bed time

Week Four

“bed time”

This week’s topic is something a little easier: we all go to bed after all. What does bed time mean to you? Is it a relief or a challenge? And end or a beginning? A time for stories, for thoughts, for shutting down? Does ‘bed time’ mean something different entirely to you?

Bed time. Harder to get right than the answer to the time-honoured question ‘Do these sheer micro mini hot pants with split crotch and diamante butterflies make my butt look big?’ (The correct answer, for those who may encounter this is of course: ‘No Greg, you look awesome’).

When I was a wee lad my bed time was strictly 7.30pm. Any later would lead to accusations of being overtired from my parents the next day, regardless of the scenario. It wasn’t quite as bad as the examples below but I seem to recall them using it as an excuse for pretty much anything out of the ordinary that happened.

Example #1: Dad slams car door shut on Seb’s fingers.

Seb: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!”

Dad (carefully placing severed pinkie in a lunchbox filled with ice): “Stop it. You’re just overtired.”

Example #2: Seb runs past with head on fire, trail of smoke billowing behind him.

Seb: “MuuuuuuuuUUUUUUUuuuuuum!!!”

Mum (without looking up from Mills and Boon novel):“Overtired. 6 o’clock bedtime for you tonight!”

Example #3: A Boeing 747 falls out of the sky and lands directly on Seb.

Seb: (bone crunching squishy sounds)

Parents (in unison): “You’re just overtired and showing off. It’s a nap for you this afternoon, mister!”

After countless years of begging to be allowed to stay up to watch Hart to Hart and Knight Rider my parents finally extended bed time to 8.30pm shortly after my twelfth birthday. This triumph only elevated my status among my friends to ‘second lamest’ in our group, narrowly ahead of Julia Mcgonfrey who had a 9pm bedtime but had a serious social disadvantage in that her parents didn’t own a television. Plus she said ‘Ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa’ in a loud voice instead of laughing when something amused her.  Kid was weird.

When I moved out of home I cautiously extended my bedtime to 9.30pm which I hoped managed to reflect my new found independence while still affording me the protection a good night’s sleep offered from the car doors, fireballs and rogue aircraft that I feared being overtired would attract.

The following year I discovered nightclubs, shift work, drinking until 2 Unlimited’s lyrics became deeply meaningful and a rather handy trick –  completely blocking sunlight out of your bedroom by lining the inside of a window with foil.

Bed time then became whenever I collapsed in a twitching heap, if not directly on a mattress then at least in a park within three minute’s walk of my house.

Sleep lasted anything from four hours to twenty, dependent on my ability to grab and set the alarm clock as it spun around the room after a night of drinking my body weight in vodka doing volunteer work at the local cat shelter.

After decades of sleeping patterns that would test the mettle of the most hardened late night infomercial enthusiast, I returned to a day job with early morning starts and a requirement to be pleasant to the people I encountered from the moment I set foot in the workplace.

In theory this doesn’t sound very difficult but the reality of only having half your brain wake up after the alarm blasts the song of it’s people at 5am means you have to lumber sideways like a crab as you attempt to bathe then dress, using your (then) only functioning arm. The other half wakes up when you pass out momentarily getting into your car and your forehead hits the horn at full blast in your remarkably acoustic garage.

Once entering the office any attempt at communication – pleasant or otherwise – results in you emitting a strangled croak as a lone cornflake falls from your cheek and lands elegantly between two keys on your manager’s keyboard.

Not only did I have to battle this, I constantly have to factor in that depression and anxiety would also be along for the ride.  After an increased incidence of swearing at my screen, frustrated man-tears and the sudden onset of flailing Muppet arms at work recently I resolved to try setting a bed time for myself in 2013.

Of course, weekends are still for sitting up until bitch, is you crazy? o’clock. There’s no better time for arguing with people on the internet and searching new YouTube videos of people scaring the shit out of Taylor Swift.

My weeknights however now have a strict 10.30pm lights out followed by a 6am wake-up. Seven and a half hours of blissful slumber.

This is interrupted only by my diabetes’ insistence that my body make the equivalent a 44-gallon drum of urine every four hours which then requires a one-eye-open zombie stumble to the bathroom. It’s incredibly annoying but it does finally allow me to rid myself of the recurring dream that I’m being being soaked by a giant purple chicken holding a garden hose. My subconscious early-warning piss-the-bed system is fucking insane.

I’m happy to report that the early bedtime is working for me – better than I could have imagined in fact. Mentally I feel better prepared for the day ahead and I haven’t arrived at work sporting a steering wheel mark across my forehead since late December.

I even tested the effectiveness of my new routine by staying up until 12am one Thursday night and the following day had my worst panic attack in over a year. I couldn’t breathe properly and was shaking so badly that my chair threatened to shuffle across the call centre with the momentum of an off-kilter washing machine.

That was the only time I broke my self enforced ‘rule’ and I’m not going to be testing it out again in a hurry. (And no, I won’t do your laundry)

Yes, I may have to finally concede that my parents were right and Julia Mcgonfrey probably out-ranks me in the coolness stakes but a set bed time that allows me a little more mental breathing space coupled with a notable reduction in unexpected Muppet arms makes it more than worth it to me.

