Tag Archives: sleep

Help a blogger out

Today was another “Yes! I am inspired! I will write about this Topical Topic! I can feel a kick-ass rant coming on! Wait, but the baby needs to nurse. And now I only have one hand. And the big kid is yelling at me. And now I am a parenting failure, and feel completely drained. No, I will write! Are you fucking kidding me? My blog won’t let me log in. Fine, I’ll restart the computer. WHAT DO YOU MEAN SYSTEM ERRORS?? And now The Man has to go back to work. Right. I will never blog again. Think I can make it as a professional pumpkin carver?” day. Which, minus the pumpkin carving, is at least the third time that’s happened in the last three weeks, and honestly, I’m starting to despair.

See, I could totally go pro with the pumpkins. Yes, that is a rotary cutter. Mmm, power tools.

So, while I wait for The Man to come home three two hours early in an attempt to give me half an hour of writing time1, I ask you: how do you eke time out of Life to, y’know, write? Or how do you stay out of the crazy-dark-despair when you can’t? How do you work on one piece a piece at a time over several days, a skill I’ve never quite managed? How do you make your sleep-deprived, slug-like brain function during the fifteen minutes an evening you carve out? How do you convince yourself that the little you can do is good enough for now?

How the hell do I do this?

And:

Happy Halloween

  1. Think that’s unrealistic? There’s getting Vulva Baby transfered to him, reminding myself what I’m supposed to be writing about, taking Vulva Baby back to nurse, re-reading my Twitter rant on the topic for inspiration, getting interrupted by the Boychick telling me about his video game/asking me to play Chinese Zodiac with him/breaking my heart by talking about how much he misses his dead grandparents and wants to put out a path of petals so they can find him on The Day of the Dead, redirecting him to his dad, trying to shut out the cries of Vulva Baby who has just been woken by her brother’s yells of protest, completely losing it myself, attempting to repair the damage done to both kids by hearing a mother’s primal scream, nursing Vulva Baby again, talking with The Man about dinner, remembering there’s a Halloween party to get ready for, looking at the computer with longing and breaking into tears…

    You’re right, it is unrealistic. No way am I getting even half an hour.

The arts of wordless mindfulness and mindful words

Between pregnancy canceling one set of plans and a miscalculation of the number of elective credits remaining needed to graduate, I signed up at the last minute to take an especially woo class1 this past weekend, one I had never intended to take at all.

Part of what we do in massage (both giving and receiving), and one of the reasons it is so beneficial, is to have a time when the mind is not the focus of the self. It is the body that is the focus — my hands and arms and how I stand and move and dance to touch the body before me when I give, my skin and muscles and fat and blood and flesh and fascia and the wholeness of me, my pain and pleasure and the simple feeling-ness of being touched with love when I am receiving. My mind still babbles — of course it does — but I breathe, and let it go, and return to my body and the work I am doing2.

Reiki is that aspect of massage distilled. Rather than the body being the focus as in massage (or the mind as it is in most of our lives), now it is, whatever this means to you, spirit3. Most of the 18 hours of class was spent in the stillness of motionlessness as well as the silence of voicelessness — I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience, but mine was hardly silent otherwise. The brain, so skilled at formulating thoughts, continues its work regardless of our intent or desire, and so sitting in “silence” is anything but. Grocery lists, to-do items, old memories, projected worries — these I can let go of. These I am happy to send on their merry way, to let slip down the stream as unneeded creations of a mind only doing it job, not knowing when its production is unnecessary. But what comes to me in that stillness and silence that I wish to cling to, wish to grab hold of and jump up and run for pen and paper and the scritching sound of my hand moving one against the other, is the words. Post ideas fully formed, phrases finally perfectly turned, eloquence and persuasiveness and emotions given voice. How do I let go of these, when I know in a few hours — at most, a few days — I will be sitting here yet again begging for them to come?

