Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rattle and Hum

In the timeless rivalry betwee side-of-fork versus not-quite-softened red pepper contested in the epic battle to Separate a Bite-Sized-piece from the Omelette, red pepper held firm and Pynchon's fork slipped from his grasp, shot up in the air, and landed with a jangling crash back on his plate, an explosion of noise and movement in the middle of supper.

Naturally, I burst into tears.

Pynchon looked at me, a little shocked, but I couldn't quite hear what he was saying as the whooshing blood in my ears, the knocking of my racing heart, and the distracting sharp prickle of primal fear under my arms blocked him out.

My nerves are shot.

The root of the problem is that I'm not sleeping. Again. Whereas I used to fall asleep within minutes, only to wake up in the middle of the night for hours at a time, now I don't even get that first bit of rest. My new trick is to toss and turn for an hour or two, fall alseep, and wake up, heart pounding and mind racing, ten minutes later. I fall asleep somewhat easier if I attempt a midday nap, but still, ten minutes later--boom boom ack--it's all over.

There are other things. For example, massive road reconstruction 50 feet away from my house means that between 7am and 7pm my house is literally shaking. Glasses rattle, fixture hum, windows vibrate noisily in their frames. The plaster cracks. Nothing can stop the noise from intruding either, the whine and drone of many heavy machines rumble forwards, beep backwards, and bang up and down. I'm desperate to leave in the morning.

Munchkin has been waking up at night, not for long, but enough to rip me up from the depths.

And last night, oh last night! The student five houses down had a party that escalated into a raucous 11:30pm march down the middle of the street, tearing up one neighbour's rock garden to throw into another neighbour's driveway, before moving on to demolishing the barricades meant to keep people and cars from plunging into the excavated roadway. They came back and repeated their nonsense at 2pm.

It's amazing to me how even a couple of nights of broken or insufficient sleep can reduce me to hysteria and desperation. I actually wanted to physically harm those morons last night, an itch in my arms that wanted to claw someone's eyes out.

But I'm not talking about a couple of nights of broken sleep--this is becoming an intensifying pattern of persistent insomnia. It's like mental illness, really: I'm a different person, not able to enjoy the things I normally enjoy, not able to concentrate or focus, restless and anxious, depressed of mood and listless. Irritable and weepy. Unable to cope with the normal stresses of life, noisy neighbours or road repairs, say.

I've severly cut my caffeine and alcohol intake, been rigorous with my sleep hygience, practiced yoga, and avoided tv and computer time (glowing screens) too close to bedtime. I do yoga nightly. I take long walks during the day. And yet, still, ten minutes of sleep, a terrified wakeup, and hours of tossing and turning.

Insomnia, Dr. Google tells me, is not itself an illness but a symptom of some other condition--medical pharmaceutical treatments, then, address the distressing but secondary fact of sleeplessness by forcing the body to abandon consciousness with any number of powerful depressants all of which bring as much ill as good, and none of which are to be used any more than very infrequently or for a very short period of time. So the root of the problem is not, after all, that I'm not sleeping. It's something else, something else that manifests as insomnia.

My mother tells me that women in their 30s are the primary sufferers of insomnia. She surmises that having it all and doing it all is at the bottom of it all: it's anxiety and burnout. And truly, I have it all and do it all: demanding career, a beautiful home under constant improvement, a preschooler who has decided to 'marry' me, a husband with his own career and its demands, a drive to be healthy, to do the most for myself and my family. It's overwhelming me, maybe. No, it is overwhelming me, totally. Why else would I wake up in a sweaty panic to find myself worrying, absurdly, that Munchkin doesn't currently like vegetables and is doomed to adult obesity as a result of my failing to sufficiently entice her to eat green things? That three library books are overdue? That I forgot to email a colleague about something completely not pressing? That I forgot to put out our vitamin pills this morning?

Internet, do you suffer from insomnia? Why? And what do you do about it? I am losing this battle, and I am more than a little anxious that bursting into tears over dropped cutlery is more the rule than the exception at my house lately. Advice?


Beck said...

I don't suffer from insommnia - unless it's loud or I'm very unhappy. Frankly, I sleep like a cow.
My husband, though? He wanders around the house at night, like a sad ghost.
Once you fall OUT of the habit of sleeping, it can be hard to get back into it - a doctor friend of mine once suggested going on sleeping pills for a VERY limited duration (3 or 4 days, even), just to trick your body back into sleeping on its own again.

Omaha Mama said...

I have lately, but not to your extent. My heart really goes out to you. I have something that gives me a lot of peace in the night, but I suspect it is not something you would find helpful. I'm sorry that you are going through this.
Do you ever get up and write (I mean a pen to paper kind of writing). Maybe getting it all out of your head could make you sleepy and give you peace.

