Tag: poor sleep

Semantics vs Grammar on no hours of sleep

an embarrassment of garlic

I’m far more bothered by the misuse of a word than I am by the misuse of punctuation.

I’ve come to realize that I’m a semantics nerd.  In my creative writing I take enough liberties with grammar and punctuation to make red pencils everywhere itch for a smackdown.  Punctuation is an important tool of written language but meaning is the soul of communication.  One word can make the difference between being understood or not.  A semicolon doesn’t share the same power.

If all of us went around speaking in a completely grammatically correct way we would sound stiff and unnatural. I will admit that some grammar rules hold more weight than others but nothing bothers me more than knowing that what a person is saying isn’t actually what they mean.

I got almost no  sleep last night.  I went to bed around 1:30am and then couldn’t get to sleep and then not long after going to sleep I woke up to hear that Max was up and talking animatedly with his dad at 2:30am.  I got mad and demanded to know why Max was up again and he said he woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.  It was like a curse and I couldn’t get back to sleep either, until I finally did.  Only to be woken up by Philip coming to bed at almost 4am.  He slept very loudly all morning and when I tried to get him to turn over in hopes of making the snoring stop he would just turn his head which does nothing.  This was made awesome by Max coming downstairs at 5am to announce that the birds woke him up.  I tried to get back to sleep but then Chick needed to be fed at 6am.  Her usual time.  I just gave up.  Fuck sleep!  Who needs sleep?!

Apparently I do.  It’s 10am and I’ve been nodding off at my desk for an hour.  I want to crawl back into bed but why bother?  The train is still in there chugging along.

So I’m going to take a shower and maybe nap on the tile floor of my office.  It’ll make me look especially pretty for my visit to San Francisco today.  Unless we decide to postpone it until tomorrow.

Here’s to a wakeful produc-


My Other Life Keeps Calling

 grainy antique calling device

I have thought of writing a book based on my nightmares called The Nightmare Club.  Either that or I could take each nightmare individually and spin them into separate novels.  I call my dreams my other life because they are so unrestful and draining that often I wake up more tired than I went to bed.  And then I am haunted by them all day long.

Here’s a tidbit from last night that I shared on facebook:

Dreams featuring old boyfriends are unsettling. Nightmares in which I have to cut kittens’ ears off are horrible and also unsettling. Dreams in which old boyfriends talk about previous dreams in which they were featured is even more unsettling. I did not sleep well. My brain feels more asleep now that I’m awake than it did all night.

When I cut the ears of the kittens off I didn’t cut enough off but it was so dreadful to have hurt them at all and I knew it was something I had to do but I felt worse because I couldn’t remember why and it was pointed out to me that I hadn’t cut enough off but I couldn’t bring myself to hurt them further.

I may have mentioned the really bizarre dream within and dream within a dream I had a couple weeks ago but just for fun I’m going to recount a little bit of it again:

In my dream I was  sleeping and dreaming that I was sleeping and that dream of my sleeping self was also dreaming and she had a dream in which she had to go to the bathroom and she worried that if she dreamed she had to go to the bathroom she might actually have to go and if she didn’t wake up soon enough she might go in her bed.  The dream self of my dream self’s dream self did, in fact, poop in her pyjamas and so my dream self’s dream self woke up out of the embarrassing nightmare hoping to find she hadn’t also pooped in bed but she had, in fact, done the same so my dream self woke up terrified to discover she had too and, as you can guess, she did wake up filthy in her bed. 

I, the only dreamer left unaccounted for, woke up out of my dream and happily found that I hadn’t pooped in my bed nor did my body need to relieve itself in any way.  My heart was pounding but I fell immediately back to sleep to find my dream self seeking out a shower to clean up in and had the chance to discover that I (she, whatever) was living in a trailer on a little rectangular piece of land and I started mentally planning out a raised bed garden to grow food in because I didn’t have a lot but I wondered what I could grow in such a shady space and just as I was figuring this out I was in danger and I don’t remember more than tiny snippets of the rest of my dream that night.

