I remember the day I heard of the death of Michael Jackson. It was two days after it happened on June 27, 2009. I flew home from an intensive week-long course where no news of any kind was available to me. What I remember most as I watched the story unfold on an airport T.V. is not the grief of losing this talented performer well before his time, or anger at his doctor for irresponsibly providing a deadly combination of drugs, but compassion and understanding towards the King of Pop.
Michael Jackson and I shared a disease at the time: we both had struggled to fall asleep at night for decades. Despite unlimited funding for medical care, Michael was unable to find a cure because insomnia has no healthy answers to conventional medicine. The usual treatment course— pharmaceuticals— has been out of hand. Michael died in combination with other sedatives of an overdose of Propofol. Propofol is a powerful anesthetic in hospitals administered intravenously to induce and preserve anesthesia during surgery. It is not designed or approved for home use.
I had just spent an average of 2-3 hours of sleep every night, which was a typical, even expected reaction for me every time I spent time away from home learning something new. From my week of inadequate sleep, I was exhausted and achy. When I learned the details of Michael’s death, I fully understood why somebody would be desperate enough to turn to drugs that induce such powerful sleep.
Once upon a time I had my own4-year sleeping pills stint, only ending when they stopped working. The rebound insomnia was some of the worst I’ve ever had, and stabilizing after it took nearly a full year. Another option would have been to continue to take more and more powerful drugs until something as powerful and dangerous as Propofol was found. I imagine that’s how Michael ended up in need of such a powerful drug to do what our bodies wanted to do every night, naturally. I had turned one way and turned the other, yet I understood all too well the desperation that I needed more than anything to sleep and just couldn’t get it.