“Why would you try to write something if you feel so awful?” my daughter asked me just now, as she watched me clumsily set up some music and turn on the computer. “You’re right, it doesn’t make much sense,” I admitted. “But since part of my goal in writing is helping people feel less alone, sometimes it’s good to capture moments like this.”
Although I sleep better now than I did a few years ago, it is never enough to please the medical folks in my life. In MacBeth Shall Sleep No More, I talk about how living clean involves accepting that the ways I used to deal with insomnia aren’t options for me any more. The nonaddictive options don’t do much for me, so I do what I can, and then it is what it is.
Today, my sleep debt has crossed a line and I am significantly impaired by it. The overwhelming number of things on my mind, which two days ago had me worried but still present, now feels completely overwhelming. I can’t think straight, my emotions are all over the place and I want to run away. And, of course, I cannot fall asleep right now.
It’s a testament to the power of working recovery that, coexisting with the above feelings, is a near-automatic response reminding me that it could be worse. Reminding me that I used to feel this way a majority of the time, instead of it being a rare enough thing to be worthy of mention. This moment, right now, is a chance for me to have a sense memory of those times and be grateful that they are in the past.
God, I sound like such a Pollyanna there. I don’t mean to, but I also don’t want to blur an authentic message of hope this attitude carries. Besides, gratitude is not about self-improvement for me. It’s about self-preservation. (see Item One: Not On Fire.)
So, my truth is that this day sucks. And my truth is that I’m feeling grateful, because days worse than this used to be my normal.
Listening to the birds sing at dawn, their notes chiming through a dull haze in my brain, was normal.
Stumbling around the house, unable to decide on a task, was normal.
Overeating or snacking all day, in a vague attempt to meet one need by feeding a different one, was normal.
Going days or weeks on end without a curious or creative thought was normal.
Trying to knock myself out with dangerous doses of sleeping pills was normal.
When that didn’t work, sneaking extra extended-release morphine capsules from the locked box in our closet was normal.
Breaking them open, spilling the granules inside onto a paper plate, licking them up, and chewing them was normal.
Putting the empty capsules back together and returning them to the box was normal.
Counting the hours of the day in reference to when I would once again be alone and undisturbed, instead of anything to do with living, was normal.
The frustration I feel about my lack of energy and focus today is a sign of how much things have changed. Based on recent trends, I’m pretty sure that a better chunk of sleep will come my way in the next day or two. Perhaps not as much sleep as I want, but enough to keep me going. Enough to let me think, and try to show up, and find out what happens. Until then, may I also remember another major difference between then and now:
Now, even half asleep, I can write.