With the launch of my new book in just under a week, I’ve been under enormous pressure, made all that much tougher by the chronic insomnia I’ve suffered from for the past two decades. But never in all my years of sleeping-pill-popping did I make the goof I did on Sunday.
In addition to sleeping meds, I take a pill for mild asthma twice a day. It was 6:30 p.m. when I went to the medicine shelf in my bathroom.
I was talking excitedly to my wife, Jody, who was in the other room, about some new development – my book had just scored a couple of five-star reviews on Amazon that day – as I looked for my afternoon medication.
I must have been distracted as I popped the pill into my mouth and swallowed my usual half-cup of water. Because when I looked down at the blister pack of pills in my hand, my heart sank. And then – well, the best way to put it is – I began to moan like a wounded animal.
“Oh no. Oh no. Oh no!
” I cried out.
“What? What’s wrong?” Jody responded with alarm from across the apartment.
A string of increasingly dire expletives exploded from my mouth as the panic cut right through me, like a Pakistani fighter kite ripping across my gut.
“Did someone die? Was there an accident? What is it, Brian?” Jody asked, now by my side in the bathroom.
“I... took... the wrong... pill,” I said, eyes bugging out, body shaking.
Jody looked at me quizzically, trying to decipher my fervent but so far cryptic remarks.
“I took my sleeping pill instead of my asthma pill!” I screamed, even though she was just a foot away. “It’s too early. What am I going to do?” I had been particularly productive that day – plowing through the latest changes to my website and putting the finishing touches on an audio version of the book.
I had even drunk a big cup of heavily caffeinated chai masala an hour earlier to make it through the night.
I was counting on at least five hours of constructive writing in front of me. But now it would all be cut short – I would have to stop and go to bed. What a waste of time! Perhaps the biggest surprise is that it took so long for me to make this fashla.
In Israel, pharmacists don’t pop your pills out of their original packaging and put them in carefully labeled plastic bottles like in the US. You get the box with the blister packs, and it’s up to you, the patient, to keep track.
I’m usually very careful. Not this time, though.
Maybe I could vomit the pills out, I thought. I’ve never done that on demand, but it looks easy enough in the movies. I tried, but my body wasn’t having any of it.
I was a failure at forced regurgitation.
My distress was exacerbated by a long-standing fear – that someday I would accidentally overdose on my meds, and that would be it. On my tombstone, it would say: “Loving father, devoted husband and almost-published book author – he came so close.”
It was Jody who, as always, provided the calming advice.
“Nothing’s going to happen, Brian,” she said, taking my hand. “You might get a little sleepy. But you’ll wake up in the morning as usual and you’ll be fine.”
She was right, of course. I would be fine. It was just one sleeping pill, not a whole bottle. Besides, what else could I do at this point? “Don’t resist,” Jody added. “Be curious.
Haven’t you often wondered what it would be like to take sleeping pills in the middle of the day?” Well, no.... But I resolved to look at the situation as an unanticipated experiment.
I had speculated in the past that the pills might actually not be doing anything; that they were functioning mostly as a placebo, kicking in at night because I expected them to.
Normally, when I take a sleeping pill before bed, I’m ready to climb under the covers within 45 minutes. But as I sat in front of my screen, updating my author bio on Amazon, I was still awake an hour later.
Another two hours and I was still there.
This was curious.
At the two-hour-and-15-minute mark, though, an unmistakable drowsiness kicked in. And that was that. Anything I might have written after that point would have been as enigmatic as a pronouncement from the Log Lady on Twin Peaks.My log has a message for you, Brian. It’s time for bed.
Jody tucked me in and I slept for three hours. I woke up, couldn’t fall back asleep, got out of bed at 2 a.m. and worked for a couple of hours. I got back into bed at 4 a.m. and slept until 7 a.m. I probably got a total of six hours of sleep – which is more than I usually get.
I don’t imagine I’ll make this mistake again. But if I do, I now have firsthand knowledge that it’s not the end of the world. There are ways to cope, and it can even turn out pretty well.
I guess I have mixing up my pills to thank for that, and the sage counsel of my ever-patient, long-suffering wife, Jody.
The writer’s new book, Totaled: The Billion- Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil, and the World, will be published next week. www.brianblum.com