Sleepyhead


There is an x-ray of my head stuck to the window. You can see the black shadow of the nail clearly as the light passes right through my head.

I am a medical miracle. They parade a picture of me around their medical meetings. They tell my story.

It is a good story to tell. They probably laugh at me.

Laughing is one thing I cant do. It is not that I haven’t a sense of humour. I do find things funny. I just can’t laugh and have to suppress it if I can.

It is not the fact that I had  a manic sadness for years. You would want to be bloody sad to put your dad’s nailgun to your head and pull the trigger. And I was bloody sad alright.

I did it on impulse and I didn’t realise it. If I did I would have chosen another way to kill myself. If you get shot in the head, you do have a chance of recovery.

I shot myself in the head at a pointblank range and I survived. I can think for myself and I remember things.

I don’t get blinding headaches anymore like I did for the first few days. I can talk. I can walk around. I can make tea. But I cant laugh.

I cured my depression completely. I would not recommend shooting yourself with a nailgun in the head to get better if your sad.

They said I had given myself a lobotomy, and that is kind of weird. It used to be one of those drastic cures they used for severe mental illness and I had done a job myself with no anaesthetic. Just a nail gun and a steady aim that I thought would be my last act.

Cataplexy. You have probably never heard of it.

Go on say it. Cataplexy.

Dogs get it but cats don’t – cataplexy.  Ha Ha really funny. Not if you get it. It isn’t funny.

I have seen a video of two Dobermans get an attack of it.

It was funny. They got it at the same time. They both collapsed in a heap beside one another.

Narcolepsy is also a good word. Say it. Sounds like it is someone who is angry but it is not about me losing my temper.

Again I hadn’t heard of it before they diagnosed me.

Whats that? What is narcolepsy I hear you say?

Well the doctor had to tell me. You fall asleep. Just like that.

The nail went into your brain and damaged the hypothalamus, which is the part that regulates when we are asleep and when we are awake. It is our internal clock if you like.

He said ‘you might fall into your soup when you are eating’.

I hate this bloody example. They all use it. Every time I hear someone talk about it.

I have become an expert on this now. I know about it.

I have never fallen asleep in my soup. I don’t like soup I say and I hate my narcolepsy.

And I know of none of my friends on Facebook that have fallen into their soup either.

No narcoleptics on Facebook have had chicken soup in their hair follicles.

So there you go. Another clinical myth from the medics who sneer at their colleagues who gave poison to treat all ills just over a century ago, but are happy to give everyone they meet another dose of yet unproven to be poison for a mild heart condition.

That is another myth I have heard about us. We have no bloody sense of humour. This is utter crap and typical of the rubbish you hear. Of course we have a laugh. Well we don’t physically laugh as if we don’t control it then we are in the soup (See what I mean that was funny). Seriously though it is more an inner laugh so we can control it a bit.

Once I did fall asleep when eating fish fingers, chips and peas. This was just for a few seconds. It was easy to wipe the mush off the side of my head both quickly and surreptitiously. None stuck to my hair permanently.

My Mam didn’t notice as she had her back turned. I simply scraped it off my fingers on the side of my plate to leave behind.

My suddenly falling asleep was nothing to do with the taste of my dinner. My brother Joe had told me a joke. It wasn’t that funny, but I felt paroxysms of laughter come on. Actually it was just ordinary giggles but it set me off. Cata-bloody-plexy. Para-fuckin’-lysis. And down into the peas, spuds and fishes for me.

When I used to go to school they would pick on me. So I had to stop going to that school.

Some of them didn’t know that I have narcolepsy. They knew me as the idiot who shot himself in the head and missed. And I suppose then they had to take the piss. Just looking for a difference they were.

My narcolepsy explains why I used fall asleep in my class all of the time. I wasn’t bored in history lessons, nor did I do it to wind up my teacher Mr Goggins. I couldn’t help it.

My grades were always poor.

I wasn’t thick. I didn’t know any of the answers. Just you try and do your homework when you can’t control not falling asleep. I feel like my brain is heavy all of the time and I can’t think straight.

I am not lazy. I don’t stay up all night playing computer games or on the net. Although I would like to.

I spend my nights dreaming and not getting the proper rest of sleep our body’s need.

My dreams are like prisons. They are filled with images of hell. One I keep having is where I see an eternity of grey skulls emerging from the stars behind my eyelids. Some of them are human skulls and some of them look like the skulls of monkeys. Not nice really. It used to scare me when these dreams first started occurring but now I know it is just because my brain refuses to shut down.

I heard a podcast on it recently and some expert said that I don’t actually sleep anymore than anyone else. I’m tired because I just get very poor quality sleep. My brain never shuts down properly at night and that explains all the dreams.

I am so tired during the day and it is getting worse. I don’t go to school. I don’t go out. I do nothing just watch TV game shows. I can’t even watch the comedy bloody shows, but even still I fall asleep sometimes on what I often feel is a whim.

And I too often get this horrible buckling catatonia where none of my limbs work and my feet are like sloppy jelly. And I collapse into a heap of paralysed sleep on the floor.

Narcolepsy is genetic and most people get it from their Mams or Dads. They have found what causes it. It is called hypocretin and they are making a drug. I find the cretin bit funny.

They say the drug will work for those who have what they call true narcolepsy. But that is not me. They are not sure if it will work for me. We will just have to wait and see.

I guess I have to make the best of it. Me and the nail in me head will have to stick together. Now that’s funny. Ha Ha.

© Conor Caffrey 2010

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