I went to bed last night at 1:30 this afternoon.
I spent the night doggin’ a Miami man charged with gunning down four people – including his twin sisters and a sleeping 6-year-old – at a family Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter, Florida. I went to the Palm Beach County jail at about 1 am but he wasn’t there. So I drove north about 30 minutes to the police department where investigators were questioning Paul Merhige. The police wouldn’t let the media park within sight of the sally port (the garage where Merhige got in and out of a police car.) So, we staked out Merhige from a hedge across from the sally port until 4:15 am. It was 43-degrees, which isn’t cold if you are a Packer’s fan, but is damn cold if you are a Floridian.
I followed Merhige back to jail and then to court. Then I raced back to the newsroom, then back to court and then back to the newsroom. I finally hit the pillow at 1:30 pm – about 30 hours without sleep. In my college days I pulled all nighters during exams and drinking marathons and bounced back quickly. Not today. Sleep is to my mental health what my heart beat is to my physical health. Can’t function well without a nice, regular pattern.
During my last major depression, as my psychiatric nurse practitioner evaluated whether I needed to be involuntarily commitment to a psych hospital, she said I needed sleep. Actually, she said it was “the first thing you need.” Sleep? She explained how disruptive sleep patterns and lack of sleep fueled my depression. I knew my depression caused my sleeplessness but I did not know my sleeplessness worsened my depression, which worsened my sleeplessness and on and on.
She gave me a prescription for a drug called Seroquel and I slept and slept and slept. I was in a fog, stared off into space but I was sleeping. It took a couple of months before I crawled out of my black hole and a couple more months before I tapered off the Seroquel. Now, I take my antidepressants and mood stabilizer and I sleep just fine. I don’t need the Seroquel anymore.
But when I miss one night’s sleep – like last night – my brain quickly gets whacked out. I get the facts straight but my emotions quickly get warped. I get little spurts of mania followed by a low – usually pity but today it was suspicion. I thought a good friend had done me wrong when he did not return a call the day before. My mind began racing, imagining all kinds of scenarios. As I laid in bed, trying to sleep, I couldn’t stop my thoughts. I felt myself being pulled into a yucky drama and knew I needed to get to sleep. I took a quarter of a sleeping pill and woke up four hours later, when my editor called. I would have slept through the night but decided to get up and try to get back to my routine. My friend called and life was fine.
Which is where I am right now, trying to stay awake until at least 9 pm so I can get back into some kind of normal routine. I have 45 minutes to go. I am not going to make it…