I’ve had trouble sleeping for the past few years. Every night, I would lie awake in bed for at least 3–4 hours trying my darn best to focus and stop thinking for a damn minute. I’d search the inner corners of my brain for an off button, but to no avail. My thoughts would alternate between my life’s trajectory, my failures, desires to vanish out of existence, and mental reruns of my favorite shows. I could recite the first 3 seasons of community from memory if I really tried. I tried exercising myself to exhaustion, sticking to one cup of coffee in the morning, cutting down on cigarettes, avoiding screens at night, reading for an hour, and even jerking off before bed. None of it worked. I tried drinking, but that just made it worse.
I decided to get help one morning when I dozed off at the wheel on the highway to work and nearly got killed. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was one of the few times I was actually glad for loud horns. This wasn’t the first time I’d slept off while driving, it was just the scariest.
I saw a doctor over a year ago to find out what my problem was. He was a skinny, yet round faced man who seemed annoyed that I had the audacity to interrupt his Facebook hour. He didn’t move his face away from his computer screen to even look at me while he performed his diagnosis. “If you snore, it might be sleep apnea. If you don’t, it’s probably just stress.” , he said with the enthusiasm of a sloth forced to exercise. In what I think was an attempt to get rid of me, he ordered a blood test and told me that he would call me when the results arrived before sending me on my way. He called me the next day to tell me my results were completely fine. I asked him what it could be then. “Stress”, he said. Just the word stress. Not even a complete sentence. “Oh , and if you snore, come back”. He hung up.
I didn’t go back.
I wasn’t any more stressed than usual. Work was just as bad as it had always been. I was as enthusiastic about my job as the doctor was about his. But at least I tried to do my best.
My girlfriend said I should see a therapist, and I did. The cheapest one in the country. If there was a stereotype for a therapist, this guy was it, right down to the slim framed spectacles perched down the tip of his nose. They even had the little string that allowed them to hang around his neck. I forget what those are called. Lanyards? Support strings? Training nooses? He was a chubby old man with a bald head and a goatee and a slight smile that seemed permanently fixed.
He could have been Mona Lisa’s overweight Indian uncle.
We talked, and talked, and talked, and he concluded that I might have depression, or anxiety, or just going through a rough time. That’s what I got from a man with 10 years of med school and 15 years of psychiatry practice. The internet would probably have been more helpful, at least WebMD told me that I might have cancer.
He asked me if I wanted him to prescribe me something. I said nah, I’m good. My insurance didn’t even cover this session. I don’t think they’d cover antidepressants. He told me that I should go easy on myself and slow down and enjoy the day. Really enjoy that damn cup of coffee in the morning.
I went for 3 more sessions over the next few weeks and he kept talking about the types of therapy that would address my issues, but he never actually got around to actually applying them on me. I guess he just wanted someone to talk to. I should have just referred him to a therapist I knew that I couldn’t afford. There were moments where I just wanted to grab him by the collar, give him a good shake and yell in my best Samuel L Jackson voice: “MOTHERFUCKER, JUST SHUT UP FOR ONCE AND THERAPIZE ME!”.
Did I need to learn therapy to be therapized? Do I need to go to med school too?
I didn’t go back.
I went to a meetup group for depression and anxiety hosted by this kind American teacher for a couple of sessions. The members were overwhelmingly male. You’d find fewer sausages at a german food festival. If I was depressed, then these guys were practically dead inside. They had legitimate problems. One guy found out that his partner of 20 years was finding men on Grindr. Another just went through a painful divorce that ended up with him losing custody of his son and a chunk of assets. Another had started spiraling because his antidepressants had run off and his psychiatrist in Jordan was on leave for 2 months and he couldn’t get a prescription. However, the most jarring was when my best friend from elementary school walked in one day. I hadn’t seen him since he transferred out of our school in the 6th grade. He used to be the kindest, most exuberant person I knew, but now he was just the shell of man who slouched, stuttered and didn’t have the ability to look someone in the eye when he spoke to them. Compared to these guys, my issues seemed trivial. I felt like an impostor, a tourist. When things would get particularly tense, I’d make a joke or two to lighten the mood, which went over as well as an abortion joke at a baby shower.
I didn’t go back.
I’d like to tell you that I found an alternative, that i used my nights to start an underground fight club. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough male rage to commit to something like that. How do you get male rage? Should i get my heart broken? Take steroids? Read a misogynistic reddit forum? Watch fight club again? Scratch that, how do you get regular rage? I assume the anger would be exhausting enough to put me to sleep.
I see life as this infinite kaleidoscope of contradictions, filled with opposing choices and catch-22’s. I can’t get better if I don’t actually put the effort into it, and I can’t put inthe effort in because I’m too exhausted from insomnia.