I lie next to him on a rug at the end of the night. I have to go home and to bed soon. He says, “We should sleep together. I mean, sleep.” And he’s right, we have quickly become close and so comfortable with each other and the thought of staying and not having to drive home is appealing. But I can’t. I’m not ready to have a relationship with sleepovers. But also, I have a problem with sleep. It’s something with which I’ve been recently coming to terms.

For the past two weeks, I haven’t slept in my own bed. I’ve been traveling and sleeping in a myriad of different places for a couple days at a time. The upside is vacation and reconnecting with friends. The downside is the following:

1. I have trouble getting to sleep, in general.

2. The addition of strange beds and environments adds another level of anxiety to my already rocky sleep pattern.

3. Something happens in my deeper sleep that causes me to wake up confused. It’s been happening for at least twenty years. I imagine there’s a technical term for it like Nocturnal Envirodysmorphia. But basically, I open my eyes and wonder, “Where am I?!”

Sometimes this question is easily answered. I see a familiar piece of furniture or a point of reference through a window. But other times, I wake in panic. “Where am I? How do I get out? What if I’m stuck here? What if no one knows where I am? Am I underground? Who’s next to me?”

I wake up at least twice each night. I long for REM, the orgasm of real rest. After a night of interrupted sleep, I feel heavy, nearly tethered to the bed and unready for even the simplest of exchanges. “How did you sleep?” Still trying to unglue my eye lids from each other, I don’t know how to answer. Words are difficult. All my organs are still trying to find their functional positions again. The cure for this confusion is usually a 30-minute run where I feel that I can shake everything back into place. Though it’s always a pokey, unspirited run, where a short three mile loop feels like the last leg of a marathon.

Perhaps my light sleep is a defense mechanism because the deeper sleep feels like the troublemaker, responsible for my delusions…

I awake in the middle of the night. There is someone next to me and I think I know who it is. But everything is varied shapes of darkness. There is a sliver of a brighter dark to my left. There is a something on my right making it difficult for me to get distance from the bed. I know I have to be quiet. I have some sensibility. But my first response is “How did I get inside this tree? Does it open up over there? Can I make it through?”

trees This dysmorphia is like an acid trip where the go-to answers are the really fucked up ones. When has sleeping inside a tree ever been an option? I feel the edges of the bed as I move around it. The source of lightness is a doorway. I push the door open and am in a hallway. There’s another room. I walk in. The light is triggered with a motion sensor.

I’m in Stacey’s kitchen.

Julie is in the guest room, or the guest “tree”. I remember now that she is in from California and we just celebrated Stacey’s birthday with dinner, wine and a sleepover. I go to the bathroom. The flush is loud, waking me even more. I feel relieved but then embarrassed that I can’t just wake up like I think other people do. I wake up in the purgatory between dream and reality. Why couldn’t I have known where I was? Why did I think I was nestled into a Sequoia? Was I dreaming this before I awoke? No, I was dreaming I ran into Matt Damon at three different functions and was convinced one of us might be stalking the other.

Lying on the floor next to him, I tell him stories of my nighttime adventures- everything from being tangled in my sheets and falling out of bed to running to the door to make sure I’m not locked in. Perhaps it’s all left over from my brain working overtime or even a past life or two. But for now, he understands. I give him the worst case scenario,”What if I panic and try to hurt you?” He smiles and responds, “Maybe we should just figure it out when we get there”.

I’m grateful that even in my most craziest night pursuits, I haven’t hurt anyone. And everything is always okay in the morning.