My dreams are so powerfully connected to my waking self that it always feels as though I’m living two lives.  Nights with no remembered dreams are bliss.  Not all of my dreams are nightmares, strictly speaking, but nearly all of my dreams are disturbing to me.  I rarely have what I would classify as a “good” dream and often these are ones in which I feel completely safe, usually because someone is protecting me from something, so the dream might have been a nightmare if I hadn’t felt protected.  Truly good dreams are even more rare.  Happy dreams.  I have two main happy dreams (that aren’t marred by violence or anxiety or anything creepy) where I find antique stores that have not been picked over yet and I find lots of treasures or dreams in which I find amazing hats and clothes that obviously fit me.  The other mostly happy dream is when I return to 361 Scenic Drive in Ashland Oregon, my childhood home, and find 25 years of mail collected in the mailbox.  However, this dream is often shadowed in other parts, but the mailbox full of mail always makes me so happy and I wake having enjoyed my dream even if other darker things happened in it.

I have the nightmares regardless of what’s going on in my life and I have been having them steadily and frequently at least since I was 10 years old.  One thing I DO know is that they do become worse and more frequent the more I am exposed to the news of the world.  I believe that I have had much too much exposure to news through friends on facebook than is good for me.  I have stopped reading news links that friends share unless I think they will be uplifting in some way.  This is something I must work harder on.  But there are many things posted that you don’t have to click on to see that are dreadful.  One that is haunting me now is a picture of two teen boys holding up a dead puppy they had obviously strangled.  This kind of shit is candy for an already unquiet mind.

I don’t want to give up face book because I have so many happy connections there with friends I can’t see in my everyday life.  I love the casual chatter of face book.  But I may need to limit the time I spend there a little more than I do now.  I feel I must do this to protect myself from too much incoming stimuli of a negative nature.  I already hear all the voices in the world as a low buzz in my head that I can’t shut out but facebook lets a lot of extra noise in that is not healthy for me.

While I would like my dreams to take a happier turn – I must confess that if I didn’t dream as often and as vividly as I do I would feel that part of me had died.  I have become so accustomed to having bad dreams that I’m scared to wish them away – it’s like when you get used to abuse to the point where you can’t imagine a life without it and wonder who you would be.

It worries me that I think not having so many nightmares would make me feel abandoned and emptier inside.

My second life keeps calling me and I keep picking up the phone.

One good thing about all my dreams is that I am never fat in them.  Never.

It occurs to me that my dreams are the only place I can completely be myself – I don’t have to pretend to be other than I am or protect anyone from my own thoughts and fears.  Everything has full expression in my dreams and I am always my core self in them.  In my dreams the bad shit I fear is real and so I’m never crazy for fearing them and everyone else is experiencing the same world with me.

Perhaps the best thing about them is that no matter what happens in them I wake up and find I haven’t killed myself or been dismembered by a serial killer or been raped or cheated on my husband or lost my child or cut the ears off kittens.  There is nothing quite like living through a tsunami to wake up and discover that your house is dry and too far inland to be wrecked by one.

You might even say that my bad dreams are my real world and my waking life is just a good dream I’m happy to experience again and rest in after all the horrors of my sleep.

You might say that, if you thought I was really crazy.

The Puritanical Versus the Diabolical Choices

I’m halfway to meeting my minimal weight loss goal of losing 9 pounds before August.  That wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  4.5 lbs down and I don’t look any different and don’t feel any different except for the whole part about feeling capable and believing things are possible that I stopped believing possible.  It’s neither really hard nor really easy at this point.  I drank quite a bit of beer this weekend but actually did the math to figure out how much exercise I would have to do to earn the beer, and then I did the exercise.  But last night I didn’t drink as I’m trying to not do several days a week.  I didn’t sleep.  Whenever I don’t drink I don’t sleep.  In some ways I’m thinking that this is the real origin of my love of drinking, aside from the enjoyable taste.  Before I started drinking regularly I had persistent and very bad insomnia.  My insomnia seemed to range from light (trouble getting to sleep but once asleep I would mostly stay asleep and only wake up once or twice a night) to very bad (near hallucinating from lack of sleep) but it was always there.  Sleep = torture.  I hated sleep my whole life because it was a constant fight.

