I'm not talking about occasional problems nodding off. This is not temporary, stress-induced trouble sleeping. This is full-blown, I've-tried-all-the-drugs-my-doctor-can-think-of chronic insomnia. And man does it ever suck.
I remember being on the playground when I was in fourth grade, standing around with a bunch of kids, and for reasons I no longer recall, some kid said, "I just put my head on the pillow and go to sleep." Whoa - a moment of clarity. All of sudden, I realized that I might not be normal. Apparently, not every kid spent an hour trying to get to sleep each night.
That's one of my most vivid childhood memories - the moment I realized not everyone has the problems I do with sleep. And sleep has been a problem for me ever since I can remember. My sleep patterns have been out of whack close enough to forever as not to make a difference. And it drives me insane.
Few things are consistently worse than being completely exhausted after a full day of work, research and Karate, falling into bed, and being WIDE AWAKE. I used to think that my problem was just that my body for some reason needed a 25-hour-cycle, 17 hours awake, 8 asleep, and my bedtime just kept getting later - but that's clearly horseshit. Sometimes - one or two days out of every three - I just can't sleep, and even on the good days it'll generally take me some time and relaxation exercises to get to sleep. And there's no apparent reason for it at all. I hate not having a reason.
Today, I was actually tired enough to take a nap - I didn't intend to, but I wanted to keep my cat company on the bed and actually dozed off - which is highly unusual for me. I woke up after half an hour and still felt exhausted. I knew that sleeping any longer would only result in disaster, so I forced myself to stay up.
Yeah. Good thought. But sleep disaster struck anyway. It's 5 goddamn 39 am, and I'm not even sleepy. Tired, absolutely. But - the key distinction for us insomniacs - not sleepy.
Partly, it's my own fault. I know that overcoming insomnia takes some serious work. It means making a schedule and sticking to it - getting up at the same time every day whether you need to or not. Going to bed at the same time every day. I know that's what I should be doing - and I've done it before. I have more motivation now that I've been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, which means my joints start to hurt if I don't get enough sleep. But there's always a night, or three or four, where all the scheduling and getting up at 9 am won't save me, and I'm awake at 4 am staring at the ceiling and listening to my lover breathing, and if I don't have to get up at 9 am the next morning, I can't make myself. Unless, of course, it's one of those nights where I can't stay asleep even after I've fallen asleep, and I'm wide awake at 6:30 am for no discernible reason.
Still, I know I need to be better about it again, more consistent about my schedule. But graduate school plays havoc with regular hours, and while I'm pretty good at not procrastinating, the work load is still pretty insane. And so, way too often, I have to choose between regular hours and keeping up academically. And there's really no right choice there.
And right now, I can't decide what to do. Stay up - after all, once the morning paper gets delivered it's officially no longer night - and hope that sleep deprivation will help force me back on schedule? But sleep deprivation also means it's going to be tougher to do my work, and worrying about work will definitely make it harder to go to sleep, no matter how tired I am. So maybe I should try and catch a few winks. Of course, there's no guarantee that if I go to bed now, I'll actually do anything more than irritate my blissfully sleeping lover with my turning and tossing. Who knows?
I'm really not sure. I do know I shouldn't have written this, because when I can't sleep, I'm supposed to do boring tasks like cleaning, tasks that won't reinforce the mental habit of lying in bed and thinking, "Well, if I were up right now, I could finish the project I'm worrying about..." But cleaning is the one thing I might be worse at than sleeping, and generally, straightening up a room doesn't have soporific effects anyway.
Maybe it just needs to be time to stop making excuses. My sleep patterns are fucked up. I could - and should - be doing more to help rein them in, bring them into line. But there's also a point at which all the scheduling and drugs in the world aren't going to do a damn thing, and it's the old fourth-grade realization that maybe I'm just not normal in this way, and maybe I am going to go crawl back into bed, if only so I can snuggle up to my lover for an hour or two while I wonder if I'll ever be able to sleep....
Feb. 8, 2002
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