Goodnight, all.

(*thud* *snore*)

food and the modern seb, part one.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be writing about my issues with food and my experiences with eating disorders. I wanted to share this as it seems to be such a taboo subject for many and as with all mental health issues, if you don’t communicate what you’re experiencing with someone the disease starts to gain advantage. It’s so important that people know they’re not alone and that as well as that seventh helping of black forest gateaux with double cream, there is hope.

Oddly enough, even after all the love and support everyone has shown me I’m a little scared to write about this so if you can send me a few mental mirrorballs as you’re reading I’d really appreciate it. There’s also so much to cover that I’ve broken this down *unconvincing rapper pose* into parts so it’s not a giant unreadable clump of “AND THEN THE SNICKERS BAR TRIED TO KILL ME AND WAH AND SUCH”.

Please be warned that this and the next few posts can be triggering for those with eating disorders, that I’m not an expert and I’m not offering any advice, help or judgement, I’m just a man with a keyboard and a love of tasty crispy fried things that is in a bad place and wants to share the woe dread agony chips and mayonnaise story with you.

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Eating. When I was a small disco enthusiast in a lime green Kermit the frog t-shirt and brown corduroy flares I liked eating but I didn’t like eating a considerable amount of much. At primary school I’d take a bite from a sandwich and throw the rest away. On the days that I’d forget to open my lunchbox altogether, Mum would look at me witheringly as she unpacked my bag to find yet another untouched polony and tomato sauce sandwich that she’d sliced lovingly into perfect squares be returned to sender.

I tried to tell her that Karlene Orbetski had polony for lunch then spent the afternoon doing farts so potent that our carefully drawn crayon portraits would melt into dali-esque nightmares but she didn’t care. She wanted me to eat.

I was born with a taste for most everything that was good for me. I would only eat chicken breast and the skin had to be removed or it was the dawn of the apocalypse down at 22 Princess Street (I know, I know). I hated sausages, chops and any type of steak. I wouldn’t touch cheese and preferred plain bread without butter.  I was never really given soft drinks and loved milk and water.

My favourite treat was tinned tuna or a delicious ham and salad sandwich from the local bakery  – I would could eat salad and vegetables until most everyone was convinced that I was part rabbit. I wasn’t averse to a bowl of ice cream or coco pops, I just didn’t crave these things in the same way I did the healthier options.

When I was growing up, kids ate what the adults were having and unless it was a special occasion you weren’t offered a choice. Mum was a fantastic cook (she made a killer Satay Beef that no restaurant has ever bettered) – this meant a large variety of foods made it on to our plates, most of which I loved but the portions were always too big for me. The unfortunate thing about the era that I grew up in was that the consensus among parents was that if your kid wasn’t a member of the clean plate club then you clearly weren’t doing your job.

Everything had to be eaten, regardless of your child’s preference or appetite for it because they’d wither away and die before the nightly news had finished if you didn’t force them to eat, eat, eat. Failing to have a child in the clean plate club meant that you were a terrible parent and would immediately be cast out of the town and forced to live a nomadic lifestyle with the other unfortunates that couldn’t get little Gregory or Melissa to finish that last spoonful of mashed parsnip.

Most struggles with me came over food I didn’t find palatable but was part of the great Aussie diet. I have vivid memories of retching repeatedly while trying to swallow pieces of fat or gristle in a steak, with my Stepdad telling me off for doing so. Sometimes he’d become furious and yell at me while I’d be bawling, trying to choke the food down so I could get away from the table. I’ve never understood why it was so important to him that I pretend to like something I clearly didn’t.

No doubt it wasn’t wonderfully appetising to have a 9 year old sound like he was about to present an explosive encore of tonight’s dinner while you’re trying to enjoy your meal but to this day, (and I believe this to be completely true) his well intentionedeat it, it’s good for you’ approach has meant that I will start dry heaving the second I find anything texturally similar to fat or sinew in a mouthful of food.

There was also the time honoured battle of ‘if you don’t finish it you’re not leaving this table’ where I’d sit, crying in front of a plate of cold sausage and congealed gravy for half an hour while Skyhooks played on the radio in the background before Mum complained I was drowning out the television and to just go to my room.  And of course the worst of all techniques – ‘what you don’t finish tonight will be your breakfast, if you don’t finish it then it’s going in your lunchbox’. 

My parents only tried this once and after I’d not eaten a very depressed looking lamb chop for the following day’s breakfast, lunch or dinner they realised they had a formidable opponent and filed the technique away under ‘oops’ right next to ‘get him to stop playing with dolls’ and ‘get him to join the junior football team’. Nuh-huh, girlfriend.

These occasions were thankfully not very frequent but are certainly ingrained. I also have vivid memories of visiting my Grandparents after school and not wanting to refuse the kind offer of a biscuit, because I was scared to hurt their feelings so I’d put it in my pocket and throw it over the fence into the ditch drain next door. If I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t eat and that was that. I was always thin, but I didn’t lack for energy and I loved food that I…well… loved.

 Next: food and the modern seb, part two: winning at lunch, losing at manboobs.