24 July, 2020

This is a very, very bad bout of insomnia. It is partly a cycle coming around, and partly COVID-19. Not having a regular schedule, nor some place particular to go to in the morning has not been good for me.

Nonetheless, this bout was precipitated by an episode of hypersomnia that lasted three days– for three days, I could not get off the bed for love or money, and was sleeping from about 10pm to 3pm the next day. I have these episodes sporadically, and they last 3 to 6 days (except when I was pregnant– I was hypersomnic the whole third trimester, after insomnia during the first two that couldn’t be mediated by medication, because, pregnancy). The shortest time between episodes was about a year, and the longest was about 2 & 1/2 years, with the trend being about 16 months. They come out of nowhere, so I’ve never had a sleep study done during one, because there’s never time to set one up.

Before the latest episode, I was doing pretty well. I managed to sleep 6 to 7 hours a night– in fits and starts, most night, but nonetheless, I often crossed that magic 7-hour line on my Fitbit app, and I could get in a solid, four-hour block many nights. Life was at least predictable. Now it’s chaotic and tortuous. It’s hard to make plans, when I don’t know how I’ll feel one day to the next. I wonder sometimes if this is what it’s like living with an alcoholic?

I hate to go to bed at night, because of bad memories from my 20s of lying there for hours, crying because I couldn’t sleep, and getting up again after a futile night, feeling like my head was full of sand. When I know there’s no reason to go to bed at a particular time, because there’s no reason to get up at a particular time, whatever demigods may be, I just know are pointing fingers and laughing.

Here is the list of things I have done so far during this bout:

Defeated the blue dragon (Playstation game);

Prepared all my lessons for Hebrew school through the end of Sukkot (am going to have to revise a LOT once I see where the kids are, but I had an itch to scratch);

Hebrew Labs too;

Binge-watched Xena: Warrior Princess, which I hadn’t seen since the original run (didn’t watch the last two episodes, though);

Wondered what Lucy Lawless has done lately, and binge-watched an Australian TV series called My Life is Murder (Acorn TV; it’s pretty good– recommended);

Remembered that The Seekers were Australian, and wondered what happened to them, and spent an hour watching them on YouTube. (The Seekers broke up in 1968 for Judith Durham’s solo career, reformed in 1992, and retired in 2019);

Read the entire novel that’s assigned for Spanish class (I started learning Spanish in 2018) over the next 9 weeks. That probably wasn’t a good call, because I won’t remember any of it by the time we get to the end of class;

Started a website where I complain about my insomnia in posts;

What I really need to do is clean my kitchen, but I’ve been putting that off on the grounds that I might make noise and disturb the neighbors. My gawd does the kitchen need to be cleaned. It’s getting to the point that I dread going into it. But I’m exhausted during the day; the only time I have energy seems to be during the little hours.

Before COVID-19, I’d gotten myself on a pretty good schedule where I was sleeping from about 8pm to 1am, and then getting up and doing stuff– laundry, dishes. Occasionally I’d go back to bed around 4 or 5 and sleep another hour, maybe 2 if I were really lucky. But I usually had to be somewhere fairly early in the morning. I would set an alarm, forget to turn it off when I got up, and have it go off while I was in the shower. Every morning.

If I had to work, I had to be in at 8:30am. Whether I had to work or not, I liked to go to morning minyan at shul, which started at 7:30am. I loved minyan. It lasted about 45 minutes, except on Mondays and Thursdays, when we read Torah, if we had a full minyan. I was one of the Torah readers. Afterwards we had breakfast together, which I could linger over on days I didn’t work, or only worked in the afternoon. We haven’t met since March.

The pandemic has really knocked us for a loop, because I used to be able to get my body tired enough during the day to pass out and there was nothing my brain could do about it– it could throw a toddler-type tantrum, but I’d stay asleep. It’s not happening anymore.

And yes, when I talk to myself, I use the plural pronoun. I’ve done that my whole life. There’s me, and then there’s my brain. We don’t get along very well.

To be absolutely clear, though, I am not talking about having anything like a dissociative identity disorder. I don’t go by different names, lose time, or find that I’ve put things away in the wrong places. I just talk to myself a lot, and it almost always ends up in an argument, because my brain is a class-A jerk, who doesn’t have to feel the pain of being tired, and doesn’t care when it keeps me up all night.

Published by Chava Freya

Insomnia is a brain-based disorder I’ve had since I was at least 16 years old. Anti-anxiety medicine doesn’t help, except when there’s external anxiety exacerbating the problem. Sleep hygiene is irrelevant, because it’s not the problem, although I have submitted to it five different times, including having sleep specialists actually come to my home and advise me on rearranging furniture, buying special pillows, forbidding TVs in the bedroom, telling me the bed was for nothing but sleep, sex and reading, and when that didn’t work, then nothing but sleep. Period. That was the biggest failure of all.

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