There’s a writerly saying that the first 500, 750, 1000 words of the day are crap, but you have to write them, write through them and past them, in order to get to the good stuff. Some nights I feel like these are my 1000 words, and if I could just stay up longer, could sleep in tomorrow, could avoid insanity and instability on an irregular sleep schedule; if I could do this during work hours, could get out the first 1000 words when my part of the planet is facing the sun, could sit and write revolution instead of agitate in spurts of 140 characters or fewer in the few minutes’ attention that is all my child will allow to deviate from him: then I could get to those gems that pester at my brain, that beg to be heard and recorded after the 1000 are tossed up on the blog with mutters of “good enough”, which are not becalmed by the couple times a week I am able to sit here, laptop earning its name, but are instead bestirred by them — only to fade or flee when I, exhausted, say no, stop now, I have to sleep, I have no time for you: come back next week, next month, next life.

They never do.

So when they come in the silence and the stillness, in the midst of supposedly-good-for-me meditation — I am supposed to let them go? (The pain of doing so was one of the many reasons I found myself in tears more than once this weekend.) Perhaps a Buddha or a Hallmark card would say they are butterflies and are crushed with the clinging, or that if they love me then they will return, but I, with a few stolen hours a day a few fought-for times a week and but a few months until even that, perhaps, is impossible, cannot convince myself I have the time for such patience, for such woo and trust and surrender.

Likely the prudent path4 would be to take the time to meditate before writing — instead of poking around Twitter, say. And perhaps, one day, I will do that: after all, tonight I showered before sitting down5, so here I am at only 10pm with my nearly-1000 words. Perhaps one day I’ll be that disciplined and evolved and mature. Perhaps one day I won’t be so surrounded by kids and chaos and an overflow of needs unmet that I’ll have the time and the space and the ability to sit and be before I sit and attempt to do this work.

Or perhaps one day I’ll realize that I cannot afford to waste my time struggling to create through all that stuff when I could, instead, take a few minutes first to let it go, set it aside so the words and I don’t have to fight to find each other.

Perhaps one day.

——————————

  1. Reiki, which was simultaneously less and more woo than I’d expected. Keep your eye-rolling to yourself, please.
  2. For receiving massage is its own sort of work — not work as in labor, but as in the work of being alive and present, the beautiful work of the breath and of being.
  3. A perhaps ridiculously-simplified statement of my beliefs is that mind and spirit are not separate from but arise from — are functions of — the body. I am, still, a theist, but an independent “soul” is unnecessary to my experience of the spiritual or the divine.
  4. 10 year old philosophy of ethics paper on Aristotle for the win. Thanks, Professor Marya.
  5. While my kid screamed he didn’t want to go to bed and he did want to stay up and shower with me, and while my mind flooded with variations on “please come, words, please, for me, please come, please” so loudly and rapidly nothing else — except my child’s yells — could squeeze its way in. So it wasn’t quite the peaceful and productive experience I might have hoped for.

5 steps to creating a blog post and/or nervous breakdown, or, why I don’t get more work done

For Holly, who suggested the topic “All the things you can do to avoid going to bed. ;) ” This is not that. But I was inspired.

Step One: Send Child to Bed.

This is a 2-57 step process usually involving food, one dozen hugs minimum — all of which must be proceeded by “Look at this run! Are you watching? OK, watch this run!” followed by being tackled, aka hugged — more food, watching the child get naked, sending him off to bed with his father, sending him back to bed with his father, sending him back to bed again this time with a water bottle which must be filled up because it was two whole millimeters below completely full, and approximately one thousand exchanges of “good night! sleep well! you too! YOU TOO! MAMA SAY YOU TOO! Good night! Work well! Good night!” after which any thoughts of ideas for writing topics have been replaced by fantasies of what getting really drunk must be like1.

