Day 6.5 :: Sean :: “Continued decline / Leaving Day!”

After what felt like a long, restless night, here I am again in Extra Time. Another instalment in the Watch Me Lose My Mind show. But the end really is in sight, and we know that for sure now because Thom has gone. He hasn’t been voted off the island. Turns out he had a clash that has always required him to leave one day early. How he kept that a secret for so long, I’ll never know. But he packed up and left us before the last sleep period, and we miss him, and it’s changed things in here. It’s quieter. We miss his voice, his laugh, his music, and the colour he brought with him. We linger on, shuffling through the empty space he used to occupy, finding new paths.

Our best guess is that we have two more short protocols to go, and then Bingo. Leaving Day. Whatever we call it. There’s no way to squeeze the exact info out of our wrangler, because they are expert at answering questions in such a way as to provide no information at all. But that’s what we reckon. Two more sleep and then home. Or one sleep and two testing sessions. The short protocols are doing my head in. They go like this: get up, be de-wired, have a meal, start testing; be tested three times, have another meal, go back to bed. The awake time is around 4-5 hours, sleep time 3-4 hours. We’re in our fifth repetition. The picture to the right is how I felt yesterday when upon discovering that we had three more rounds (with everything else that entailed, like not going home).

Seriously, it’s doing my head in.

I can’t wait to see the data, but my impression is that my performance is steadily dropping. Yesterday, during the final round, I microslept in the middle of the Stroop task and literally almost fell off my chair during PVT. Today, I crashed the virtual car. I anticipate continued decline today.

It’s not just the mistakes that are noteworthy. I’ve noted a reduced ability to spot patterns across the board. I don’t see the repeated results in the maths quiz that I used to or the patterns the colours form in Stroop, and I barely blink at my favourite numbers in the PVT. It’s all I’ve got just to keep pushing the buttons.

On top of my mental decline, I’ve also developed a weird rash across my knuckles, particularly on my right hand. It might be psoriasis or one of those skin conditions that I’ve never suffered from before (touchwood) or it could be a vitamin deficiency. This is the longest I’ve gone without a Berocca for twenty years. “Bob” knows what that’s doing to my system.

Lots of people have it a lot worse out in the real world. I’m not intending to post a long list of complaints. Rather, I’m posting observations on the working of my hacked mind and body. For Science! I’m interested in how lack of certainty (or the illusion of certainty: I don’t mind if it turns out to be wrong, just that I have it) has affected my well-being. I had a very long “night” last night, thanks to not knowing if we were staying for two more protocols or leaving on waking. I did sleep for a bit, and dreamed: of conflict at home (perhaps making it easier for to stay another night in here); of being a pathologist on my first day at work, dealing with a very messy cadaver and not knowing where the bathroom was to wash my hands; of the light coming on in my room so I could get up (sadly not true). On the whole, though, it seemed as though I lay awake half the night, thinking about the present, about the future, and general not being very Stoical. Occasionally I jotted down some notes, but in the dark I made the fatal error of forgetting to turn a page, so I ended up scrawling over something I’d already written. My nocturnal scribbles are hard enough to read without doing that. (Ah well. If it was important it’ll come back.)

I’ve been assessing the outcomes of the project so far. There’s the story, which I’ll probably post today. There’s the moment where I got the idea for the story—hopefully I’ll be able to find that moment in the data. There was the Rebellion—a collaborative outcome on its own, but if we get that data too, that’ll be a bonus. And there’s whatever comes next, as we follow Thom’s footsteps and move on out into the world. A pint of cider is the first point of order.

Oh, and I did have a shit idea last night, to prove that not everything’s gold in here (as if anyone reading my posts would ever believe that). How about a kid’s cartoon about Ninja Olympians—the god kind, not the athlete? Awesome, hey? It’s right up there with Doctor Ho.

