OK, brain – you win. It’s coming up to 1am, I’ve tried to ignore you for three hours and used every trick I know but to no avail and so here we are. I tried reading. I tried focusing on my breathing. I tried counting my heart beats. I tried relaxing my whole body, part by part, starting with my toes but I didn’t even get to my fucking knees. You got me, OK? You got me good. I’ve given up on sleep, you got your way. How about a roll call to see who we have gathered here in this impromptu night meeting? Stress and Tension are here for sure, given my jaw is so tense I have an ache radiating out all the way to my ears – hi guys! – and we also seem to be joined by Frantic Thoughts and Unease. Lovely. Of course all I wanted to do was sleep but you’ve got my attention now so fire away. What’s the story, guys?
It’s a sneaky way to get at me, Brain – this is precisely why you and I have trust issues. If only I could just trust you to have all systems operating in a smooth, predictable and reliable manner! Is that too much to ask? Honestly, I’m sure that’s one of the most basic requirements listed in your job description and you know full well that by 10pm I prefer lights out. We’ve been through this, remember? I feel a bit cheated if I’m honest. Here I am being ever so good and have, with the exception of a few chocolate bars here and there and the occasional breakfast McMuffin, over the past year refrained from adding dangerous poison to the systems you run and yet you suddenly whack me with not one, but several consecutive nights of shockingly bad sleep. Why, my friend? WTF? After over a year of glorious sobriety induced sleep, the kind where I’ve enjoyed a solid uninterrupted eight hours+ every night, I get THIS? That’s just sloppy.
Oohhh the irony isn’t completely lost on me – this is basically the conversation my employers might have had with me! Hey Brain, is this just your twisted sense of delivering a bit of instant Karma? Fair dos, but I’m a bit confused as to why you invited Stress, Tension, Frantic Thoughts and Unease to the party? If you just fancied a game of teach-Anna-a-lesson you could have just adjusted the temperature settings a bit to make sleep uncomfortable by way of feeling too warm or made my calves itchy like you sometimes do – that shit can keep me awake for a good couple of hours, as you know.
Right, who wants to go first? Oh no, don’t even think about looking at the floor hoping someone else will speak up, you shifty lot! You’ve got me up now – you asked to see the Boss and here I am. What’s going on? Better get singing because I’m not best pleased. Brain! Why don’t you have a little chat amongst yourselves while I go get a glass of water, decide who you believe is to blame for the failure of Operation Sleep on this occasion and when I come back at least one of you will get fired. Off you go.
I’d make such a great boss! I think I could take the concept of being unreasonable to a whole new level. Actually, I’d make a fantastic villain – I think I have just the most deliciously perfect balance of severely twisted yet devastatingly sweet. No wonder my new hero is the psychopath serial killer Alice in Luther – always liked a delightful baddie, me, and I felt like ending that particular Netflix binge when I thought she’d been killed off.
Frances! Will you send the candidates back in, please.
1. Stress, why are you here?
Last day at work tomorrow. Or today, rather. But how is this a negative and why would it cause me stress? They’ve found someone new who seems great so I really don’t see any need for me to go around feeling awful or guilty because I feel I’ve let my bosses down. It’s done! Everyone’s moving on and everyone will be better off! It’s a serious win-win situation and I’m actually at such an exciting point! I’ve got my life back thanks to getting sober and I should really get myself a little marching band to parade around with to celebrate the miracle that I seem to be loving STAYING sober. Fuck me, talk about scoring jackpot! Jeez, Anna! Let. It. Go. It’s all positive and I thought I’d made my peace with it. Volunteering and studies lined up and I’m ready to roll – this is super cool! And I will find some cafe or shop job where I can work some hours to have an income too, so this stress is unwarranted. It’s ALL GOOD. This incessant creation of problems that don’t need to be problems I thought I’d left back in the days of crippling hangovers, no? Stress – get the hell out, your role is made redundant with immediate effect. There is no logical reason for you to be here, I have no work to give you. Fuck off.
