Friday, March 12, 2010

Insomnia and Death

Sleep has long been perceived as a metaphor for death. Just as Hamlet blurs the lines between death and sleep while describing his anguish over his father’s murder:
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause
When contemplating suicide, Hamlet conflates sleep and death.
I recently read the article “failing to fall” by Siri Hustvedt, that led me to trace back my first pseudo-insomniac fit—conscious and somnolent. I was perhaps seven years old, when hanging clothes rustled in the dark, which triggered images of shadows with twisted faces emerging out of the dim light creeping out of the closet door. My imagination ran and I could not catch it until the break of dawn and the cock-a-doodlings came alive. Thankfully, my imagination decided to rest in my dreams. My next encounter with insomnia occurred when my family and I arrived to Canada; I was around the age of nine, almost ten. What triggered my insomnia then was a fear of death, albeit not my own death, but that of a family member. I had to ensure that everyone was asleep before me. But once they had fallen asleep, I would fear that they were sleeping without dreams. I would listen carefully for a sign of life. At that age, I aware that sleep resembled death so closely, that I would embark on a search for that seemingly lost consciousness of those asleep. This became a deadly habit.

As the dark spaces of night unfold, my mind’s eye flickers with images. My hands clasp the end of my memory, the end of my pillow.

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