I also used to stay up super late (2 or 3am) often because that increased the chances that when I did finally crawl into bed I would crash asleep.  You learn, at some point, that if your body refuses to go to sleep when you’re feeling tired, laying in bed with your eyes closed but being completely awake for hours is seriously wasted time.  So I would stay up until my eyes felt like wool and my head felt heavy enough for me to fall asleep while reading or writing.  But slowly, over time, as I had more access to alcohol, spent time around more people who were drinking (not teenage drinking, this is in my twenties) I really enjoyed drinking.  I never, until now, thought about the benefits to drinking other than the pleasant social aspect (I really can’t be around groups of people unless alcohol is involved I was much more reclusive before I started drinking more around people) and how good it tastes.

alcohol makes it possible for me to sleep well.

alcohol makes it possible for me to be around groups of people without doing something antisocial like pulling on their hair or crawling under the appetizer table.

alcohol reduces my generalized anxiety (especially beer).

alcohol was an amazing pain killer for my broken hip.  I took no pain pills, just drank a six pack of beer a night.  NO PAIN PILLS.  If you can’t imagine how much it hurt you come over hear and I’ll show you.

On the flip side:

alcohol makes me fat.

alcohol is expensive.

alcohol is poisonous to the liver.

alcohol is not good for the heart in the quantity I drink it.

alcohol carries with it a heavy stigma if you are seen to be anything but a very light drinker.

Perhaps I’ll need to ask my doctor for some sleeping pills.  What’s weird is that, for me, there is a greater stigma attached to being addicted to sleeping pills than there is to being a lush.  I resisted medicating my mental illness long after I had access to health insurance because for some twisted reason I thought it was a weakness to get help.  Like I was somehow stronger and better if I didn’t get therapy and definitely never took pills for my brain.  I was so wrong.  I was so very misguided and wrong.  I have, forever after, been thankful that I got over myself.  Taking sleeping pills though, I have heard so many people over the course of my lifetime refer to people who take sleeping pills as somehow lesser than themselves and it has poisoned my consciousness.  Why should people with severe insomnia not get help for it?  Why should anyone think less of a person who values themselves enough to think they deserve some sleep?  Why do we have such a puritanical view of such things?  As though never medicating anything less than a severed head is noble, suffering is admirable.

There is a camp of people who insist that there are powerful natural ways of combating insomnia.  They are fairly aggressive in their adamant belief that modern medicine is evil.  Well, it has it’s negatives for sure.  I’m the last person to argue that.  The most annoying thing is that this group of people never believes me when I say that I have tried so many natural methods of addressing my insomnia and they have FAILED, all of them.  The only thing that ever might have helped – drinking hops tea with peppermint and honey I seem to recall helped a little.  So little I never could be sure of it.  Certainly it wasn’t effective against the worst insomnia.  I recently tried it again with zero success.

Meditation, let me tell you, did nothing for me.  First of all, a mind like mine has a very hard time meditating.  My head is full, all the time.  Every hour, every minute, of every day, it is full and buzzing with noise and voices, snippets of conversation I heard or had, scraps of thoughts or big dissertations of thought, mental footnotes, running commentaries on what the eye sees, and some laundry lint.  There is only one way I know of to silence my head and that’s to write.  Sitting on the floor with my legs crossed and listening to my breathing and emptying my – I said it’s impossible to empty it – ignoring the noise in my head… ?  I think only a dead person could ignore the noise in my head.  But, for the record, I have put hundreds of hours of my life into the effort of meditating myself to sleep or into a state of calm.

Writing is the only way.

I did once get some codeine pills for soothing the great jagged pain of having gotten a root canal but instead of taking them after the first day I saved them.  I saved them because once, after three weeks of sleeping only one or two hours a night I was beginning to get seriously delirious and a concerned friend gave me extra strength codeine and it knocked me out of the dangerous cycle of no sleep and gave me the best dark undisturbed sleep of my life.  So when I got a few pills of my own, years later I saved them against the worst kind of insomnia, knowing that if it got really bad I had relief.  But I never took them, in spite of lots of bouts of bad insomnia.  They expired.  I was not brought up to treat maladies with anything but herbs.  I was not brought up to take even aspirin for headaches.  Relying on pills to get decent sleep seemed like a major failing to me.

I’ve changed though.  I’ve come to recognize that it’s easy to be puritanical when you aren’t afflicted with things that only modern medicine can aid or fix.  It’s easy to be puritanical about medications, about taking pills, if you don’t have mental illness that gets in the way of your life or your safety or your ability to leave the house.  It’s the easiest thing in the world to abstain from getting help for your pain or your broken brain or your inability to sleep if you thrive on pain, which is in itself a kind of indication of mental illness and a need for intervention.  If suffering is purifying to you then it’s a thrill to fight the insomnia with chamomile tea, it’s a thrill to feel that pounding head and know that you’re superior because you can handle the pain.

