Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Battle Against Insomnia and Anxiety

I have things to complain about but I'm not going to write about them right now.

I'm going to write about insomnia and anxiety. I'm not entirely sure if my insomnia causes anxiety or if my anxiety causes insomnia. Actually, what I tell people is that I have insomnia and when I'm tired enough, it causes me anxiety. I won't break the silence about mental illness. I'm sorry. I know I should but insomnia is acceptable, even a favored difficulty. Having anxiety means I'm crazy. But what I'm sure about is that they move together.

Everything is wrong at 3:07 am when the cat comes downstairs and wakes me up to tell me that my husband is awake. See, I don't actually have an anxiety problem or an insomnia problem. I have a cat problem.

No, I'm not getting rid of the cat. Nor am I going to sleep through the lonely yowling that will ensue on the other side of my door if I close it, therefore I have an insomnia problem along with Mike though we've tried separate beds to try to help.

You see how problems multiply? In every adventure wherein the adventurer ends up dying, it is a series of small mistakes that lead to his ultimate death. I say his because Sheryl Strayed didn't die, though I'm not sure how she survived. Dumb luck? I've survived due to dumb luck myself. Someday, I'll tell you how I walked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back carrying only two Snickers bars and two cans of Dr. Pepper. Someday. Not today. Suffice it to say that I was an idiot and could easily have died if circumstances hadn't assisted me.

So, insomnia, anxiety, cat problems. Right. I was telling you about how all that worked.

Sorry. I didn't sleep last night. I'm not functioning on all three cylinders. That was a car joke. Did you get it?

So, I'm reading Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. It's a good book though I'd tell you I enjoyed An Ocean at the End of the Lane better so far. Just now, I looked up the pronunciation of Gaiman's name. In his own words, it's pronounced Gay-Man. So there I have it. In this country, that would have set him up with a problem in grade school, problems that would have magnified in middle school and settled into a deadening routine by high school. I don't know what the UK did with him. But it would have done no good to change the pronunciation. Once those problems attach, they don't come off easily.

Where was I?

Right, the trouble with insomnia. See, Gaiman's stories have given me an idea. My problems, when anxiety grabs hold of my throat at night, are large and impossible and I can never get up and do anything about them at 3:07am. No, it won't help to call the company that's supposed to be making spare neckerchiefs for our new Boy Scouts next week because they are closed and most of the people I'd have been trying to speak to are asleep. Or they're lying in their beds trying to settle their own problems and get them to let go of their throats too. Either way, I can't solve most of my problems at 3:07am. Vacuuming? Weeding? Forget it. It's 3:07 am. There's no sense letting everyone else know how crazy I am. It's bad enough that the cat wakes me any time Mike wakes up. See, I've got insomnia because Mike has insomnia and I'm a light sleeper, especially when the fifteen pound cat treads across my face and starts licking my hair.

I forgot what I was trying to say.

Okay. So, I had the idea that all of those terrible ideas are actually alive, the ones that make it so I can't take a deep breath at 3:07am, the ones that take away the purple swirl of sleep and put white dots on the backs of my eyelids so I have to finally open my eyes and turn on the reading lamp for a distraction.

These ideas are shifty creatures. They're large and terrible in the night. Every one of them, even the neckerchief problem, has tiny white teeth that hold me by the neck at 3:07 am and if I don't distract myself, they will make their way into my brain where they swirl around in circles all the while blocking my windpipe with their foot. You know, the kind of foot a clam has that lets it hold on or move to a more inviting place. My throat seems to be the most hospitable environment for the foot of my awful idea. There, its body can swirl around in the tide of my brain while it collects and feeds on tiny plankton ideas that are already there, innocent and beautiful tiny ideas. This makes the one that's fixed in my throat and swirling in my brain all the more powerful. Do you see how that happens? Have you had that guy clutching at your throat too?

For example, the Boy Scout neckerchiefs are never going to get done if I don't call the company and find out what they're doing. Never mind that they were supposed to call me. That they didn't call doesn't mean that the company is on track and everything is fine. It's not. I'm sure of it. And that idea swirls around until, in my mind at least, Mike is accusing me of never having loved him or supported his dreams from the beginning and he's walking out the door with my boy at which point I will drown in my own tears and die an ugly prolonged death by starvation, loneliness, and television. I know what it's like to drown in a television. All you have to do is whisper the theme song to 'The Brady Bunch' in my ear and I can remember nearly dying from that method when I was young. No, this one tick on a to-do list has grown into a monster thanks to the time it has spent lodged in my throat.

Never mind the other ideas that compete for space in my throat as well, the roof and the weeds in the yard and the finances and the mouse that has taken up residence in the wall by the kitchen. All of these are waiting for their chance to stop me from breathing normally and whisper of their dire existence into my ear at 3:07 am until it is daylight and the chance to sleep has expired. These ideas conspire together to make insomnia a misery. Otherwise, it would be a great time to finish reading my book in the relative silence of the house. No blaring music. No television. Yes, without these creatures, insomnia would be quite a joy. I might read a whole book and look forward to my nights of insomnia.

But I don't.

Then, when daylight comes around and I no longer have the opportunity to sleep, the neckerchief idea settles down and camouflages itself. I go all day without ever thinking about the neckerchief problem. It never occurs to me to call the company that's supposed to be making them until it's dark out and it's too late to call. They've closed at 5:07pm.

I actually think these anxieties have a slight poison that they secrete, like a date rape drug, so that during the day, I can't see them, I can't hear them, and I certainly am not going to remember to do anything about them. I'm exhausted, remember?

And then it becomes dark out and the anxiety can come alive to my brain to feed yet again.

I'm not sure there is a happy ending to this story. I haven't died yet. See, like viruses, the anxieties can't let me die because then they would die with me. Lethal viruses aren't as successful as annoying and persistent ones.

I think that Post-It notes are a weapon against insomnia and anxiety. I feel some relief from all the 3:07am pain when I write down what it was that I needed to do. I can attach them to my calendar and I have evidence in daylight that the awful problems exist and aren't quite so awful. And sometimes I don't get distracted by the fog of fatigue and I solve them. They usually aren't fatal after all.

Really, what will happen in my yard if I don't pull the weeds? What? I'll still have weeds in the morning and they haven't yet consumed my entire house before I reduce the problem for a while by pulling them back.

As for the neckerchiefs? Mike won't leave me if I don't get them done, though I do hate seeing  disappointment on his face when I mess up.

I'm not sure there is a solution to the problem of the cat though.

Thank you for listening, jules

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