On Tuesday morning at 4:45 a.m. I was sleepless. I got up, walked into my study and cozied up to my 24″ iMac. To write. On hope, of all things. I was sleepless because I was feeling hopeless. Rare, for me. I was exhausted. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t turn off my thoughts.
Sleeplessness is my arch-enemy…
Sleeplessness is a serious trigger for me and my hypomanic mind. In no time sleeplessness ushers in twinklings ~ bizarre interpretations of a reality smacking of mania, psychosis, madness. Bit-by-bit, but fast.
I can tell when I’m this way. When and while this is happening. I can see it happening from an onlooker’s viewpoint. It’s curious. I’ve been manic ~ full-blown and floridly psychotic ~ so often, I’m used to the signals. There’s a certain comfort in that, strange as it may seem.
I can cut the mania off at the pass…
I take some fast-acting medication. Not an anti-psychotic. They don’t work for me. Instead, a tiny 0.5 mg dose of an anti-anxiety drug called Clonazepam. I never take more than 2 mg. Ever. Often less does the trick. I sleep and awaken refreshed. I’ve been doing this for many years.
When life is causing sleeplessness, it’s different. My circumstances. The pickle I’m currently in. There have been so many. Drugs don’t fix or cure life circumstances. They’ve never undone any wreck in my life, in any given moment. They just numb it away. Numb the feelings.
Some people use alcohol or recreational drugs…
Some self-harm. I used to overeat. Smoke, too. Now, I’m clean and sober.
Often I re-read Chapter Two in a book called Solitude by the late British psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Anthony Storr. It was published in 1988 and is still in print. Still available at Amazon.com. Still relevant, today.
Storr battled his own demons and traumas. He was an alchemist, transforming his own sadness into energy-inducing healing in others. In 2001, he died at 80 of a heart attack, leaving a void and a huge legacy.
The mysteries of sleep and the powers of sleeplessness…
He was known for his compassion as much as he was known for his prolific writings and his wisdom. He writes from his personal experience, a traumatic and lonely childhood, depression. I treasure my copy of one of his many bestsellers, Solitude. Yellowed, dog-geared, delicate. In the second chapter, called “The Capacity to be Alone,” he explores the mysteries of sleep and powers of sleeplessness.
“Although we spend about a third of our lives asleep, the reasons we need sleep are not fully understood,” Storr wrote. “That we do need it is certain. As interrogators long ago realized, depriving prisoners of sleep is a relatively quick method of breaking them down. Although a few exceptional people can, without deterioration, survive without sleep for quite long periods, the majority of previously normal human beings exhibit psychotic symptoms like delusions and hallucinations after only a few days and nights without sleep. It is also worth noting that many episodes of mental illness are preceded by periods of insomnia.”
I’ll never forget how I felt after first reading Storr’s comforting words.
There is much more to Storr’s book than that. I’ll leave it for now and tell you a secret. I also dissociate, a lot. I go into my own little world. I can do this almost anywhere. Often, writing is a direct route.
Writing is and always has been my therapy and refuge...
I kept diaries as a very young child and adolescent. I still have them. I like to think out loud and that’s what writing is for me. I hear my words as I write them. Words are such powerhouses. They scream or whisper, depending on how you play with them. Writing is word play. I get lost in the dictionary.
I write. In solitude. It draws me closer to my inner life.
Now, I blog ~ to each of you in your solitude…
I write to you. With you in mind. And instantly, I’m in a relationship. A silent relationship. I’m not alone, exactly. Emotionally, I’m with you. I feel engaged ~ with you. Silently. Intellectually. Each and all of you who courageously comment and open yourselves up, sharing with each other and creating our dynamic community. Individually. Also in solitude. That’s how I see you in my mind’s eye. That’s why I adore blogging as opposed to traditional journalistic reporting, where there’s no interactivity.
You’re my alchemists…
Like Anthony Storr. You make it happen. With your compassion. Best of all, I can write back to you. We can engage with each other.
Blogging, for me, when I cannot sleep accomplishes one of two things. Either I’m very clear-headed ~ if I’m well-rested ~ and because there are no distractions, in my solitude, creatively, sometimes I can write something worthwhile. I check the next morning to see.
Or I struggle and fluff ~ so much so I bore and frustrate myself back to bed. Either way, blogging/writing is a good way to fight insomnia. When I’m manic, I think of writing as righting. (As Sonia would add, Hee, hee.)
And like magic, the hopelessness is gone.