dreamless.

In the chronic illness community, there’s a special kind of sleeplessness we call painsomnia. I trust you can figure out its meaning for yourself. Well, I’m having something like that tonight, except it’s more like painsomnia of the heart–and not in the cardiac sense.

For no apparent reason (aside from being “profoundly depressed,” according to my psychotherapy profile), I’m lying here wide awake and suddenly fighting back tears, despite having gone to bed early because I couldn’t keep my eyes open two hours ago. I didn’t have the best day, but it ended well enough. I’ve got plenty to be upset about, but … I don’t know. This is something different from the usual depression.

The best way I can describe it is like I’m mourning something that never happened, feeling a longing and restlessness so intense that it hurts. Again, this is a common element of the sick life: We grieve lost opportunities, what never was, what could have been, our plans changed or put on indefinite hold while we chase diagnoses and cures that may never be. We withdraw from school, get passed over for promotions, and lose jobs for lack of accommodations.

Chronic illness doesn’t give a damn about your dreams. And I wonder why I can’t sleep.

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memento mori

(CW: physical trauma, PTSD)

I hate Spring. Where most people see the promise of life, hope, and sunny days, I see spiders, tornado warnings, and pollen making my life hell. Okay, so maybe that’s a little dramatic, even if I do literally lose sleep over the arachnophobia sometimes. Eight years ago, I got a new reason to dread this season.

The surgeons said I was lucky to have not been fully awake when it happened; if I’d been alert enough to brace for the impact, the damage would have been even worse. They screwed my spine back together, reinforced my shoulder, set my leg in a cast, monitored my lung and spleen until they’d healed.

When I was discharged a month later, there were no care instructions for my mind.

The first time I drove after the crash, I got nervous after accelerating past 30 mph. When I was on an overpass and couldn’t see beyond a rise in the road, I screamed. I began having nightmares as I was falling asleep. I still don’t know which is worse, those or the actual dreams in which a normal car ride turns into a fatal sequel.

I still don’t understand how I managed to become more scared over time. At the moment, when I was trapped in the car, my entire body a burning blur of pain, I was oddly calm. I thought, Well, this is it. But now, I find myself too often preoccupied by the idea of my mortality.

I can take at least one good thing away from all this, as constantly pondering one’s inevitable death is a great way to end up on the (secular) Buddhist path. The dharma can’t cure PTSD, but it has helped me understand my mind a bit better. Although I was frustrated when I realized I’d still need professional help, it was nice to hear my therapist compliment my objective self-analysis.

This is my third attempt at writing this post, and I can’t think of a way to end it but I need to wrap it up now. For now, let’s just say this is part one of two and see what happens tomorrow.

welp.

Why am I surprised? Am I surprised? Really? This is how it’s always gone, more or less. Grand declaration, failure, subsequent “I screwed up again” entry, rinse and repeat ad nauseam. I want to kick myself for even writing this reaction out again for the hundredth time (a generous estimate). But the thing is, I’m writing. Even if it’s the same old thing, I’ve finally opened this window up and entered some words.

Why couldn’t I do it sooner? That whole avoidant personality thing, most likely. It makes no sense, but once I mess up–in this case, failing to write a followup to my first post–I put the task off indefinitely, as if just leaving it alone entirely makes the problem nonexistent. Naturally, this creates a new problem by causing me even more stress because I can never really forget about the thing I was supposed to and so it continues hanging over me until I’m so overwhelmed that I can’t do anything–can’t bear to think about it, can’t do anything about it, can’t make it go away. I’m paralyzed by the anxiety and depression and hating myself for being the cause of it all.

Hey, that was a nice little bit of analysis. Writing is magical like that, isn’t it? I start out thinking I haven’t got anything to say, but even as I begin to put that notion into visible words, all these other ideas come pouring out, things I didn’t even know were in my head. Maybe I should have a little more faith in myself, trust that the words will come even if I don’t believe they’re there.

it’s a start

I’m no good at talking about myself–at least, not in any productive way. I can do the negative self-talk thing all day long, of course. Want to know what I’ve done wrong, what I should be doing, why this idea is stupid, why that one won’t work, what that one person I spoke to fifteen years ago really thinks of me? How much time have you got?

But things that actually matter, any sort of meaningful analysis or useful insight? I’m not so sure about all that. In my youth, I rarely missed a day in my journal. I could write for pages at a time, and even when I was recapping the most depressing events I felt purpose flowing through my pen. Now, what feels like several lifetimes later, I feel the pull but I have trouble bringing myself to answer it.

Over the years, what I now know as depression has been smothering that fire I once had and now all that remains is a handful of little embers buried under the ashes of so many abandoned dreams. Every once in a while, I gather the strength to give them a little stir and see how brightly they might glow–but all too often, I give up before anything catches. I’ve got to build up my endurance again, especially now that I know one of the culprits behind its disappearance.

I fell in love with my journals even before I knew they were vital to my mental health. I just loved writing, and they gave me one more reason to do that. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the act of writing down a lot of the abuse I endured during those days probably helped me end up slightly less broken than I did. Knowing what I do now, I want to resume the practice, but it’s going to be a little different this time around.

It breaks my heart to admit it, but I just can’t keep an analog journal if I’m to have any hope of making this a consistent habit. Because of the limitations and complications of my disabilities, I’ve had to accept that digital is the best option for me now. To help me make my peace with that decision, I considered that if I was going to start blogging, I might as well make this thing public and use it as nonfiction practice.

I highly doubt that this blog is going to turn into a portfolio worthy of notice or consideration, but … well, why the hell not. If it can convince me to start journaling on a more regular basis, I’m willing to believe that little lie for as long as it takes to get this lying brain of mine under better control. But now that I’m doing it, there’s that added layer of pressure that comes with the knowledge that I am writing for a hypothetical audience. I’m not sure right now whether that’s good or bad, but it does make getting started considerably harder. Here’s hoping that I’ll be up to the challenge in the coming days. If nothing else, this turned out to be the longest and fastest post of all my attempts so far.