This is an extract from “Insomnia,” a fictional short story dealing with schizophrenia, by Naomi Elster.
During the day, I’m fine. Better than fine. Almost perfect.
But not at night. That’s when it all comes back and I can’t sleep. I’m too confused, too damaged. I toss and turn until the covers are off and the sheets are soaked and my tired body aches too much to toss or turn any more, trying desperately to think of something, anything, anything else, trying not to think, not to remember, not to wonder.
But it comes back anyway. It always does.
Lying there, on my back, staring up into the darkness, I think I see his face above me. I close my eyes but he’s still there, this time clearer, sharper, everything, from his multiple chins to his beak nose and bushy brows more clearly defined. I see him in a hundred different ways and I tell myself what they told me, what I think is the truth. It never happened. All it is is the result of a simple chemical imbalance. A textbook “positive symptom.” I have no reason to fear that memory, because like many others, it is false, made up, imagined.
But one voice tells me what the therapist said, what the doctor said, what the court found. And another tells me that they are lying, they are all lying to me, it was real, or why would I see it every night? And the pictures of him come back, garbled and confused, and my mind races and races until I can no longer follow my own thoughts, no longer tell which voices are my true thoughts and which are wild, paranoid hallucinations. There is no companion, no therapist and no friend with me there in the bitter darkness of the night to help me decide which voices to obey and which to ignore, so I lie there, for as long as I can bear it, and do not move.
My life is one of excess. The chemicals that balance everyone else’s brains are in excess in mine, unbalancing it. Dopamine, which is there a bit in a normal brain, is there all the time in mine, as though I had a constant supply of amphetamines kicking my brain about, making it do strange and frightening things. I can’t make sense of my own thoughts. I don’t know which of the voices in my head are the thoughts of a sane person and which are the hallucinations of a crazy schizophrenic. Inside my head a storm rages but things in the outside world that tear other people apart don’t touch me. Textbook, the physicians say.
I lie there as long as I can bear it, and my weary body struggles to close my eyelids to the world, to get the rest my crazy brain denies it. But there is no relief and I start to feel panic, a hammering in my chest and my temples that soaks my sheets and dries my mouth, and I have to escape, even though it is futile – how do you escape your own madness?
…”Insomnia” by Naomi Elster continues in HeadSpace, issue one…http://headspacemagazine.bigcartel.com/product/headspace-issue-1
Copyright Naomi Elster April 2013