It’s early afternoon the first time it happens. I’m at home and deep in domesticity, hanging the washing on the line outside. I have a bunch of daily tasks which I try to do mindfully: fully present and aware. This gives me moments during the day which keep me grounded and relaxed. Hanging out the washing is one of these tasks and I focus on the action of lifting each piece of clothing, the sensation of the cold damp cloth against my fingers as I trap and peg it to the line.
A little swirl of energy catches me off guard: a momentary distraction. I go back to the washing. But I feel it again, a fizz, a hum of energy that is almost a physical sensation within me. It’s different to an energy burst from coffee; it’s more like I’ve just been told some very exciting news. I feel better than I did before. I feel like keeping busy, too. I finish the washing, go inside and make a list of things to do.
Over a few hours the feeling grows (so does the list). I’m caught up inside it like a fish in a swell, rising up with the pull of the tide. I feel good. I pick up the kids from school and kindergarten and instead of going home we go to the park. I’ve brought a ball and a kite and a picnic afternoon tea. It’s a fresh rosy-cheeked day, and I’m in just as high spirits as my children. I chase my son and run through the park throwing the kite into the wind. It soars upwards, a diamond of colour against the empty blue sky. My daughter shrieks with pleasure. What a gorgeous afternoon.
I’m pleased when my husband gets home as I’ve been needing someone to chatter to. I talk in an endless stream, repeatedly telling him what’s on my list of things to do. The things on it aren’t very important: mostly it’s a list of things I want to buy, sew, embroider or make. He nods, frowns a bit but agrees with me that it’s good to have things I want to get done.
“Are you feeling OK?” He says, when I finally stop talking for a moment. “You seem a bit wired.”
“No, I’m OK, ” I smile back. “I feel good. I feel really good.”
Later that evening, with the kids tucked in bed, he asks me the same thing. This time I’m less receptive. I don’t really understand the question. How could I not be OK, when everything feels so amazing? My whole body thrills with this biochemically induced euphoria. I keep looking at my embroidery and marveling at how suddenly bright it looks. “How beautiful are those colours!” I say aloud. My thoughts are speeding up and I bounce around the house from one thing to another.
I need to embroider a nature scene, I think. A nature scene, like the sunset outside. Sunset. I could go for a sunset walk. I could pick some flowers while I’m out walking. I should look up flower crafts on Pinterest. I should browse the internet for sewing ideas to add to my list. I want to sew more children’s accessories. I want to buy labels for my business, to sew on… Flowers, I wanted flowers. Was I going to embroider them? I want to finish my embroidery, I need to finish it tonight. I need to finish everything tonight.
All of my thoughts are poured out in jumbled speech. Suddenly I can think a lot faster than I can speak, and I stumble and trip over my words trying to get them out before my brain has streamed onwards into a new topic. Colours are so vivid and I keep commenting on how lovely and beautiful the whole world looks.
“You’re not yourself,” my husband warns, looking out from the doorway to our room. “It’s nearly midnight, don’t you think you should come to bed?”
But I am giddy. The ‘good mood’ has overtaken me completely. I have come to a realisation: I don’t need sleep. I am one of the lucky people in this universe that doesn’t need to sleep, at all, ever. I wonder at this new thought: I am special and different from everyone else. My body needs no rest. I have been mistaken my entire life. So I refuse to come to bed and stay up instead, embroidering as fast as my fingers can stitch. I have a lot to get done and I plan to work through the night on my list.
At one AM my husband comes out to check on me. I demand a torch. I need one because I’ve found a pressed flower craft I want to make and I need to go out and pick flowers.
“What do you mean, you want to pick flowers? It’s one in the morning!” he explodes, exasperated.
“Yes, it is, and that’s why I need a torch!” I retort. He’s being ridiculous, can’t he see I have so much I need to get done?
We both lower our voices to avoid waking the children, and hiss at each other instead. He wants me to take sleeping pills, I want to stay up all night. We argue, as much as it is possible to argue when you can’t speak without rushing and stuttering. I have a sudden thought that the drugs are all a bad idea. It is a revelation, I am so pleased to have finally seen the light.
“What if,” I test out the idea on my husband, “All the drugs, all the pills, are the wrong thing… What if I take a pill and it goes up into my brain somehow and steals the thoughts out of my mind?”
We look at each other, equally horrified. My husband, because his wife has lost her mind. Me, because I have just had a second revelation. “Are you trying to steal the thoughts out of my mind?”
“What? – No! For fuck’s sake! Take the fucking temazepam and go to sleep. Please!” He’s not normally like this with me, but I guess the accusation is a tough one to stomach in the middle of the night.
I no longer feel quite as euphoric. I still feel full of energy, wide awake, mentally busy and with a strong feeling that I neither need sleep nor should be sleeping. But instead of feeling bursts of happiness I now feel confused and worried about my speech, which I can tell is off. But there’s still a laugh waiting to burst out of me every few seconds. Everything is funny, and everything still looks brilliant with the iridescent colours. I don’t want that to end.
“Don’t tell me what to do. You just want to steal my thoughts with those pills. If I go to sleep I’ll wake up and all my creativity will be gone.” I say through stutters. “I just want… I just need… I just have to stay up.” I laugh again. I don’t even know why.
My husband rubs his face with his hands. If I were him, I’d be wondering how our relationship ended up like this, at least in this moment: the inmate and the guard, the patient and the doctor. The husband and wife. He keeps repeating, “You need to take three temazepam.”
Three is a lot, three will knock me out flat. We both know it.
In a moment of sanity, he finally wins. “OK, three temazepam,” I concede. Then I wink and waggle my baby finger at him. “You want me to pinky promise? Or should we shake on it?” I’m full of laughter, fizzing happily again. I don’t care that his expression is grim.
My husband watches me take the pills, and I swallow them facing him so he can see I’m not pretending. This is fair enough; I have done that before. Then I climb warily into bed. I don’t need to be here. I don’t need sleep. Yet as the temazepam loops upwards in my brain it slows my thoughts down and I start to think more clearly.
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry,” I say, and I am. “I love you.”
“Love you too,” he sighs, and reaches for my hand.