I dread being awakened in the middle of the night because I know what awaits me.
Is it the fear of hearing the sound of glass shattering as an intruder breaks through a window and enters my home?
Is it the fear of feeling the clammy skin of an alien creature reaching for me, preparing to whisk me away to its mothership in order to perform experiments on my unconscious body?
The thing which I most fear in the middle of the night is my own mind, its endless thoughts causing me to suffer from insomnia.
I carry the burden of being a light sleeper, so anything louder than a spider crawling causes me to immediately spring from a prone position and assume (what I believe to be) a fairly menacing martial arts self-defense stance.
But once I realize that the culprit that has awakened me is actually the ever-efficient ice maker in the kitchen clocking in for the night shift at 2:00 AM, I coax myself back to my warm bed.
The down comforter that I tuck snugly around my body is as soft as a marshmallow, and I begin to settle back into the security of my bed. My heart rate, which was racing as fast as a jackrabbit’s just a moment earlier, begins to slow down as I prepare to return to my slumber.
But then the mosquito bite that I got the night before starts imploring me to scratch it.
I do so, compliantly, and with gusto. As my fingernails rake my skin, I ponder whether or not the creature that pierced my flesh with its proboscis was a card-carrying member of the West Nile Virus Club.
My brain does a quick scan of the state of my well-being over the past 24 hours: Had I been feverish? Did my body ache? Was there a tell-tale bull’s eye pattern emanating from the site of the bite. Wait – that’s a sign of Lyme Disease, caused by a tick, right?
Confused and frustrated, I reach for my phone on the nightstand and google “Symptoms of West Nile Virus.”
Ten minutes later, after WebMD convinces me that I’m OK (at least physically), I put some Caladryl lotion on my bite and re-tuck myself in bed. I’m positioning my body into the optimal sleeping position when – ouch – I feel a pain in my right side, just below my rib cage.
Any hopes of lingering in the cozy bliss of Marshmallow Land are shattered as my thoughts take off again, speeding through the depths of my data-packed gray matter with the speed and determination of a torpedo. I find myself playing the part of both doctor and patient, and a clinical conversation ensues:
Hmm. So you’re experiencing abdominal pain in your right side, correct?
I mentally review the events of the day in order to accurately answer this question. Um, I was a bit nauseous earlier today.
I’m sure the two heaping bowls of spicy spaghetti with marinara sauce, followed by several spoonfuls of raw cookie dough I had consumed had nothing to do with my abdominal discomfort.
Is it tender when I press here?
I apply some pressure on the area in question, and muffle a yelp because I do, indeed, feel tenderness.
My husband, who was sleeping peacefully next to me, awakens at the sound and asks me if I’m all right. I tell him that everything is fine, but that I just can’t sleep. Then, I march to the computer in the kitchen to do some real research because, during times like this, a smart phone just won’t cut it.
Five minutes later, I’m convinced that there’s a good chance I’m suffering from acute appendicitis.
Twenty more minutes go by as I anxiously look up advice on what to do. Should I wake my husband and have him take me to the hospital?
Another ten minutes pass while I look up message board responses to that very question.
Amid the chaos inside my head, a tiny voice squeezes its way in, barely audible over the boisterous, frenzied thoughts raging through my mind. It tells me to return to bed, rest for a bit, and reevaluate everything in the morning.
Bleary-eyed and achy (West Nile?), I obey. My arms suddenly feel like lead, and I forgo the ritual of tucking myself in the soft comforter, and instead drop my body on top of it. Sleep comes immediately. Blessedly.
The blaring of the alarm wakes me, and I begin my duties: brush teeth, feed kids, get them off to school.
Sometime around 10:00 a.m., I yawn. Then I remember that I was up most of the night, my unwilling body hijacked by my runaway mind. I vaguely recall that I was concerned that I might be suffering from a serious affliction (or two). I decide to have a mental follow-up doctor/patient conversation:
Do you have a fever?
Are you achy?
No; tired, yes.
Are you nauseous?
Do you still have pain and tenderness in your right side?
Seemingly symptom-free, I chide myself as I sip my double-shot espresso. How could I let my thoughts consume me like that in the middle of the night? How was it that the absence of light brought with it the absence of sanity?
Most importantly, why did I allow myself access to Google in the midst of my nocturnal craziness?
Tonight, as I settle into bed, I vow to banish all ridiculous thoughts from entering my mind. Satisfied with my resolution, I reach over to turn of the light. As I do so, I feel a tickle on my arm, and look to see a mosquito helping itself to a late dinner.