09 April 2009

Can You Get Over the Fear of Sleep?

I can't help but to think about being under anaesthesia for my surgery. Is it odd that I'm more worried about that aspect of my surgery than any other? After all, I've discussed just about everything else related to the surgery--the reasons why I want it, why I'm doing it and what will and won't change afterward-- with my therapist, social worker and various other people, in person and online.

It seems that the induced unconsciousness is the part that nobody talks about. For that matter, nobody seems to know that much about it. An anaesthesiologist can talk about the medical aspects, including risks, of it. So can a surgeon. But nobody, it seems, can tell you why most people come out of it more or less the way they went into it while others develop complications or even die. They also don't tell you how it feels, or whether or not it can change you in some other way.

Will I dream the same way as I do when I sleep in my own bed? If I have dreams, what will they be like? How will they be different from the ones I have at home?

And: Will I have one of those out-of-body experiences that some people describe?

I can't get that image of waking up on the D train as it was about to lurch from the Fourth Avenue station into the tunnel that would take the train to another section of elevated track. Along those tracks is the apartment in which my family lived at that time; at the end of those tracks is Coney Island. The F train runs along those tracks now; the D goes to the part of Brooklyn to which we moved not long after that day I'm recalling.

In Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut's narrator-protagonist describes a tunnel that he had to follow into the afterlife. It wasn't quite like a subway tunnel, but a tunnel it was. Almost everyone would rather go over a bridge or tunnel; I feel the same way. For one thing, even the plainest bridge is more attractive than any tunnel. And, of course, a bridge won't scare someone who's claustrophobic. Agoraphobic, yes.

When crossing a bridge, it's possible to look at the scenery. For that reason, I have always loved my trips across the Verrazano Bridge, and would (would that I could!) take the next flight to Istanbul, Paris, Rome or San Francisco to transverse the Galata Bridge, Pont Neuf (or Alexandre or Iena), Ponte Vecchio or Golden Gate Bridge. But I'm not so sure I'd want to follow Dante and Virgil across a bridge (were there one) over the various pools and pits described in The Inferno. In such places, experiencing the surroundings can be poisonous or lethal in other ways. Whenever I've taken the bus to New Jersey, I see, to the left of the Turnpike, a long railroad trestle over the toxic swamps near Newark Airport. It's not the sort of crossing I'd want to make every day.

Perhaps one needs to be in a tunnel if one hopes to arrive safely from the moment before the surgery to the moment after it. I'm not sure how I'd react if I could see and feel the cutting and whatever else Dr. Bowers will do that day. Or maybe I would be drawn to it, and that would somehow impede the surgery or my recovery.

In sleep there is always the risk of not waking up. Of course, I hope to wake from mine and know that I more than likely will. Whatever happens, at least there were two times in my life when I woke up: when I stopped drinking and doing drugs, and when I finally started to live by my true gender identity. Two moments in fifty years ain't bad, I guess.

Now to get over the fear of sleep...

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