by Claire Taylor
A few summers ago, I was finally officially diagnosed with depression for the symptoms I have faced for about half my life, but sometimes I think they got it wrong and I just really, really, love sleep.
I love the way sleep transforms my weary limbs, the way I can feel its pull in the muscles of my face, the weight of the blanket on my skin. It embarrasses me sometimes; my friends’ parents tease me about how late I sleep every time I see them and something in me shrivels even as I see the love in their eyes. Sometimes I feel like I am wasting my life when I think about how much time I spend occupied with sleep.
It is an intrinsic part of human existence, so much of our lives revolve around sleep. We spend our days wishing we could be sleeping, chatting about drowsiness, worrying about a tendency to over or under-sleep, not to mention all the time we spend actually asleep. Give or take a few hours of sleep, our level of functionality can change drastically. The best studying advice I ever received was that no matter how much I felt I still had to learn before an exam, there was no amount of anxiously rereading information that would help me as much as a decent night’s sleep. Our minds need rest to be able to process and respond to the world around us. To have the ability to sleep is a wonderous thing; anybody who has spent nights restless knows this.
I come from a hearty line of slumberers. My father is known for sneaking off at family gatherings to pass out on the couch for hours at a time, his father regularly falls asleep in his chair mid-conversation, and my other grandfather had a notorious habit of resting his eyes as he sat in the front pews at church. My mother describes her first year of marriage to my father by laughing about how much time they spent sleeping, curled under the covers because they couldn’t afford to raise the heat. When my immediate family gets together, we spend most of the time all passed out with books in our laps in various corners of the living room. It is a gift I have inherited, this joy in spending my time unconscious.
It’s not as if I am always asleep; I still stay up until the small hours of the morning some days, often finishing homework, sometimes without cause. I think it’s because the thing I love about sleep is waking up, not falling in. There’s just this perfect moment in the mornings when I wake up and feel my body freeze, mouth open and tongue heavy in my mouth, scarcely breathing for the beautiful stillness of it all. I crack open the blinds of my eyes and let the world glint in, let sounds begin to wash over me, the echo of people puttering downstairs, the comforting hum of the fan. When I let myself move again in this moment, it is only to roll over and fall back asleep.
Sometimes I want to sleep forever. Not necessarily in a coma way, or in the disappear from the world sense (at least anymore), I just sometimes wish I could freeze time and take a ceaseless nap for a couple years. I don’t even do that much honestly; I don’t know how I am so tired all the time. Maybe my shoulders just ache with the weight of carrying my head around all the time.
I used to wake up and barely be able to hold my body down from the excitement of a new morning. My first introduction to the concept of too early was when my mother gave me her digital watch and told me that the first number had to be at least a 6 before I could clammer into her room to wake her and begin the day. I remember the agony of waiting, staring at the watch I had strapped to the pale-yellow bedframe because it was too big to fit my wrist, willing time to speed up.
Now, even when I am getting up for a good reason, no matter how excited I am for whatever it may be, dragging myself out of bed is a clawing battle of wills. I gnash my teeth and feel like weeping at the sound of the second alarm, the third, the fourth, at the second repeating because I snoozed it. I make my alarms chirping birdsongs or lilting melodies by John Denver or Carol King, sentimentally convincing myself that their sweetness will set in, and I will wake up glad to be conscious again. It hasn’t worked yet, but my roommates have developed opinions on which ones are the best and worst to hear on repeat. I am not the easiest person to be around in the morning.
Does this mean I have lost my joie de vivre? Struggling to get up in the morning is one of the most stereotypical symptoms of depression. I picture a dark room and someone in an all-gray sweatsuit lying in bed, surrounded by piles of crumpled tissues with light streaming in from the crack in the closed blinds to illuminate a single tragic tear running down their cheek. And like, I’ve been there, but most of the times I have been at my most miserable, I did not sleep, I did not cry. I moved through life without feeling it. I did not feel the joy of a cool sheet against my skin or the tingling relaxation of my muscles as I drifted off.
I believe as creatures, we need so desperately to be able to sleep and cry. There’s a line, obviously, I’m not saying it is good to constantly be sleeping and crying, just, we undervalue them both sometimes. There is this belief that if you let yourself soak in a moment you are wasting your life. There is a need to always be doing, moving, accomplishing.
Maybe, just maybe, we can let ourselves just be.
Roll over, my friend. Go back to sleep