Step Two: Check Twitter and Attempt to Write

Check @ messages. Wonder why no one has @ messaged me, or, get overwhelmed by number of @ messages and ignore. Open New Post file. Send out test balloon tweet. Write 1-3 sentences on topic of choice; decide I need more inspiration, go read links on Twitter. Retweet most interesting articles that happen to have been tweeted within past half hour. Think “Crap I need to go read that article by Summer Minor I Fav’d last month.” Don’t. Return to post; change dash to semicolon. Comment on people’s humorous parenting/bad day/new baby/rant of the hour/outrage of the day/cause of the week tweets. Return to new post only to be distracted by incoming @ messages. Engage in witty exchange with 1-20 people. Think “Hah! My brother’s not the only one in the family who can make people laugh.” Squash ominous feeling that all tweets will seem 1/100th as funny in daylight. Click over to WordPress, try to remember topic of 1-3 sentences and why it seemed like a good idea. Become overwhelmed. Realize three hours have passed, child will be waking up in seven hours and all creativity has been discharged in medium that will not remember said wit in two hours, much less next month. Reconsider addiction obsession relationship with Twitter. Proclaim lack of productivity, declare good night. On Twitter.

Step Three: Close the Computer

The length of this step is directly proportional to how overtired I am, and also to certain-persons-who-will-remain-nameless2‘s proximity to a chat program, and can take anywhere between ten minutes and two hours.

Step Four: Prepare for Bed

Take pills, tidy up3, check pets, turn off lights, take shower, have post idea and fully formed paragraphs take hold of my brain while rinsing hair, curse, proceed to step 5a or 5b.

Step Five A: Go to bed

Swear that this time post idea will remain in brain overnight, read fanfic on the iPhone to get words to stop cascading, fall asleep, forget topic much less gorgeous turn of phrase by morning. With luck, also forget said loss of words and thoughts.4

Step Five B: Write

Concede that topic and/or words and/or need for publishing post is, tonight, more urgent than sleep, spend one hour writing, two hours editing and adding links, [one hour back on Twitter gathering encouragement to finish and/or publish], bite nails, hit post, Tweet link, check Facebook and Twitter for reactions, reload Facebook and Twitter, check bit.ly stats for number of clicks, check WordPress for new comments, wonder why no one is commenting, reload Facebook and Twitter again, curse universe for making me post when no one is awake, check bit.ly stats, comment queue, Facebook, and Twitter one more time (and one more time again), close computer, turn off lights (again), stumble to bed, calculate sleep debt, and swear unto all the gods, goddesseses, demons, sprites, fae, and pink fluffy unicorns5 that next time I really, truly, really will actually start writing when I first sit down.

  1. I don’t drink… alcohol, as a rule, and never have. I’ve been drunk once in my life, and The Man still hasn’t forgiven me for it being at a time when he wasn’t there to witness.
  2. Kareena.
  3. This step optional.
  4. I am not lucky.
  5. Dancing on rainbows and otherwise.

Musings on mental health, in-patient therapy, and ableism: or, why isn’t there a “Hooha Behavioral Center”?

A friend of mine is in the hospital, and has been for a few days1. I gave her a ride to the ER twice in 24 hours, and on the second time (her third total), she was finally admitted.

What for? Insomnia. Depression. Bipolar. Anxiety. Self-harm urges. Racing thoughts so unbearable that suicide, although not at all desired, was altogether too tempting if it would make them stop.

Sound familiar? It certainly does to me. I absolutely supported her in her choice to seek in-patient therapy — both her right to self-determination, and the specific action — but it’s not one I’ve ever chosen. Even though I’ve been right there. Even though I’ve been worse.

This question has been swirling in my head since the repeated hospitalization of another friend, and grew this week into toddler-proportion persistence: why do some people seek in-patient therapy and others not? Why do some of us have the threshold set so high (so low?) for “bad enough” to pursue that course, and others less? Why do some of us think of hospitalization as only for those so ill they do not go voluntarily, and others as the logical treatment for any crisis severe enough to earn the term?

Why have I never been in the hospital?