I joke about putting on the horsehair shirt to punish myself but it’s meant as a metaphorical expression of my personal shame or anger at myself and my knee-jerk reaction to punish myself.  A benefit of punishing myself is that then I don’t have to punish anyone else which is fraught with terrors for me and always comes with repercussions.  Saying what you really think to people, telling them they’ve disappointed or angered you always comes with a price and it is one I find hard to pay.  The other benefit is punishing myself before anyone else can.  But the hair shirt is all a mental exercise in punishment.  I don’t actually like pain and I see no value in suffering pain for extended periods of time, I don’t admire people more who are able to withstand great pain than those who need relief and aren’t afraid or too messed up in the head to get it.

I have come to find the middle ground on many things.  I grew up not taking aspirin or getting medicines for anything not qualified as an emergency.  I grew up thinking that it was a weakness to turn to western medicine yet I have come to be deeply thankful for it as well as concerned for what people like me will do if the medicines that make our lives so much better are no longer produced.  I don’t jump to take Advil for a headache but if it doesn’t go away on it’s own in an hour or so I take the pills because they work.  I don’t take cold medicine but I’ll take medicine for bronchitis.  I’m looking for the middle ground which may sound like a place of mediocrity but to me it represents balance.  I’m looking for balance in things.

I drink too much alcohol and I want to have a life where I can drink sometimes but don’t depend on it for my daily comfort.  I want to be always capable of choosing not to drink.  I want to find a balance so that I can have the pleasure but not poison myself or be fat or dependent because of it.  Last night it wasn’t difficult to not drink.  Once I really decide not to drink for a night or two or three it usually isn’t difficult, most nights I don’t sit around wishing I had some beer once I’ve committed to no beer.  I do it and feel like it’s fine to have a ginger beer or a tonic and lime without alcohol.  But then I pay with lack of sleep or crappy sleep.  So maybe the middle ground is to talk to my doctor and get a prescription for some sleeping pills.  Preferably not ones that cost $25 a pill.

This is a great time for seeking balance.  Balance for me would most likely be way off kilter to someone else.  We all have our own center and none of us can tell each other where to find it.  When you start to find it, you’ll feel it.  You’ll feel yourself getting closer to it.  What it feels like is: right.  What it feels like is: relief.  The more you feel the rightness of your center, of your balance, the more attracted to it you’ll become.  It’s self generating, just like pain, anger, and hopelessness can be.  It’s in the little details.  The small decisions you make every day that add up to a whole picture of the life you’re living.  Patience is the only way to the center.

A lack of patience has been my enemy.  My friend Robin recently had knee surgery and I’ve been following along in her recovery and feeling her impatience to heal, to get  back to doing what she’s used to be doing.  There have been setbacks and pain and frustration for her.  I understand all this because I went through it while healing my hip.  My impatience led to so many setbacks, but I didn’t see it back then.  I didn’t know how to control it or damp it down.  Three months of  being bedridden and I wanted to just get up and walk.  It took six months after breaking my hip to be able to actually walk without a cane.  On my own.  But it took a year to walk without pain.  Then it would hurt every time I tried to do any real exercise.  It would hurt for sometimes days afterwords.  I was impatient and got depressed and hopeless constantly.  I’d think I saw light and then it would just be dark again.  I had expectations and no patience.  Not a winning combination.  Now I understand what kind of patience you need.  I only understand because I’ve been developing it and now I feel it.  That the process of healing, healing of any kind, takes time and deliberation.  There are those superstars who get injured and “press through the pain” and heal fast and those people are your worst enemy because they believe deep in their bones that it can be like that for everyone if only they will it to be that way when the truth is, most people will hurt themselves worse if they “press through the pain”.  But if you listen to the rare people for whom that isn’t true, you will hate yourself for not healing fast enough, for every setback.  You will feel inferior, inadequate, and weak.  These feelings will feed off of themselves and grow stronger and more debilitating.

Cultivate patience.


