flats. I’m pretty sure they were only there because they were out of sight of parental windows, and wanted the chance to – ahem – get better acquainted, but it still freaked me out when they suddenly loomed up in the streetlight. The people in the Chinese were friendly – they always are – but had their TV tuned to Crimewatch. I sat for ten minutes listening to reconstructions of people begging for their lives, and appeals for information about mysterious men of violence, and left the takeaway looking over my shoulder every couple of minutes.
While I was on my way back somebody cycled past me on the pavement – not the perfectly good, and perfectly empty road to the side of me. He had to swerve to get round me, and then found himself having to swerve again almost immediately to avoid a litter bin. He looked over his shoulder and said “Herr tuh rayt.” I’m guessing that’s not what he actually said, but it’s what it sounded like. First of all I decided it meant “Watch out!” and wanted to shout after him that he should have been on the road, and anyway where were his lights? Then I decided it had been, “It’s your fault” and thought that, yes, he was right. Finally, I remembered that he’d waved a hand vaguely behind his back at me, and that it had probably been an apology. So then I felt guilty for assuming he’d been criticising me.
When I got nearer my building, the two teenagers were still there, but had been joined by someone older (i.e. late teens). He seemed nervous, and kept looking round over his shoulder. He stared straight at me, but I didn’t look back, and kept him in my peripheral vision for as long as I could. He had a bag from an off-licence in his hand, and the cans inside clanked as he shifted position. After I couldn’t keep him in my peripheral vision any more the clanking got more regular. It sounded like he was following me, but I didn’t dare look back.
As I got closer to my building’s front door, it suddenly seemed like people were appearing from all over. There was off licence boy behind me, sounding like he was getting closer. Someone was crossing the car park, heading no doubt for the door, but looking like he was heading straight for me. Then I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye, and jerked my head round. It was off licence boy overtaking me. I tried to calm myself down, and to keep walking normally. Then I noticed another movement in the corner of my other eye. I looked round, and it was a man in a long white raincoat. He was walking straight down off a patch of rough ground, coming out of the shadows, the light catching his coat, but I couldn’t see his face. I didn’t want to stare. He crossed behind me, but as I walked up the path to my building’s front door I could hear his footsteps following me.
The man who had been crossing the car park got to the door first, opened it, walked through, then turned round to hold it open for off licence boy, who did the same for me. I said thanks, and turned round to hold it open for the guy in the raincoat behind me. He wasn’t there. There hadn’t been time for him to get out of sight, whichever direction he had gone in, even if I had been mistaken about hearing him walk up the path behind me. He wasn’t anywhere. Someone I had seen as clear as daylight, and whose footsteps I had heard, had disappeared.
This is not the first time I have seen people who have then disappeared. (I’m going round the houses here because I don’t want to admit they are hallucinations, although that’s what they almost certainly are. This is certainly what Yvonne thought they were likely to be, and they’re amongst the reasons that I’ve been referred back to General Psychiatrist.) I wasn’t exactly thrilled about having seen/not seen him, but I also wasn’t exactly freaked out either, especially as I had been having the voices earlier, so I knew this kind of weirdness was on the cards. I was conscious of trying to appear normal in front of the other two people, who were now holding the lift for me. (Well, as normal as you can appear when you’ve just held the door open for someone who isn’t there…)
This is another thing that I give myself a gold star for: despite being convinced that I had just seen and heard somebody who had then disappeared, I smiled at the people for holding the lift for me, and said thanks. I even had a conversation, of sorts.
Car park man: “That smells nice. It’s making me hungry.”
Me: “Yeah. I’m hoping it tastes nice, too.”
I know, I know it’s not the greatest exchange you’ve ever heard in your life – Oscar Wilde’s reputation remains secure – but, still, it’s pretty good going for me, and to be honest better than I would have expected to manage in the circumstances. In any case, the thing I’m most pleased about is that I was obviously managing to appear calm and rational enough for him to want to pass the time of day with me. It’s nice to know I don’t automatically radiate scary mad person vibes at a time like this.
There’s not really a lot more to add. I was feeling fairly unsettled by the time I got back inside my front door, but I soon clamed down, and fairly soon was feeling very tired. In fact, I went to bed, and fairly quickly went to sleep, and managed to get about 6 hours sleep all told, which is pretty good going at the moment. It looks as though the practice of getting up at the same time each day, even when I’m shattered, might be helping to make me feel sleepy at the right time of day, although, to be honest, it could also be the fact that the day itself had been pretty exhausting.
In any case, I woke up this morning feeling better. Not better better, but improved better. I haven’t heard anything out of the way today, or seen anything either, although when I was out earlier doing a little light shopping and managing only about 10 of my intended 45 minutes walking, I had a very strong sense that there were all sorts of … something just out of sight in the corner of my eye, which is why I had to cut it short.
This makes me think that I was right to assume that it was the lack of sleep that had been partly responsible for yesterday’s weirdness. It also makes me wonder about my action plan. I’ve been coping with a gradually reducing amount of sleep for a week or two now, and yesterday makes it seem likely that I’m actually fairly close to some not particularly pleasant consequences of not sleeping. The idea of getting up every day in the morning is that it will help me to feel less socially isolated, and that will help to stop me slipping into exactly the same kind of weirdness that being tired triggers.
So this is the thing. At some point there may come a time when it’s better to let myself sleep, even if the sleep happens during the day, because the consequences of not sleeping will be worse than the social isolation. But at what point will that crossover happen? And will I be able to recognise it when it does?
(Those are rhetorical questions, by the way. I have a fairly strong suspicion they’re basically unanswerable anyway, except by saying “Wait and see”. We’re back to the patience and perseverance again.)