On Forced Sleep Deprivation & Manual Labor
The bench I am sitting on is cold and part of me feels like it will fall away from under me. There’s a part of me that feels that way even now... That bench under the stairs where we would be lined up sitting and waiting for medicine. Sometimes we would talk but most of the time we weren’t allowed to. The nurse isn’t waiting for us because she has so many things to do. Hospitals are busy places and she has to keep track of the hundred or so of us. Who gets which sedative; who has what rash; what special medicine.
It’s there on that bench that I learned to fall asleep sitting up.The tiredness came all the time then, a heaviness in my limbs and bones. I would hold myself somehow and collapse inward to that peaceful place where one finds dreams that are incapable of occurring. I dreamed of my family, of driving away. I dreamed of college and the quietness that would come when I was free of that place.
I learned to fall asleep like this while doing lots of things: Standing, waiting for my turn at the saw; Sitting in that blue-sheeted bed under the halogen lights that never turned off.
I dreamed of sleep. I dreamed of a real bed and of safety. I dreamed of when the day would be over, when the incessant calls to attention would stop. I dreamed of silence. Silence can sometimes be freedom. I guess it depends on where you’re trapped.
When the dreaming didn’t work; When I got caught or through other means was forced into the light – forced to move in a way requiring attention, I became enraged. An internal rage, adrenaline from the sleep-deprivation.
I would take the saw or the rake, whatever tool they deemed right that day, and I would work that adrenaline into my arms, my fingers, back into my bones.
I lifted and broke the ground. I planted or transported. They called it vocational training, “voc.” It sounded like fun when I first heard of it. But when I first heard of it I was confined for a month to a blue-sheeted bed in a room where the lights never turned off.
I think of tiredness now and again. Not the normal chosen one or the one that comes from working hard. I’m thinking of the numbing kind. The kind that comes from obedience to someone who wants you to never sleep enough. People who sleep enough can run away, they figure stuff out. People who sleep enough are rebellious.
This is how they woke us up:
It’s 5:50am in a cabin in Tennessee. Someone’s alarm goes off and she begins to count loudly, “Wake up! Ten… Nine.. Eight..” We rise hysterically and crawl down the ladders of the bunk beds to the floor; Lean our heads against the wood and dream we are somewhere else for a moment. There is a minute to make the bed. There are three minutes to get dressed.
I’m thinking of the tiredness that those people in camps must have had. The tiredness of obedience. The tiredness of some one else not wanting you to sleep enough.
I’m thinking of how cold and hungry they were. How alone too. How trapped between demands and competition with each other.
I’m thinking of the tiredness of being alone, of helplessness, of being trapped. The tiredness of playing the same game. The tiredness of control.
I have no words to describe adequately what happened there. I only know that I was tired because of the things they made us do. The ways we lived each day – constantly dreaming of being elsewhere.
I don’t have words for the confusion now. The betrayal or the complexity of sixteen months of six-hours of sleep, of lights and noise.
Just this, in my bones, heavy and cold. My legs swaying under me, falling away and coming back again.
Peninsula Village; A GREAT Place For Kids, When Kids Really Need A GREAT Place http://www.villagebh.com/
The Village was formerly known as Peninsula Village
- I don’t have words for the confusion now. The betrayal or the complexity of sixteen months of six-hours of sleep, of lights and noise. (The original testimony on Reddit)
- Datasheet about the facility (Fornits Wiki)