It is the small restrictions that frustrate the most.
On Friday evening I went to Wembley with my son, to watch England play Peru before leaving for the World Cup. I was excited – I hadn’t been to Wembley before; three current Saints players were in the squad (although, sadly, we knew that by the end of the summer they would no longer be Saints players), and it was a warm dry evening.
The game wasn’t the most exciting that I’ve seen, but the final score was a satisfying 3-0 and the atmosphere was fantastic. This was a Brazilian street party before Brazil, a united feeling of goodwill quite unlike a club game.
We arrived home at 1am – a time that should, and does, set warning bells ringing. Experience tells me that I should not ignore them, and I try, I really try, not to. I go straight to bed, resisting the temptation to follow my alertness and write at the computer, or read reports of the match. In bed I read for a while, but sensibly turn out the light as the clock advances towards two.
I sleep – until a little after four. It is light outside, the birds are singing. I feel alive, clear headed, alert. I know that I must not get up, and so I doze, fitfully, for a couple of hours, finally falling into a deep sleep about half an hour before the alarm wakes me. Although it is Saturday my husband is on call and has to go in to the hospital early, and I have to catch a train to Hastings.
I feel drugged, fuzzy headed, slow and irritable. As usual, most of these feelings have gone by the time I have showered, but the slightly drugged feeling, disconnected and unreal, returns at intervals throughout the day.
By the time I eat supper, late because of my husband’s work, I once again feel wired. He encourages me, gently, to come to bed. He knows that he is treading on thin ice – I am friable, likely to flare up and tell him that I do not need a keeper, I am a rational adult and can make decisions for myself. Mindful of this (and thus proving to myself that I am entirely rational) I go to bed. I read until after midnight, knowing that I will not sleep before then.
I sleep on and off, and wake late, at eight, feeling heavily drugged and dreadful. I am dragging myself up through a clinging, suffocating fog, able to see the daylight but unable to get to it. This feeling persists for much of the day. I am surrounded by my own isolating foggy cocoon.
The day is wasted. I achieve very little. This is at the same time both mitigated and compounded by the restrictions imposed by my husband being on call. I travel through a day of domesticity, aware of a pressure of work that I am unable to attend to. I feel irrational, unreasonable, irritable.
This all feels so unfair – it is the price of being sensible. Of course the most sensible course of action is to ensure that I never have a late night, am always in bed before 11pm, – a course of action recommended for mood stability and followed by many more sensible than I.
As I am unprepared to live with such restrictions I know that the backup plan is to do pretty much what I did, and try to follow a normal 24 hour pattern of sleep and wakefulness in the 2-3 days following a late night. That means enduring the fog, and accepting wasting at least a day of one’s life.
The thing that I really want to do is to go with the flow of wakefulness and creativity that so often starts with significantly reduced sleep. Each late night is followed by a later one, and soon one can reach a state of sleeping for as little as 2 hours a night. The feelings that follow are amazing, creativity flows, there is unlimited energy and vastly increased productivity. As my psychiatrist has often said, I have no need of cocaine because I have my own supply on tap.
Unfortunately, like cocaine obtained from a dealer, there can be a heavy price to pay. There is no certainty that the high can be limited, no certainty that it will not run away from me, uncontrolled and uncontrollable. It can lead to a dreadful, dangerous, fractured mixed state, where depression is combined with the reckless energy to kill oneself. It can lead to full blown mania, or to profound depression. All these can, and have in the past, lead to hospitalisation, increased drugs, weeks and months to full recovery.
A sane person (like my husband) cannot understand how, when faced with these options, I can still seriously entertain the idea of not being sensible.
He hasn’t experienced the exuberance of touching the stars. For me the frustration of choosing not to do so will never lessen.