There are few things more disorienting than waking up without realizing where, or even when, you’ve fallen asleep.
The first few moments of regaining consciousness are the stuff of genuine terror. As your senses do their best to bring their data to your brain, there are a few agonizingly slow beats where you genuinely have no idea what the fuck is going on.
I imagine this phenomenon is where our vocabulary of phrases like “startled awake” get their origin. Perhaps you weren’t awoken by anything surprising, or particularly startling, but the small gap in processing between sense and mind is such a chasm in that singular moment that it all feels startling.
I had lay down to wait for a Midol to kick in to ease my first day of menstruation cramps at around 1:30pm. I remember asking my husband if he could find a heating blanket. I don’t remember much past that except a few hazy details of wrapping my entire lower torso with a heating blanket.
I had not turned off any lights. Nor had I thought to put on a sleeping mask. I thought I was simply waiting for the sweet relief of caffeine, Tylenol and diuretics. I had even told my girlfriend Ellie who had been expecting me to come up upstairs to hang out that I just needed a quick lie down. Turns out the lie part was true. It was not quick however. Which is some fun wordplay.
When I regained consciousness I had no sense of how much time had passed. As I fumbled about for my cell phone I swear I felt my neurons firing off rapidly in an attempt to gain data points for my poor addled mind to do some damned interpreting.
I was wrapped in something hot with a cord. Did that mean I wasn’t in my own bed? I didn’t generally sleep with anything electronic. I briefly panicked as I felt trapped in what was previously providing my body with comfort. I’d forgotten about the electric heating blanket, leaving the cord with no other function but to panic my hind brain with a fear of being strangled.
As all my lights were on, the various lamps were washing out any indication of the hour. I could hear noises above me so perhaps someone was awake. Did that mean it was the afternoon? What was with all the stomping above. It felt like it must be day.
I simply wasn’t getting enough orientation information from my initial position and I couldn’t seem to find my phone. I doubt more than a second or two has passed as I went through my startled awake process.
As I attempted to make sense of all these inputs I finally realized that I had passed out on top of my phone and I’d let it slip under my pillow. It was a bit past 3pm. I texted Ellie to let her know I’d accidentally passed out. The brief pumping of adrenaline and cortisol was easing back. I was at home in bed quite safe and a bit overly warm. But I certainly felt a new appreciation for the limits and frailty of my human mind.