Insomnia, The Fuel.

Lately, as the sun lowers itself from view and darkness inks itself across the sky, I have been met by a woefully familiar adversary – insomnia. I am not awake due to nightmares. Not anymore. They have been pharmacologically supressed, somewhat. And admittedly, sometimes with the help of a bottle or two… nightmares are a less frequent plague suffered by my wounded mind. That is not the reason for my lack of sleep as of late…


As I traipse around my apartment readying myself to settle, it never dawns on me – what lurks from just behind my eyes. Deep in the back of my fractured thoughts. It does not present itself until my head touches the pillow and my eyes graze upon the blank canvas of my ceiling. Then it happens… they come back… the dead come back… all of them. I see the twisted faces of those suffering. I remember the blank stare of the newly departed. In doing this I begin to hear a drum. A loud, percussive thump. It is my heart. It beats with the memory of the dead against my chest. Soon after that, the sweat comes. First along my brow and then my back. My breath tries to match beat with my heart. I try to thwart all of this by rolling from one side to the other and then back again – useless. Hopeless. Maddening…


This is the nighttime ritual for a man and his broken mind. A medic’s mind…


For years as a paramedic I was skilled in healing others. Taking their pain away. But where does that pain go? If taken from them, where does it go? … I can’t answer that. But I can tell you about my pain. And if you have read my posts before, I already have.


Last night when ready, I lay back onto my bed in preparation for slumber. I felt okay at first. Comforted by the dim lighting that invited itself in through my blinds. Cozy beneath the embrace of my blanket. Coddled by my pillows. I closed my eyes. One blink. Two blinks. Three and then close… and then without warning, a high-pitch followed by a low tone, back to high again broke through the night with its wail of purpose – a passing ambulance. My eyelids were now stapled to the open position.


For me, sirens mean something different than they likely do to you – I hear them, and my body instantly becomes alert to the fact that someone needs help. Someone is calling for us. For them, I suppose. No longer are they calling for me. My time of service has passed. Now, I simply walk among the wounded.


It’s a physical thing that happens to me in those moments. My body remembers the call to action. But when the reality sets in, and I know that I am going no where, my brain refuses to listen. It responds to the dead of which I once tried to save… My brain refuses to stop after the count of 30 compressions to a lifeless chest. It also refuses me rest in its journey of the past.


Last night as the sirens wailed passed, I began to think of the man I once saw. He was lain on his back atop of his hardwood floor as stiff as the boards beneath him. He had died in his living room. The police had called us after they had been called by his daughter. She had come to check on him and upon noticing the door ajar, she let herself in and was confronted by the site of her deceased father. And now, there I was, standing in the livingroom, overtop of an obviously deceased human being. One of the police officers was standing off to the side, seemingly shielding her view of the deceased with the use of the wall by the entryway. She (the police officer) said that she didn’t want to see him because he looked “gross”.


I didn’t agree with her description at the time, but I do now. The dead always look gross. It is after all the end of life. And what is more human than hating the thought, sites or sounds of death?


It was my duty to pronounce him. The police cannot do that. So, I kneeled beside the man’s head, extended my arm and placed my thumb and index finger at the lower part of his jaw. I held on firmly as I wiggled the jaw to see if it would move – it didn’t – rigor. It was then that I noticed his arms were also in a bent position and his hands pointed towards his toes in a sickening contort. And then his eyes. His fucking eyes… they were locked onto me as though he had something to say. Something ireful. Something unwanted to my ears. I looked away, but I could feel the dead eyes peering upwards at me, crawling along the lower side of my jawline. My spine began to rattle as though I was cold. But this was the middle of the summer, and cold was something I was not… I stood up, leaving the dead man to stare into the abyss. Anywhere but at me. I went over to the island in the kitchen and began typing onto the keys of our Toughbook, filling in the deceased’s demographics. He was barely fifty-years-old…


As I was typing, a second police officer approached me and asked if I knew ‘cause of death.’ I informed him that it would be impossible for me to say in this case. He looked steadfast with concentration. My curiosity, peaked I asked him “why?” He said the front door was ajar as stated by the daughter, and that there were signs of damage to the door as well. They were attempting to figure out if this was a death of spontaneity, or something else entirely.


I never heard the result of that case. I’ve looked for anything I could about it online a couple of times, but to no avail. A good thing, I suppose.


But that didn’t help the fact that last night and well into the morning hours, I was awake remembering his cadaverous stare. Feeling his jaw along the pads of my thumb and index finger. There’s one thing they do not tell you about in medic school – it is that the skin of the dead, newly or otherwise feels unearthly and heinous. It just feels different. I cannot explain nor describe it. But my God, I remember it… vividly so…


I hate PTSD. I hate that I have it. And I hate that I feel weak because of it. This call did not give me PTSD. I do not want you to think that – I suspect I already had it before ever having walked through the door of that man’s house. Dead kids, burnt bodies, slain brothers, murders and rapes are more likely the culprits and causation of my bleeding mind. This man simply sat down beside them…


In Canada there are 33,500 paramedics. I am one of them. And out of that 33,500, it is conservatively estimated that about 18,400 are at risk of PTSD. One in four, give or take… And that’s only the one’s we know of… That’s vastly disproportionate from our brother and sister counterparts in law-enforcement and firefighting.


I know that number should assist in bringing about perception to the fact that I am not weak but more-so injured. But the fact that I am a 35-year-old man who needs the assistance of a nightlight so as to reacclimate upon waking up from nightmares croons to me a different fable. My self-loathing narrative acts as kindling. Insomnia the fuel. And then fire… That’s when thoughts of weakness burn themselves to my soul. And to put out the flames? A-nice-cold-beer…


Insomnia is one thing. As is the fear of closing my eyes – I am petrified of what waits on the other side of my stare. Fear and the inability to sleep makes for a long fucking night!


Maybe tonight will be better? Maybe it won’t? Let’s just hope some day is….

3 thoughts on “Insomnia, The Fuel.

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  1. That PTSD number as per the people in your field is astounding.

    But really, there is the matter of transference that you are dealing with every day. What ARE you expected to do with all the shit you’re exposed to? It doesn’t just go away when you take off the uniform. It anything, as you have described, it becomes more sinister.

    Admittedly, the first time I read you I almost decided not to come back. Not because I didn’t care for your writing, but because I absolutely loved it. Your ability to paint a picture is captivating. And so, I felt like a voyeur. It felt wrong, to read what was going on inside your mind. But I’m glad I came back. Because I think it’s good for you. The writing, and the connections with others. I hope it is.

    It ain’t much of anything, and it sure as hell isn’t going to change tonight, but thank you. For your service, for your writing. For trying.

    It matters.


    1. Thank you so very much for your kind words and continued support, brother. It truly does mean a lot.

      I often feel as though I am alone, surrounded by everyone… hearing a voice, or in this case reading one that is speaking right to me helps me feel visible. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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