There’s this short story by horror manga author Junji Ito called “Long Dreams”. In it, we are met with a hospital patient who claims that he is literally living out the years of his life in his dreams. One night’s sleep for him could last one year in his dreams, and as the story progresses, we see the man dream longer and longer dreams in one day until his real-life body has become a hollow, deformed husk. His real body finally disintegrates after experiencing 1000 years of life one night, his soul long since trapped inside his dreams for better or for worse.
Over the past two years, i have been suffering from occasional cases of insomnia. These bouts are not exactly routine, as they can happen at any given night whether i had a good day or bad. In these bouts, it would take me up to 2 to 4 hours to fall asleep, as my mind refuses to shut itself down. The insomnia is not always caused by anxious thoughts or stresses. The mind just runs. and runs. and runs. Positive thoughts, hopeful thoughts, information i may have acquired that day or in the past, scenes from films or tv shows, loops of songs, they all appear in tandem with any anxieties or self-reflective thoughts that i also have. As a result, the brain works like a treadmill, but the machine itself has no killswitch which forces the person running on it to rely on the machine for their condition. The insomnia doesnt happen every night, but when it happens lately, it seems to be getting worse, to the point that sleeping pills (or two) no longer work.
Waking up the afternoon after, would fill me with feelings of frustration and confusion as to why this keeps happening.
In these insomniatic bouts, i am basically living out my life in my thoughts for the night. I can be transported to the best of memories and my mind would make me stay in those memories for as long as it allows me to… which sometimes amounts to hours. Sometimes i’m transported to hypothetical situations where my responses are tested. And worst of all, sometimes i drown in my self-reflection, most of which make me realize the worst of myself and believing them and having my mind confirm those assertions. The latter is what happened in the morning of February 14th, as i mainly struggled to sleep amidst the thoughts of where i currently am mentally and professionally at the supposedly advantageous age of 26. Those thoughts needed no trigger. Even after a great dinner with my partner and going to bed smiling, it can creep up on me just like that.
In these thoughts, time moves slow. As the man in the Junji Ito story, it feels like i am living out days, weeks or years in one night. The man in the story has dreams that haunt him to entrapment: studying for exams for 9 months straight or being a soldier in the dense jungle for 10 years: all of that happening as he felt in the span of one night. His eyes gradually hollow out, his body and face disfigured, no longer capable of seperating dreams and reality.
In my thoughts, i am always the worst creature alive: the laziest worker, the undutiful son, the worst friend. These thoughts i know are not true, but the insomnia severely amplifies it until i believe again.
And to be alone with these thoughts on the way to sleep, my most vulnerable moment, it becomes hard to discern what is real and what isnt. Unless you have someone you love sleeping by your side, all you have for company is your mind.