I woke up at 4:00 a.m. a few days ago and thought I was going to die.
I have this issue with my left arm. When I sleep in the wrong position, it goes numb.
I’ve already talked to my doctor about it and there are things that I can do to avoid pinching the nerve – lose some weight, wear a better bra during the day, use a different pillow at night, etc.
I did the easy ones and I’m working on the others.
The problem is, when I wake from this at 4 o’clock, I always think I’m having a heart attack.
Eventually, I do convince my head that I’m not actually dying, but my heart isn’t always as sure.
In those wee quiet hours, when my family is asleep and the house is dark, I always imagine the worst.
I hate it. I hate that my a.m. brain goes to the darkest corners of my life to borrow bad fuel for my panic attack fire.
I think of the deaths of my friend and my father. I remember my failures as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, even as a student.
I remember errors I made in my high school and college classes, stupid things I did to thwart my own education, and stuff I didn’t figure out until it was way too humiliatingly late.
I was late to the game a lot. Late. To the game. A lot.
And at 4:00 a.m., I cry because of it.
Occasionally, my husband stirs and distracts me for a brief moment with some night terror of his own. I guess that’s the hour when bad dreams hit our house.
Last night, I recalled (and was humiliated anew) by an incident from my 12th grade drama class.
It’s too ridiculous to explain in detail. The short version is that the teacher asked me to summarize a play she had assigned a few days before.
She wanted me to start the discussion in class that day.
Unfortunately, I never read the play, so needless to say, I didn’t do very well with the summary.
To mask my stuidity, I even foolishly dared to tell of a scene from the book to enliven my description, only the scene I recalled was from the movie and wasn’t even in the book.
There was such disappointment in my drama teacher’s face. I think she really liked me until that moment.
Twenty-five years have passed, and it still embarrasses me to think of it.
At 4:00 a.m., it makes me panic.
And in college – oh brother – what an idiot I was.
I took Astronomy at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. Bad move. Not my favorite subject. Not my favorite time of the day. Lethal combo.
I fell asleep almost every time I went.
My friends took the class with me and helped me to stay awake now and then, but mostly I missed everything.
When it came time to take the final, I was totally stumped.
Rather than kill myself trying to come up with answers I knew weren’t in my head, I wrote a note to the teacher on my exam paper.
I apologized for failing the test, mentioned that I was a theater major and said I hoped he would come to a play sometime.
I strolled to the front of the class, got behind a few other students and added my unfinished test to the pile.
Since there were other kids behind me, I assumed my test would sink below some others so I could skulk out of the room without incident.
The instructor read my note before I’d gotten ten feet from him. Then he said my name. I turned to see a look of totally exasperated disappointment. He shook his head at me.
Humiliation. Red hot cheeks. Couldn’t get away fast enough. What was I thinking?!
At 4:00 a.m., that teacher’s face appears right in front of mine and makes me panic. PANIC.
I hate for people to know how dumb I am.
And by “people,” I mean me.
I hate to know how dumb I am.
I hate to know it at 4:00 a.m. because it makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack.
Don’t know what else to say.
P.S. Oh, and by the way, if you absolutely MUST know, the play was Anna and the King of Siam.
P.P.S. Today, I look like my mom. (Ignore the red eyes.)
And my dad.
And myself too.