• Leigh Akin

Diphenhydramine, actually useless against dermal-parasites, great for catching up on some zzzz

A blog post? A rolling thought? A quick essay? The kind that no one will read? Always. Is there a better kind?

A strangely meditative day.  And I am sitting in the park, compelled by nothing in particular to just write. What’s up Leigh? You must have something to say that you don’t know about yet…

I have been taking Benadryl to fall asleep recently, and oh boy has that been a game-changer. Benadryl I bought back in April, when I had scabies but thought it was some sort of environmental allergy. I will file: “Getting scabies from my ex-boyfriend’s 9-year-old son” on a long list entitled “Things that would have been a big deal but happened in 2020 so I barely even recall them.” When I bought the Benadryl I had noticeable rashes all over my neck and chest, I felt dirty and terrified, it was the start of COVID after all. I was covered in hand sanitizer, piqued with anxiety, and itchy as fuck. “Perhaps it’s some sort of psychosomatic skin condition? From all the stress of COVID?” John and I mused one night while itching our bodies uncontrollably, “Or maybe it’s a reaction to all of the antibacterial things we’ve been putting on our skin?” And of course, naturally, we both entertained the idea that it in fact was COVID.

But eventually, a tele-doc appointment with his son’s pediatrician confirmed what I had been a little afraid of from the start. John, his son, and I were all space-ships for a bunch of creepy little dermal-parasites. It often takes 6 weeks from the time that you are infected with scabies until you start to feel its effects. It spreads quickly in elementary schools. like head lice. Jackson must have picked it up sometime early in the year and then passed along to his dad, who passed it along to me.

But the Benadryl I had purchased, which is incidentally useless against the profound itch of scabies (seriously, I wouldn’t wish scabies on my worst enemy), has been sitting in my fridge ever since. It was sitting in my fridge as my fears of COVID were eclipsed by realizations about of white supremacy and hate crimes, sitting in my fridge as I watched what happens to a country in a pandemic when it is governed by a dangerous sociopath, sitting in my fridge when I realized that dangerous sociopathy in a global pandemic was still not enough for some people to stand up and resist, sitting in my fridge when the hull of a naval ship exploded less than a mile away, and when we were subsequently told in 90-degree heat to “close our windows and try not to breathe the air”, sitting in my fridge when the sky turned orange and milky and my lips tasted acrid from the taste of forest’s burning. 

8 hours of sleep, they recommend. 7 and a half is enough to get adequate rem cycles for the night, but you’d need to fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow. One night, I listened to a fight at 3:00 in the morning where my neighbors threatened to pull guns on one another. I lay sleepless, drenched in sweat for the next two hours, and eventually decided it wasn’t worth it anymore, then got up and biked in the dark to my office 10 miles away. Light streams into my windows at all hours after my landlord installed security floodlights. And four hours east of me the world’s most powerful terrorist tweets something to remind us we are not safe. Thus, I had started considering 5-fit filled hours of sleep in a night, a good thing.

A week ago, 10:00 at night, I was sprawled out on my floor, noise-canceling headphones in, watching cooking shows on youtube to salve my profound anxiety, and I remembered that bottle of Benadryl. When I bought it, the cashier at CVS looked at me, he must have looked right past the rashes and scratch marks on my arms and chest because as he scanned the bar code he casually asked “You having trouble sleeping?”. 

“Oh, no I’ve got some allergies.”

“Oh, well, this stuff will put you right to sleep.”

So I got up went to the fridge and grabbed the bottle, took two, and slept like a high schooler. 

So this has become my new thing, I take a Benadryl to go to sleep. Is it habit forming? Should I care? All I know is, I woke up at 8:00 this morning and felt surprisingly calm all day. I wrote the emails that needed to be written, read a New Yorker article about Facebook choosing not to censor hateful content when that hateful content is being posted by world leaders, had a zoom meeting, practiced some music, illustrated a bit, did an arm workout, and biked to the grocery store, and now I am sitting in a park writing whatever this is. Benadryl may be worthless against skin burrowing parasites, but it is very effective for catching up on zzzs.


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