Thursday, February 03, 2005

reflections on insomnia

I had to go to work early today (which is Wednesday, although I'll post this tomorrow), for some standard ethical training. Because I was anxious about getting enough sleep, I ended up being wide-awake for most of the night. I generally sleep pretty well, except when I'm nervous about something. I don't lay there worrying or anything - it's just my normal overly active imagination working, the same as is at play during the day, but I know that my thoughts are spurred on by an emotional root.

I used to barely sleep at all - I'd probably get about two hours out of an attempted ten. Insomnia is horrible; your thoughts never stop, which prevents you from sleeping, but your fatigue prevents you from truly connecting to your thoughts. If you're really tired, you might keep returning to a thought over and over in a cyclic pattern, pecking away at it each time to again realize that you're unable to grasp it. You know when you're trying to remember the name of something, and it's on the tip of your tongue?... it's like that, except the floor feels wobbly, so you have to focus on balancing at the same time.

To sleep is quite literally to release control of your focus, so that it 'slips' into the obscurity of your subconscious. If you attempt right now to release control of your thoughts, you'll notice that you'll 'jerk' the right thoughts back into place - that's consciousness in action. The difference between being conscious and unconscious is whether your participation with your thoughts is active or passive.

For me to release control of my mind like that, I have to feel extremely safe. Having to make mundane decisions is very difficult for me, so I hold to specific patterns. When I enter a restaurant, they don't ask me what I want, they just prepare my regular meal. Pioneering the depths of my mind is easy, but navigating my way through a menu can take hours. I barely slept last night because my daily pattern was to be severely disrupted - not only did I have to get up at a different time, but I had to go to a building that I've only been to a few times... which then brings in the possibility of getting lost in trying to find it. This made me feel unsure of my ability to accomplish what I needed to today, which made me feel unsafe, which made me worry, which made me respond by feeling a need to take control, which prevented me from surrendering my focus. Tomorrow may not be a normal day either - I have to do laundry. I never know ahead of time what will or won't cause anxiety.