Insomnia (December 31, 2010)

This is going to be the most difficult post I have ever written. In fact I have been dreading this moment for several days. Not a word, excepting random, plaintive Facebook status updates, has escaped from my pen in a week’s time. I am normally pretty prolific, but output of late has slowed to a virtual standstill. All you need to do is take a gander at the highly descriptive and imaginative title to know I have lost my mojo.

Sleep, or lack thereof, has stolen its way through my front door like a thief in the night, robbing me of energy and will: to exercise, which I find fundamental to mental and physical health, to explore the world around me, and most unforgivably, to write.

I have had a rough couple of years. One could even label 2009-2010 an early midlife crisis of sorts. Beginning in April of last year, and in rapid succession, I buried a best friend, saw my marriage teeter on the verge of total collapse, quit a horrifically unsatisfying day job only to discover that I had selected an inopportune time to realize my true calling, checked my father into (and then stood by helplessly as he checked himself back out of) a mental health facility, put my cat to sleep, wrestled with my marriage some more, finally found, and then was subsequently laid off from a “perfect” job, and now here I am. I have been unemployed for almost three months, my father remains on the lam, running from himself and the help he needs in a metaphorical sense, fleeing the law in the more earthly connotation of the word. So yeah fine, I have some problems. So does everyone else right?

My sister and I endured a childhood and adolescence that I have a hard time believing actually happened, so great has been my ability to wall the pain away in the interest of functioning, of being “normal.” If there’s one thing I know, it’s survival and self-reliance. I have certainly weathered greater storms, yet this is exactly the moment in history when my subconscious, the complex and durable mind I once secretly cherished as my greatest asset, has chosen to rebel.

It’s a hell of a thing when you’ve lost control not only of the world around you (probably an illusion to believe I had any in the first place), but of yourself.

A futile battle to achieve rapid eye movement began nearly three weeks ago with my husband’s non-trip to India, a last minute unavoidable cancellation that nonetheless produced a great deal of emotional fallout from his confused and disappointed family. Despite, or maybe because of a disinterest in the approval of my own parents, the opinion of Eddie’s folks means a great deal. When my tearful mother-in-law accused her son of forgetfulness, disloyalty and the cardinal sin of becoming overly “selfish and Westernized,” I felt like I had been shot. Though I had nothing to do with the situation that occurred, I held myself completely responsible. These people have been so good to me, and now their holidays were ruined. It was unendurable.

Add to it the aforementioned turn toward the illegal of my father’s increasingly bizarre behavior, almost two years of career loose ends, and the normal stress of the holidays, and I’ve apparently found the recipe for a complete mental and physical seizure. At the moment, I remind myself of the Tin Man, stuck in the woods and desperately in need of an oil can to lubricate my rusty joints. The axe that would help chop down self-induced roadblocks is frozen mid-air, and my mouth won’t open to allow me to yell for help.

I have dealt with insomnia before, a few nights here or there, but somehow I have always managed to hit the fatigue wall, settle and push forward with a restful pattern. In fact I am a big fan of routine in general, of outwardly ordering the chaos in order to provide a sense of agency, no matter how illusory. It’s odd but I feel a sudden nostalgia for the depressive episodes of my teen years when I could easily sleep 14 hours away.

This round, one week turned into two, which quickly became three, and instead of emerging out the other side, I found myself achieving progressively less sleep each night. I finally cried uncle and let Eddie make a doctor’s appointment after Monday’s episode, where I spent 90 minutes in a semi-unconscious state from 11:30 PM to 1:00 AM, and four hours in a sort of heightened panic that I might never feel drowsy again.

Against every inclination I have, but realizing the idea well had officially run dry, I accepted a prescription for the popular sleep aid Ambien from my doctor yesterday afternoon. It seems terribly naive today but I was certain this was the miracle drug I sought. If my mind would not shut down, this wonder treatment would do it for me. Yeah, not so much, although I think I have a pretty good understanding (in microcosm, of course) of how those who suffer from neuromuscular diseases feel. Shortly after popping two pills, I could not stand straight, walk with any control, or utter a coherent thought. But my overactive mind? Working just fine. In fact I now had a new anxious, repetitive thought to snap me awake at 4:00 AM – namely, that I am such a screwup, I am immune to Ambien.

So what now? Frankly my dears, I don’t have a damn clue. I have debated, meditated and self-medicated in every conceivable way – to no avail. But I forced myself to write about the experience. It beats staring at the ceiling.


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