As if on cue I went downstairs to get more coffee and told my mother about my night of bad sleep and how I was considering asking my doctor for some pills.  She gasps in horror (literally, not theatrically) and says “Oh no!  Don’t do THAT.”  As though I’d just said I was thinking of amputating my head to get some sleep.  I asked why on earth I shouldn’t do that and she says “Well, you haven’t exhausted every other option yet.” as though sleeping pills are some evil thing that must be avoided at all costs and that only drug addicts take them and that somehow taking them will make me a lesser person.  It is easy to see where I came by my feelings about taking medications.  But when she says I haven’t “exhausted” every option I want to say that new “options” are being thought up by people constantly and at what point do I say “Hey, my sleeplessness may be part of my wiring just as my mental illness is and not be fixable with gentle herbs, and I deserve to have good sleep.”

I’ve already had 30 years experience of some pretty hardcore insomnia cycles and never had really good sleep until I got pregnant, and then the sleep was gone again when I had Max (which is normal), but then I started drinking more and getting better sleep.  In the last ten years the best sleep I’ve gotten is any night I drink beer.  No wonder I love it so much.  It also makes panic and general dread disappear.  30 years experience trying natural remedies and tricks for the brain and therapy – exactly how long do I need to go sleepless before I can take sleeping pills without a stigma?  How many natural remedies must I try before I can, with respectability, try what modern medicine has to offer?  How many times do I need to crack my skull against the brick wall that isn’t going away before I decide to stop trying what doesn’t work?  People will always be coming up with new natural remedies for insomnia, so how many more years of crappy sleep (or NO sleep) do I need to go through before considering my efforts at not turning to modern medicine honorable enough?

Meanwhile the cacophony of people saying really helpful stuff like “Getting good sleep is vital for losing weight” and “Sleep is important for brain function” and “the most effective beauty aid is plenty of sleep” is like a constant little needle in my side.  Yes, I know, I know sleep is one of the most important things I can do for my body but if the same people all think it’s a cop-out or wrong or evil to take sleeping pills and none of these other things work- I’m just stuck in a constant trap.

I haven’t decided to take or not taking sleeping pills.  I haven’t decided to try or not try more natural remedies.  What I have decided is that ignoring my mother’s shocked gasp or all the people pushing more natural remedies at me as though the magic one is still waiting for me and it’s my fault I don’t get sleep if I don’t try absolutely every single one of them.  People want to be helpful and I’m going to let them make their suggestions.  Maybe one of them really will turn out to be the magic solution I’ve been waiting for all my life.  But what I have decided is that I will not feel shame if I decide to take sleeping pills.  I will not let anyone besides myself drive this body of mine.  The best thing I ever did for myself was get medicated for my mental illness and I ignored a lot of negative input about that from people.  I have thanked myself every day that I’ve taken my medications.  Even the Paxil which eventually did so much damage by causing that enormous weight gain.  I still benefited so much from taking it.  I will not let anyone influence my decisions with value judgments about my options.

It’s like the contest between women who have their babies completely naturally, without any kind of pain killer, and the ones (like myself) who opt to benefit from the pain killers.  The ones who don’t use any modern intervention are often (NOT ALWAYS) self congratulatory and there is a general idea that they are superior to women who go for more comfort.  A lot of times they don’t mean to do it but they  believe they are better women for having endured the pain and done the whole thing without intervention and that belief leaks out and stabs other womens sense of worth.

I’m happy for any woman who does her birthing completely naturally, especially if it’s meaningful for her to do so.  But I don’t think they’re better than women who don’t go completely natural and certainly they are not superior to women who get C-sections.  I don’t believe I’ve ever felt defensive about my choices in giving birth but I have felt the need to defend others and angry at the arrogance I have experienced in some women over this issue.

Why should there be such value judgments attached to these personal decisions we make?  How can we know what is ultimately the best solution for another human being?  How can we judge whether being hooked on sleeping pills isn’t better than becoming an alcoholic?  Do YOU face that same scenario?  What would you choose?  What works for one person doesn’t work for another.  It’s the same with diet.  Nothing but protein might work really well for one body and be disastrous for another.  It is arrogant for any of us to assume that our personal experience of things is automatically universal.  That our answer is everyone’s answer.

I choose to follow my own path and make decisions specific to my needs and what I know of myself and many of my choices are between two evils.  Maybe the choices aren’t great, but I always have choices and they’re mine to make.  I don’t think people who take sleeping pills are inferior to those who either continue to suffer a life of little sleep nor do I think they are superior.  No value judgments at all.

Once again, I am cultivating patience.  My mother means well, but she doesn’t know what’s best for me.  She never has.

I reject the idea that patience is a “virtue” but embrace patience as a great tool.