The other night I woke and was just angry, ANGRY, about a purchase order that I have yet to receive. I couldn't stop thinking about it about was up from 2-3 AM just thinking over and over, "I WANT MY TARGET P.O." The night after that, it was a dream about someone emptying a filing cabinet in my room (which has never happened) and me being ANGRY about that. I was concerned, since that just does not seem healthy. At all. Last night I took TWO Benadryl, which helps with my seasonal allergies but also happily knocks me out and I slept all night like a happy baby.

So maybe a nice allergy med?
Prayer helps me.
Some journaling?
And a glass of red wine just seems like it wouldn't hurt.

Best wishes for you. And hugs.

Janet said...

I had some galloping anxiety a few months ago that really affected my sleep. I started taking an herbal supplement called Passion Flower. 20-odd drops 3x a day in a glass of water. It had an extremely sedating effect. It was too much for me so I backed my dosage off to morning and night and it really did help with the sleeping. I'm not taking it any more, as I'm over the anxiety, but it helped in the moment.

Best wishes. Not sleeping turns me into a crazy person.

Mimi said...

Beck: hate you, but just a little bit. :-)

OM: Ooh, I so get the anger. It's so weird to wake up full of RAGE about, um, nothing.

Janet: galloping anxiety. That's it exactly, isn't it. Might try that passion flower ...

Jenifer said...

Oh man I can relate! I go through fits and starts and while I am not as bad as you it is so frustrating. I always say it is like I can't turn my brain off and fall asleep. I never wake up in the night (not on my own anyway) it is just the initial trouble of falling asleep in the first place.

Like you I literally fall apart, mentally and physically. I always end up sick after a bout of this.

I find being just dead tired after a long day works best. Being physically tired is key for me, but I am curious what other people finds works for them. I will be back to check the comments.

Clearly many of us suffer from this, there must be better answers.

cinnamon gurl said...

That sounds awful. My only experience with long-term sleeplessness was during E's infancy, and it made me crazy. Emotional, unable to cope with minor adjustments or irritants, angry. I hope the passion flower works. There are other homeopathic remedies if that particular one doesn't work - I know Rescue Remedy is one, and there's another two that I can't remember the name of.

Cloud said...

I get occasional bouts of insomnia (and right now my sleep is crap because I'm pregnant), but not like what you're describing.

I agree with Beck- go see a doctor. Take some pills of a short period of time to get your internal clock reset. Like so many things with our bodies, once the biochemistry that runs your internal clock is out of whack, it can be hard to coax it back into behaving properly. The doctor can also check to make sure there is no thyroid issue causing the problems.

If you really won't go see a doctor, you could try Tylenol PM. Its what I use to help with the pregnancy related sleep issues (suggested by my ob/gyn, and really, probably the best thing he's ever told me).

But really, go to a doctor. I think its similar to how I manage my asthma- when things are good, I can keep it in check with lifestyle (exercise, yoga, etc). When my asthma gets going, though, I use the drugs. Sure, I could probably get back to a good state without them. But it would take sooooo much longer.

Good luck. I hope you get some sleep soon.

Bea said...

Like Sin, I get sleep deprivation only from external factors, and then I'm exactly like that: full of rage, falling apart. My best friend went through several months of insomnia when we were in high school. I wonder now what that was about for her, what the underlying cause was. I get the sense that you are carrying a lot right now, that you are carrying the weight of everything with nobody to carry you.

hoppytoddle said...

I'm sorry you're dealing, or trying to deal, with this. Sucks. I've always been a very sound, deep sleeper, but once I wake up it takes me for. eve. r. to fall back asleep. Not good when you have something doing a world class gymnastic floor routine in your uterus at 3am every night. I wake up, alarmed, like, "What?!" thinking there's an emergency.

I take a benadryl every other night or so. It wears off & I'm laying there awake at 5am, but at least I get a solid 6 hours. I go through touchy periods, too, but we have a little terrier that makes me seem a little more normal.

the new girl said...

If you're reluctant to try meds, you can also try some valerian root extract (tincture). I find that helpful. Also, some mild cardio during the day helps me to regulate sleep really well.

Not sleeping SUCKS, though, and has the capacity to shred quality of life quicker than a lot of things.

Because crying at dropping forks is not how you roll, Mimi.

Debbie said...

I generally don't suffer from more than one or two sleepless nights t a time, and it's usually due to something that I need to take care of
(school registration, work, etc.).

However, my sis-in-law was diagnosed with Major Depression and Anxiety a few years back. I remember it starting with insomnia, emotional breakdowns, nausea.

Please keep a careful watch on it. And make sure Pynchon is aware of what is going on, don't hide anything from him. Don't be afraid to see a doctor. You may not think it's serious now, but I would hate for it to get worse.