I’m sure pretty much everyone sometimes has thoughts that stop them sleeping. For me, sometimes it’s as if it’s deliberately on those nights where I’ve not got a lot of time in bed so I need to make every second count; I concentrate too hard on trying to sleep, and conversely end up even more awake by focusing on things. But sometimes it occurs randomly. We can’t anticipate it, and it’s one of the most frustrating things, especially when you’re actually so exhausted but your brain refuses to switch off.
Sometimes it’s merely random thoughts that keep me up, but often they are sad and sinister thoughts. I gravitate towards thinking of death a lot in these situations; I remember in my childhood I’d always end up thinking about the film Braveheart for some reason, when I wasn’t irrationally and very weirdly scaring the crap out of myself by simply ‘seeing’ in my head the end credits of The Simpsons – there was always something awful and evil about that yellow on black, though I don’t know what I was about, really! – and it would invariably lead to me thinking about losing family members, even those more distant ones, and I’d become very distressed, and sometimes cry about it.
Nowadays all my death-like thoughts tend to focus on my brother. Since he was diagnosed with SLE, or lupus, I’ve been on my guard a bit more. Lupus can be fatal, but it’s not as common nowadays. I still can’t help worrying incessantly about it. I think it’s more stark for me because we’re twins, and we’ve not yet spent a whole day apart. Neither of us feels complete about something until we’ve told the other person. And although his disease isn’t exactly a definite killer, the thought’s always lingering somewhere in the background.
All this has been even stronger by his upcoming surgery, in only two weeks’ time. I am nervous about it, and I find myself at night going over all the possibilities of him not surviving. I don’t know how elaborate other people tend to make their night-time terror thoughts, but my mind goes into overdrive. I imagine, down to a weird level of detail, life without my brother. I imagine hearing the news, having to tell friends, announcing it on all his websites. I imagine the rest of the family wondering how to get me out of the stupor that causes me to lie in bed all day. I imagine family disagreements about the funeral arrangements. I imagine being at the supermarket and not being able to place bottles up and down instead of across the conveyer to stop them rolling about without breaking down at the fact that he’s not there to insist that I do it. I imagine having to eventually look at the plans for the rest of the novel he would leave unfinished and not be able to finish it for him, even though I’d love to. I imagine how bittersweet it would be to finally have enough space in our room for all my stuff! As I said, I don’t actually know if others go into this level of detail or not or simply feel all the emotions of their loved one not being there, but I definitely do.
He thinks I’m silly when I suddenly leap over for a hug in the middle of the night. So do I, really. But I guess it’s a good thing that I’m trying to visualize a future without him, which would well happen with or without the lupus hanging over our heads, but it’s so unbearable to think about and renders me unable to get to sleep. It seems to be my worst nightmare, because it’s the most frequent thing that plagues me when I’m trying to sleep. And yet there’s a very real chance it will come true.
I’m not sure the point I’m making about all this – I just thought I would ramble, since last night I had less than five hours to get a good sleep and, lo and behold, horrible, intrusive thoughts about that stopped me! I think of a friend of mine who lost her twin, and I know that if she can get through, so can I, if, or perhaps, when it happens. Lupus is a degenerative disease – it gets worse and worse as time goes on. His history of self-harm and suicide attempts add another sense of foreboding. But, I don’t know – I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, I suppose, and the burden of trying to survive the grief would be gone!
What can I do to stop myself thinking these awful thoughts? It’s not fun to suddenly have a freakout and a long hard cry at the thought of your brother dying when five minutes beforehand you were simply trying to sleep before a busy day tomorrow. It doesn’t happen ridiculously often, but I hate it! The thought that one day he might not be there for even a hug is simply too unbearable to think about.