When I was in third grade, I read the book The BFG, in which a Big Friendly Giant tells a little girl that she is only half her age because she has slept half of the time she's been alive. I thought, even then, "Not me!" I'm a lot closer to my real age than most people, going by the BFG's standard.
Ever since I can remember, I've had insomnia. Some of my earliest memories are of lying awake, hours after the rest of my family was asleep.
Looking back on my life... well, the short 22 years of it that I've lived so far... I think I may agree with the BFG. I think that the time I spent awake when I aught to have been asleep my well have changed me almost as much as living a few extra years would have. Not that it's necessarily matured me. But I don't think that years necessarily do that either. Its just changed me.
First of all, it taught me to function, work, and learn while operating at much less than peak capacity. I can get up and go do what I have to do even when I'm totally exhausted or sick or.. whatever. And that helps life. A lot.
For another thing, I don't think I would love books have as much as I do if it weren't for those years of nights when books were my only way to while away the hours. I probably would still love reading, but my love for the physical books around me would definitely not be the same. My most worn out copies of old favorites hold a place in my heart akin to an old stuffed animal or blankie or even a childhood friend. When I pick up my copy of Anne of Green Gables and smell its pages and feel its rough, cracked binding... memories flood over me. Many of books have wrinkled pages, wet with tears of frustration as my exhaustion refused to put me to sleep.
But I didn't always read. For one thing, my mom would knock on my wall and tell me to turn my light out. For another, my eyes gave out. Most of the time, I would just think. Sometimes I would imagine the most delightful things, so wonderful I wouldn't even want to sleep. Other times I would scare myself so badly that I would have to get up and go down to the kitchen and be comforted by the commonplace sound of the dishwasher and the sight of the fluorescent light over the sink. I would not have been half as caught up in my own world if I hadn't been forced to go there night after night.
There were times though, when my eyes gave out long hours before and my mind wandered aimlessly, fitfully, unable to focus on anything at all. I don't know if I can describe the severe discomfort to anyone who has not gone without sleep for long periods of time. I think I have had a small taste of what sleep deprivation torture must be like. To feel that your mind is out of your control is a terrible feeling.
What has done for me is hard to say. I suppose one thing that has arisen from these nights is a desire to have a disciplined mind. It is pleasant to let the mind wander, it is terrible to be unable to recall it at will.
The best thing that has come from this quirk of mine is this: I learned to talk with God. When you're all alone and everyone you know is asleep, and you have a million thoughts with no one to tell them to... you find Someone to tell them. I learned to have a long close, confidential conversation with Someone I can't see. I look back on the long lonely nights, and they don't seem so lonely anymore. I remember Him being there. And that is... oh so sweet.
Now that I'm married and much more emotionally healthy than I used to be, I only have an occasional night of sleeplessness... like last night for instance when I probably only got 3 hours total. Blah....
I'm still oh so tired, but I feel better. Thanks for remembering with me.