Could you sleep at a time like this? Yeah, me neither apparently. It's 5:56 AM and I've been awake for at least two hours already. Too much on my mind? Perhaps. Perhaps not though, at least I can't think of any pressing thoughts that might have pulled me out of sleep in the wee hours of the morning.
No, more than likely this has to do with medications or lack thereof. It wasn't so long ago that I would go days with only a couple of hours of sleep each night. I wouldn't feel tired or drained. In fact, the opposite was true. I felt energized and alive and Jesus did I feel productive. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't go to bed until 3AM and you're wide awake at 6. Was I really that productive though? Not so much. Feeling productive was a creation of my mind. Mostly I tinkered around the garage and rode my indoor trainer and made tiny adjustments to the position of my saddle and handlebars over and over again, convincing myself that I was faster and stronger with each tiny change I made to my position.
This was my personal hell. Forever chasing speed, losing sleep over it night after night, but never actually finding it at the end of a wrench. So I stayed up all night and I fucked around with my bike, then when the sun came up I went and rode my bike for hours and hours before I went to work where I didn't eat anything except power bars all day long. And after work I would ride my bike for hours and hours, into the dark of the night; and eventually I would come home, binge and purge a little and start the process all over again.
But this was only half of the puzzle. In fact it wasn't even half. If it were half then I may never have listened to my therapist when she suggested that I see a psychiatrist. No, these sleepless nights, this unexplained energy, these feelings of happiness, and invincibility, and impulsivity, were never meant to last too long. It never failed. A few days into one of these episodes, the thought that eventually these feelings would disappear and leave me alone with myself again would cross my mind and my own fear and anxiety surrounding the disappearance of my high would inevitably trigger the destruction of said high.
In this way, the highs became shorter and shorter, and the voids between them became larger and larger. And it was in those voids that I wished I could just die. For days on end, I would lie in bed 15 hours a day, only dragging myself out of the house to stand around like the walking dead at work for my shift, before returning home to binge and purge and climb back into bed. These were dark days spent alone in my room diving into the bottom of countless containers of ice cream and devouring cakes, cookies, pies, and brownies endlessly. Depression doesn't begin to describe it. I would write all about the ways that I could kill myself and research lethal doses of over the counter medications so that when the time finally came to end it all, I could make an educated choice in choosing my poison.
Meanwhile, the world around me kept spinning and people kept believing that I was something special because of what I could accomplish on my bike. The world had no idea that I was drowning in the stormy waters of my own mind. But my therapist knew because describing these highs and lows was one of the only things I did honestly in our sessions.
"Sometimes I just feel so amazing that I think I can accomplish nearly anything and I just want to quit my job and move back to San Diego and live in my van again and race bikes until the day I die because I know that I will be successful at it. But just about the time that I'm ready to pack up and leave, I feel so awful and sad that I barely want to move because it hurts so bad just to be alive. Then I know that I can't do anything right and that I'll never be a success at anything and I just feel like staying inside and hiding from the world. I just want to be left alone to die miserable and alone," I would say to her.
"That sounds to me like Bipolar, Dez. But I'm not a psychiatrist so I really can't make that diagnosis. And if that is in fact what's happening, then you might benefit from some type of medication. It might make things easier for you and get you off of the roller coaster which you seem to be riding," she would say to me. Again and again we would talk about it in our sessions, this idea of seeing a psychiatrist so that I could be medicated.
But I didn't want to go. I didn't want to go because I didn't want to be diagnosed with another mental disorder, but mostly I didn't want to go because I didn't want to lose my highs. When I was high, I felt like I could fucking fly and I wasn't willing to give that feeling up, even if it was coming to me less and less often. Flying almost made all of the dark days worthwhile. Almost. But then the darkness became nearly everything and everyday. Flying became a memory of something that I longed to experience again and finally I gave in and scheduled an appointment to see a certain Dr. G, who was highly recommended.
"Sounds like Bipolar," he said to me when I described my symptoms. And the pills followed accordingly. Medication is not a science, I soon learned. It's a guessing game and one of these guesses put me in the emergency room in the middle of the night with an allergic reaction a few weeks later. Another guess left me numb to the world, emotionless, experiencing no highs and no lows of any sort. This guess left me unable to get excited, or mad, or sad about anything that happened throughout the day. His next guess left me walking through a fog, feeling slightly higher than completely low, and removed all chances for a flight through the cloudless skies of of fleeting happiness. After three guesses and three misses, I stopped taking the pills and went back to the roller coaster ride that I had come to know so well.
But that was then, and this is now. And now the pills are plentiful. But with these pills come a full night's sleep and a ticket to ride the kiddie coaster instead of the full size, full speed, knock you on your ass and flip you upside down big boy coaster of years past. New psychiatrists meant more guesses over the years, but I think we're on the right track now. No more trips to the ER and an ability to experience both positive and negative emotions make me think that this might be just about the right cocktail of drugs.
Do I miss flying? Of course I do. I can only imagine what I would accomplish if I didn't need to sleep these days now that I'm not completely obsessed with riding my bike. Maybe it wouldn't be much more than a few blogs and some good journal entries and in the end, can I really say that I'd trade a couple thousand words for a few hours of sleep? I can't, and I feel frighteningly healthy for saying that.