Originally Posted June 30, 2007, as "The Dishes."
I had insomnia for eight months in my teens. It started just about a month or so before Dawn and I stopped talking. I barely slept from late September to the end of May. That’s almost an entire school year fueled on four hours of sleep a night.
It all started when I took a nasty knock to the back of my head one day at school. A bunch of us were goofing around during noon hour and I wound up slamming my head into a propane tank.
To this day, 34 years later, I can still hear the ringing echoes vividly. The goose egg at the base of my skull and the headache kept me from sleeping for a few days. That was okay. I expected it to be over and didn’t give it much thought.
But it stuck around. The more time I spent awake the more I got to notice my sister and to tune into her growing mental illness.
A few weeks after the insomnia began we stopped speaking and my insomnia worsened. This gave me time to notice even more and it grated on me that much more.
Of all her odd behavior and hair-trigger temper what sticks with me the most is the dishes.
Mom would leave them for her to do. My sister, being nocturnal, wouldn’t get to them until the wee hours of the morning.I’d finally get to sleep around midnight, and then be awakened by the splashing and clanging at around 4 a.m. I didn’t just hear the noise; it penetrated the stillness enough that I swear I actually felt it.
It woke me up and that was it. No getting back to sleep for. I had to be up at 7 a.m. and I sure could have used the additional three hours.
This went on for months. Finally I said something to mom. Even if I had been speaking to Dawn bringing it up to her would have been pointless. She didn’t listen tome at the best of times.Mom did say something to her one day. I didn’t hear it, but I recall Dawn’s whining response, “But it’s my job.”
And that was it. Never mind about my sleep, Dawn had her job.
Oh, yeah I tried assorted medication for the insomnia. Phenobarbitol, Dalmane, Sinequan, Valium, even sleeping pills. I discovered that most sleep inducers worked only once on me. The exception was the sleeping pills which kept me groggy to the point I couldn’t take them.
So I was awakened every morning by crashing and clanging and I felt it scrape me raw.
When I told my parents I couldn’t sleep they told me to get some fresh air and exercise. Dawn’s madness ruled and I went with little sleep.
Eventually, around the end of May, she stopped doing the dishes and I started to sleep through the night.