Friends of mine will already know I’m a bad sleeper. It’s one of my favourite dinner party conversations. All I need is someone to make the first move … “I didn’t get much sleep last night” … and I’m in, like a ferret up a ginnel. I sometimes talk over them in my enthusiasm to tell them how badly I sleep all the time. My lack of empathy knows no bounds as I take control of the conversation droning on about how I manage to get off to sleep but then wake up at 3am and can’t get back again. My routine can be quite funny, I’ve been practicing it for years now. I explain how I don’t really have much to worry about when I wake, and at this point I look around the dinner table to gauge people’s reactions to this amazing fact. I’m such an enigma. I tell anecdotes about how my mind obsesses over trivia, like cutting the grass or shredding paperwork (snigger). As you can imagine it’s quite hilarious, I’m quite hilarious. Meanwhile the poor sod who first broached the subject about being knackered is consigned to being a spectator, unable to counter my tsunami of funny sleep stories.
I do the same with booze stories. Tell a tale about your hangover in my company, then step aside, because Andy’s in town. You think my sleep disorder stories are funny? Wait until I tell you about the time I shampoo’d the walls at university with Geordie Graham, or that time in the late 90s when I walked home from the Oktoberfest by following the train tracks, walking inside them to keep in a straight line. I did live near the train tracks at the time in Munich, so it wasn’t as stupid as it sounded, although of course it was ridiculously dangerous and very, very funny. At this point I have to resist telling even more anecdotes, for there are many, but I risk falling into the trap about about which I write, my narcissism.
In my defence, I try to be a funny narcissist, and I can be quite entertaining in small doses, but I do tend to overdo it. I also inherited a gene which means I tend to inflate my tales somewhat, perhaps to heighten the interest, to assuage my guilt at having dominated, nay, stolen, the dinner conversation conch shell from some other poor soul.
My sleep, for example, whilst it has always been poor, had never been a serious problem. Yes, I had difficulties getting off to sleep, and yes, I had a habit of waking in the early hours and struggled to get back, but generally I muddled through. Just like millions of others, most of whom don’t bore all and sundry with their sorry tales of mild sleeplessness at dinner parties.
This past month has been different. My sleeplessness has been much more severe, much more prolonged. Initially this gave me a huge pile of stuff to bang on about. I had closed my Facebook account so couldn’t post hilarious 3am threads any more (as was my wont), so instead I told my family and friends, even people at work, at every occasion that presented itself, I went on a diatribe relaying my latest poor sleep exploits like a splurge gun. I was on a roll with all these new tales of woe. “I literally had 2 hours sleep last night” and I would wait for the pitying replies … “Poor you”, “You must be shattered!”, “Take care mate”. It was comforting, I was struggling, people needed to know, I was like a pig in shit.
The quality of my sleep continued to decline and plumbed depths I have never been before and I went beyond being “knackered” to feeling really quite ill. I had phantom pains, I was occasionally hallucinating, I could barely string a sentence together. I ended up at the doctors out of sheer despair. My work was suffering, and suddenly it wasn’t funny any more, not even to me, the king of sleep comedy.
I am too tired to tell my witty sleep anecdotes any longer, I am sick and tired (very tired) of hearing my own voice bleating on about how bad my plight is. I now have a proper sleep problem, one which requires medication and scares the shit out of me. I’m seriously scared that I may never regain the art of sleeping naturally and soundly again, and that’s why I will never hijack dinner parties with my banal sleep stories any more. Sleep is no longer a comedy routine of mine, it’s a serious, debilitating issue, and so if we do ever meet, over dinner or elsewhere, if you want to talk about your sleep problems, I promise I will keep my mouth shut and just listen.