The rest of this story writes itself: Once that initial whoosh wore off, I had to start increasing the dosage; but you can keep that up for only so long — the human being is simply not designed to go without sleep.
At first, sleep deprivation produces a state of of euphoria, but in the long run it begins to transmute — slowly and almost imperceptibly — into a kind of insanity. Exhilaration gives way to anxiety, paranoia, and a deep, fatiguing unease.
Even so, you can keep functioning for a surprisingly long time. But not indefinitely. Sooner or later, things start to slip. Unfortunately, by then you’ve fucked your mind so badly that you don’t notice.
I was so busy just trying to maintain that it escaped my attention when I started to fall apart. My body became incapable of experiencing any sensation other than exhaustion. My mind began to have difficulty processing information and to make increasingly unreliable, even self-contradictory, decisions. And my soul1 began to rot away from the inside.
Having experienced this, I have a much better appreciation of how people become corrupted. It’s not a matter of making a conscious decision to do wrong; it’s more of a slow drift. You kind of float away from yourself until one day you don’t know who the hell you are anymore.
During this dark period of my life, I did some things that I’d prefer to forget. And I did quite a few things that I don’t remember, because there are long stretches of time where my memory is a formless blur punctuated by images that are silent, distorted, and dismal.
I was not a well man. On the surface I was jittery; underneath I was weary beyond comprehension. I became short-tempered, inconsiderate, nihilistic. I pissed off my friends. I lost touch with my family. I started missing work. I was headed for the breaking point.
1. I’m reluctant to use the word “soul” because it opens a whole can of worms that I don’t want to get into, but there just isn’t another word that will do.