And this might be a shit idea too, but this group photo (taken by Xuan on Fee’s camera under a very tight schedule) totally looks an album cover, doesn’t it? There’s even room in the bottom RH corner for the band name. But what would The Subjects sing? That’s easy. Covers of the Jackson 5’s “ABC”, AC/DC’s “TNT”, and Michael Jackson’s “PYT”, of course, substituting “PVT” at every opportunity. It’d be cathartic. It’d be a hit among sleep centre survivors. There must be a support group somewhere.

At least I have changed my shirt and socks. Some sanity remains.

Sorry, Stas, for spelling your name wrong. And thanks to Sally, Larissa, Lily, and Lyn for cooking our food. Apart from our excellent fresh veges for lunch and the super-sweet indulgent muesli I have for breakfast, my favourite meals are the ones involving beans and broccoli. All I need is Brussels sprouts and I’d be in heaven.

Ha! I just glanced back at some earlier posts and noticed that although I went to great effort to list the seven stages of Sleep Deprivation, I only referred to only six throughout. The editing module of my brain is clearly fried. Here is what I should have proposed.

The Six Stages of Sleep Deprivation are:
1) Dazed
2) Paranoid
3) Upset
4) Hysterical
5) Rebellion
6) Batman!
7) Feelings about Feelings (aka Stating the Obvious)

And then in the next post I talked about adding an extra stage, which should have read:

8) WTF?!?

I discovered this in the course of wondering if there’s a ninth stage. (Shit—I wrote fifth stage there. Maybe I should stop writing NOW.) Haven’t worked out what it would be. It doesn’t matter, anyway, except to me. Encapsulation is the first step to assimilation. Maybe there’s just the ending, being fired out of the cannon into the real world. I hope there’ll be a net.

Testing was interminable. We had a lacklustre lunch (mood, not food) then hit the sack, exhausted. I slept well and dreamed I was moving house, which was appropriate because . . .

Barely had we finished a decidedly despondent breakfast when a door that had never opened before swung open and in walked Thom and Vicki. To say that we were discombobulated (the word of the week) would be an understatement. Our week of Fridays was finally over! We had finally reached the end. We were free!

I can’t describe how good it was to see our missing comrade, so I won’t. AWESOME will have to do.

Only we weren’t free yet, not really. (I had to put on Nusrat, for a start.) There was a debriefing session that filled in some of the mysteries we had obsessed over for so long. More on that later– but I learned that I was RIGHT about the white noise, so that was a huge relief. We had champagne and chocolate (for which I will remain eternally grateful). Our wranglers assembled to say goodbye. Families arrived. There was packing . There were hugs. There were teary eyes. And then it was out into the sunglight, which hurt like a motherfucker.

I’m writing this Sunday and finding it hard to put into words the emotional turmoil I’ve experienced in the last twenty-four hours. Maybe I’ll never find words. We’ll see. I’ll be writing more here in due course, either way.

For now, here’s something I decided during the session that turned out to be our last. I wrote this before I was wired up the very last time:

I’ve decided to post the story. It needs work, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it as a whole. But I think it’s a fitting coda to this week. I feel like I’ve done everything I can in this state of mind. Later I’ll have the necessary perspective on this brief exploration of timelessness, lack of control, and deranged sleeplessness to decide what it meant to me and my creative practice. I feel like I’ve reacted to an awful lot of stimuli but haven’t reflected anywhere near enough yet. Perhaps if I wrote less and thought more. Sadly for all, that’s never been my way.

So there’ll be a link here somewhere to the story, hopefully easy to find (like, here). If you’re inclined, take a look. I’d love to know what you think. I don’t normally post stories before they’re completely ready, but I think doing this is consistent with the week’s explosive gush. Thanks for coming with me on the journey. I’ll continue to write here for a bit, and then there’s a panel at Adelaide Writers’ Week (1.15 March 6) so come along to that if you want to see us talk in person. We’ll be saner then. Relatively.

Sean Williams

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Post a new comment