Monday, September 6, 2010


It looked like it was going to be a great night on Friday. I was spending time with my friends Dave and Melanie and had gotten to see my god-daughter, thus partially fulfilling my promise to her that I would come around more often. We played a few rounds of cards, I played the old songs on the guitar and we talked about years gone by. I even discovered a great beer from Capital Brewery that incorporated wheat from Washington Island, a place I often visited with my family as a child. Life was good, or so it seemed as I started to drift off to sleep, thus ending a 48 hour insomnia cycle.

As I began to lose consciousness, something strange happened. My legs went numb and my mouth dried up. I staggered to my feet but then promptly fell to my knees. My heart rate kicked into overdrive and I began to hyperventilate. I recognized these symptoms. I was about to go into a panic attack. I've had them on rare occasions over the years, though this one felt much more intense than any I had ever had previously. I reached for my cell phone, took it apart into its component pieces and scattered them across the room, thus ensuring that I would not be panic dialing anyone.

I tried to calm myself down by repeating my name and the name of my daughter over and over again, intermixing those thoughts with a chorus of Aupres de ma Blonde (nothing like trying to focus on the lyrics to a bawdy French tune to keep your brain from melting). My body was in full rebellion against my mind. My body wanted to sleep, but my mind was determined to stay awake at any cost. I managed to pull myself up and walked to the bathroom where I let part of the 72 ounces of Capital Brewery's Wheat Beer that had been working through my bloodstream out into the toilet. I felt no sensation. I began to wonder if I was truly standing at the toilet. Perhaps I was passed out on the floor, barely awake as I pissed myself. I pinched myself. Did I feel something? I couldn't tell. I did it again. Inconclusive. I began to pace the room back and forth, my fingers brushing against the wall as I searched for sensation. I heard myself snoring as I walked.

I snapped back to consciousness for a moment and stumbled back to the heap on the floor when I had earlier been trying to sleep. My legs gave out and I collapsed on the floor. My arms were completely numb. I was convinced that I was dying. Was I having a heart attack? A stroke? Whatever was happening, as terrified as  I was, I was determined to fight it. I rolled over and my back scraped the cold tile. As I laid there, I felt like I had been put on a slab in the morgue. I was dead. I died in the home of a life-long friend. His kids would never be able play in that room again. My daughter would grow up without a father. My parents would outlive me. I'd have a craptacular funeral because I didn't write down anything that I wanted. There were so many things I needed to say to people. There was so much I still wanted to do.

No! I would not let this happen. My mind rebelled against the notion of dying and I once again crawled to my feet. I stumbled to the bathroom to pee again and to get a drink of water. Again, I pinched myself. Again, the results were inconclusive. Maybe I was dead and Dave's finished basement was some kind of limbo. Maybe I'd flush the toilet and the divine light of Heaven would shoot out of the bowl and show me the way home. Maybe this lack of knowing whether I was alive or dead was Hell. I went back to pacing the room in a sleepwalking stupor, my hands reaching out for any kind of sensation that would confirm to me that I was indeed alive.

I know now that it was the Sun breaking through the basement window, but, at the time, I thought it might be God coming to take me. I collapsed on the floor again, awaiting judgement. Before I gave up, I made a deal with God. If He let me live, I 'd right certain wrongs, live a better life, etc. The exact details of what I'd promised are a subject for another post. All I know is, the moment I said to myself "Okay, I surrender", I heard a door open and little footsteps coming down the stairs. It was my god-daughter.

"Is it time to wake up yet?", she asked.

"Yes", I said. This was the confirmation I needed. Whether it was all the result of an insomnia induced panic attack or a near death experience, I was indeed alive. "Yes, it is".

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