I’ve long said, when describing my illness, “I’ve never been hospitalized — but I probably should have been, a time or two.” Before that, I would say that but for the stabilizing, protective presence of The Man, I would have been. And that was when the only person I’d known who went through it was my older brother, hospitalized for psychotic mania when I was sixteen. With that example, no wonder I minimized my pain for so long, such that I was misdiagnosed as “merely cyclothymic”2 when I first sought psychiatric help. Perhaps too no wonder I never explored in-patient options for myself, for all that I have been in crisis more times than I care to contemplate.

But also there is this: mood disorders, craziness of any kind, are grossly stigmatized in my society. Given the way “nut houses” are portrayed in media, is it so surprising I didn’t think I, with delusions warping “only” my sense of my own worth, qualified? On the other side, given the too-often-horrifying treatment of patients at the mediocre hospitals, and the dehumanizing procedures at even the best institutions, is it so surprising I never thought it worth it? Given how hard I knew some people had to fight to gain access to those services — such as my friend and her three ER visits — is it so surprising I never tried?

There is so much broken in mental health services, I hardly know where to begin unraveling it. Should I have sought this sort of care? Certainly in a less-ableist society, it would have occurred to me far sooner. But what sort of “care” would I have received, even with relative protections of being a male-partnered middle-class white woman? What sorts of traumas might I have risked acquiring through the experience? Would I even have been admitted, or dismissed as not-crazy-enough, and what would the pain of failed help-seeking have done to me?

Do I really wish I’d spent time in a place with 24-hour every-fifteen-minute bed checks? With three-inch flexible pens my only writing implement? With rules about food, and clothes, and everything else? Do I wish I’d sought access to a system that calls its psych ward “Adult Behavioral Health”? (What the hell does that even mean? Do we call oncology “Cell Behavioral Clinic”? Urology “Hooha Behavioral Center”? Why does only mental illness warrant such shaming euphemisms?)

Whether it would have been a good idea for me back then or no (or, most likely, a highly mixed bag), I can’t go back to where I was and try again. But now, having stood by two beautiful, strong, amazing women who have been through the process, I know it’s more of an option for me for the future, even as I am more determined to do what it takes for it to not ever be necessary.

These are the only two certainties I have amidst all these questions: we need to make it easier for people to access the mental health services they need, including by reducing the social barriers. And we need to improve the services offered.

What can you do to help?

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  1. Which, if you were wondering, is part of why I haven’t posted in a while.
  2. Cyclothymia is a “mild form of bipolar disorder”, characterized by mood fluctuations from mild depression to mild hypomania. Bipolar 2, which I have, includes major depressive episode(s) and hypomania(s). Bipolar 1, or “classic” bipolar, includes full or psychotic mania and any level of depression. And that’s without getting into things like mixed states, rapid cycling, or comorbid conditions such as PTSD or addictions, each of which might complicate the diagnosis.

No words no sleep no sanity, take eleventy billion

Someone asked me the other day how I remembered to update the blog regularly. My mouth flapped open, and stuck that way, as my brain tried to understand a question for which it had no frame of reference.

She was not a writer. Or rather, not the kind of writer I am — writer by requirement. Vocation, not avocation. Payment doesn’t matter; this is a lifeline, not a hobby.

Words? Are not optional for me. They are as required as water, as food, as air.

Or more germanely — as required as sleep. Go too long without either, and there goes any semblance of stability, of sanity. I might live, but I wouldn’t be able to continue my life. So, because this is how much the universe hates me, my life is structured such that more of one requires less of the other. And I don’t always get to pick which will happen. And sometimes, neither will, and there’s the conditions for a flash flood of crazy.

I am drowning.

*****

Four days ago: the words would not stop. Post after post, perfectly composed, popping into my head, long after I was done for the day. Lying in bed, begging for respite, for sleep.

Three days ago: Stay up, waiting for words, they don’t come. Shrug, go to sleep… eventually.