2. Tension, what about you?
Always in my fucking jaw! I was lying in bed and kept consciously trying to relax my jaw, only to realise my neck had tensed up instead. Adjusted the pillows, tried again. Over and over. Why tense? My replacement is in again tomorrow, is that it? Nope. I already went over everything with her as best I could two days ago. Tense about what’ll happen on my last day? A little. My soon-to-be-ex-bosses are so nice and I worried they might give me a little leaving present or something, so I went and got them one just in case. If they have one for me and I didn’t have one for them, that’d be so shitty. If they don’t, I can either take it back for a refund or leave it somewhere they can find it after I go home. Awkward otherwise because then if I give them something and they don’t give me something, then they‘ll feel awkward and then I’ll feel bad and awkward about THAT. So refund perhaps better? Honestly, THIS is what my goddamn brain will have me lie awake for when there are starving children in the world? I’m so fucked up. Tension – fuck off. Note to self: stop this over thinking. I like my bosses, I appreciate them and I want to give them a little something to say thanks for having me. And I will do that not because I can or can’t grasp what’s appropriate etiquette but because I want to and it feels right. Tension, seriously – out!
3. Frantic Thoughts, I didn’t expect to see you here, can you tell me why you think Brain has brought you in?
Now this is new. I’ve not had obsessive or compulsive thoughts in a LONG time! Probably not since I stopped drinking, actually. They were usually the by-product of alcohol induced depressive and anxious thoughts that buzzed around my head like angry bees until I thought I’d scream out of sheer exhaustion. Sometimes my brain would serve up images of the worst things you can possibly imagine, often terrible things happening to Bambino or other people I love. Remember Madeleine McCann? The little girl who disappeared on a family holiday? Scenarios like that and for no reason. My friend E, who I shared a flat with at the time, would switch off the news and order me to my room because nightmare things like that really mess me up. Fucked up, much? Oh yeah, I’m a real delight. Look, I can’t be bothered with this nonsense and I feel my time and effort is wasted on you, Frantic Thoughts. I don’t believe you will be useful in any capacity in my organisation, we don’t get along and frankly I think you’re a fucking bitch – get out of my sight.
4. Unease, I’m surprised – I thought we’d turned a corner and you’d really taken onboard what we’d learnt, yet back in the boardroom again. Disappointing.
This usually goes hand in hand with Frantic Thoughts. Not sure they’re connected as such, but they seem to like each other’s company. You know when you get those bitter oldies in some workplaces? The ones who harp on about the good old days and resent change? That’s them! They create a bad atmosphere and when you restructure theirs are the first roles you make redundant so you can get rid of the actual people rather than the functions they were supposed to fill. Anyway, Unease gets me scared of the dark. No, honestly! When Unease gets to me, that’s when I sleep either so closely snuggled up to Hubby that you couldn’t fit a stamp between us, or if he’s away, with the light on. In Unease’s grip I alternate between tossing and turning and having really horrible nightmares. I’ve had nightmares almost every night since Hubby’s shoulder op. We switched sides of the bed so I thought perhaps it was that, but tonight we switched back so clearly not the case. Nah, fuck that, I ain’t payrolling that shit – fuck right off and fuck yourself whilst you’re at it, Unease.
Well, well, well… That leaves just you, Brain. I’m THIS close to firing you too right now because I’m actually really, really annoyed with you. It’s now almost 1.30am and I am SUPER DUPER MEGA AWAKE. So unimpressed. You really fucked up tonight but perhaps I’ve taken you for granted a bit since I got sober? Sure, I’ll take my part of the blame, why not. It IS a funny old time, I’ll give you that. Suddenly everything is switched on and functioning like it should for the first time since Boobies defied gravity and Forehead was line free. Over a decade of operating with red warning lights and alarms going off all over the control pad, desperately just trying to keep this old machine upright. No wonder you’re having a bit of a moment, honey. You know what? You did good. No, really, you’ve done me proud. I’ll allow you this wobble. Jeez, it must have got confusing, no? Suddenly we have components and programs that haven’t been used since before the dawn of the iPhone, like Calm, Clear Head, Strength and Clarity. The old thang seems to FUNCTION! I get it – it’s all new, in a way! We’ve not been here for a while, have we? Look, just try to chill out. Let’s write tonight off. We’ll relax here on the sofa and we can read for a bit, just until those four idiots I just fired have cleared off (I can still hear them out in reception – fuckinell, what is it, a tea party? Frances, ask security to escort them out).
OK Brain, I hear you. It’s all new and it’s all overwhelming. I guess I thought it’d all just continue to be gloriously magical, this sober thing, and over a year in I thought we’d got into a nice routine, but I forgot one teeny, tiny little thing – I’m human.
Uhm, guess this would probably be THE unlikeliest time in the history of mankind for a relapse, but even so – I like to say it. It makes me feel good:
Today I’m not going to drink.