Two days ago, I would have asked The Man to stay home so I could write — but he was (is, forever will be I fear) on mandatory overtime, so I couldn’t, and didn’t. So I said screw the sleep, and stayed up.

And they didn’t come.

All day — driving, in appointments, in class, while parenting, parenting, parenting — neverending words, a torrent of words, a flood of words, brilliant thoughts, important points, cleverly composed. But no time to stop, no time to sit, no time to get them down.1

And later, when everyone else is in bed, when I stop, sit, wait — silence. Or nonsense.

What do you do when the two things required for sanity are denied to you? Why, go crazy, of course.

You know what’s not crazy? Heavy traffic. Crowded grocery stores. Hyper children. Chaotic playgrounds. Inconsiderate or reckless drivers. Overwhelming course loads. Racist or sexist bullcrap. (Though, if you’re like me, those all might drive you crazy.) “Traffic/the store/those kids/the playground/that driver/this semester/that new law is crazy!” is as linguistically lazy as it is offensive. I am not your metaphor. I am crazy. I am not heavy-crowded-hyper-chaotic-inconsiderate-reckless-overwhelming. Stop it.

Not a fun night-on-the-town crazy. Not a productive crazy. Not a foreshadowing-visions crazy.

Crazy like this: Twitching twitching, chest constricting. Breath coming fast or not at all. Thoughts circling: out out out no no no. Losing it because I couldn’t lose it because there’s a child in my lap and he won’t go to sleep — until I dump him on his sleeping father and run away and we both cry for an hour.

*****

This is a minor wobble, as these things go (…I hope. I think.). It seems self-indulgent to go on about it, but it’s this or even less healthy coping techniques, and I can afford a concussion even less than I can afford the night of sleep missed thusly.

I worry that I’ll lose you, my readers. “Didn’t she write that gone-crazy-back-soon post a few months ago?” Well, yeah. But this is life for me. Mostly fine. Sometimes… this. It doesn’t go away. Not ever, not completely. As tired as you, hypothetical bored reader, might be of these repeats, I promise I am a thousand times more so.

*****

Sometimes, I know where it comes from.

Sometimes it’s my choices.

Sometimes it’s my circumstances.

And sometimes? It just sneaks up on me. Sleep eludes me. Words scramble into garbage. I don’t know why.

Sometimes I don’t know where it comes from, I only know it’s coming.

I feel its hot breath on my neck. My hands twitch at its groping touch. My breath is shallow, my belly tight, anticipating its presence. I am running from it — yet it is the running.

Did I cause it by trying to avoid it? Could I have breathed more, shut down the computer sooner, laid wide-eyed in the dark longer? Did I tempt it by rejecting the words offered? Was my error to think I could write in the first place, could have some success and stability?

All the answer I can bring forth now is the equivocating maybe.

*****

I don’t know if I’ll ever be “successful”. I don’t know if these mood regulation glitches, these writing/sleeping imbalances will let me do the things I long for — have I told you about my book idea? Martyrdom Not Required: Attachment Parenting for the Real World ‘Cause I’m obviously so damn skilled at this parenting-life-balancing-gig – but they are a part of my life. They always will be. As much as I hate this — and oh, right now, I do — I don’t hate my life. I can’t hate me, as much as I curse my brain at times. And so I deal.

*****

I don’t have a witty conclusion. There’s no insightful point, no cue for you to nod your head and declare “That’s so deep.” There’s just me, exhausted, face salty from sweat and tears, wrung out, done — yet knowing I have to get up in the morning, to the chirp of “Where’s my dad?” and answer “He’s at work again, little one, but I’m here with you again” alone with you again, make it through the day, no time to break down, no time to stop, no time to be and be drained and be done and have that be enough. There’s just me, thinking this will have to do — not enough writing, not enough sleep, but if I make do with this, I can get just enough sleep to make it through.

Wish me luck.

*****

  1. An update on Twitter, at 5:45pm: “Someone tell my brain I don’t have TIME for a panic attack now. Try next Monday evening, I think I’m open then.”