Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hypnos and His Discontents

Oh, my dear friend Insomnia has come to call once again. Not one hour after laying down my book and closing my eyes, my eyes spring open as if programmed to do so, taking in the dark room with dilated pupils, and leaving me in a state of ambivalence----leave the warm bed and warm body of my love, or attempt to return to the land of Hypnos, willing myself to slumber once again? Most of the advice on insomnia cautions against trying too hard to get back to sleep. Distract the mind, do something else, wait patiently for Hypnos to work his magic, they advise. So I sit up, put on my slippers, and pad quietly to the living room.

Laptop in hand, Brian Eno on the headphones (Discreet Music, if you must know), and some thoughts to transcribe through the brain-fog of fatigue, I sit on the couch and let my mind wander and fingers type. The house is silent.

Interestingly enough, the book I just finished reading this evening----The Family That Couldn't Sleep---is the story of illnesses as seemingly disparate as Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) and Fatal Familial Insomnia, all caused by proteins called prions which, in their apparent malfeasance, cause messy tangles of proteins which lead to neurological deficits and other manifestations of illness, some of which can be fatal. While I have no fears that my own insomnia will somehow bring about my eventual demise, lost sleep is not something to take lightly. Sleep is a healing journey of brain activity and spiritual and emotional renewal which I understand to be crucial to good health and overall well-being. Currently not working, the prospect of a nap tomorrow afternoon at a time of my choosing somehow assuages my concerns as the minutes tick by. It's my party and I'll sleep when I want to (if my body agrees with my desire, of course.)

Until quite recently, something which would wake me from deepest sleep in the cruelest manner was a condition known as Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). Ridiculously descriptive disease name aside, a drug named Mirapex has proven to be rather miraculous in stemming the tide of RLS. Unfortunately, chronic back pain---altogether unresponsive to medications and all manner of treatments and interventions---wakes me from my slumber most every night and plagues me throughout each day. Sadly, a scheduling faux pas---most likely my own brain's mifiring----led to my missing an appointment for a potentially effective spinal injection today. Thus, a very disappointed me left the sports medicine clinic without treatment this afternoon, the injection postponed (yet again) until next week. "Woe is me", says The Nurse with Chronic Pain as he types away in the wee hours.

And how would this pain and insomnia and restless agitation be experienced in the face of forty hours of grueling work as a nurse? That has been my experience for several years now, and the toll it takes on a body and a mind is no laughing matter. Chronic illness and full-time work are mismatched bedfellows indeed, and these last few years have been an exercise in frustration, perseverance, pain, and the inevitable gritting of teeth.

All of this ruminating is nothing more than the weak writing of an insomniac nurse with various physical and emotional complaints spouting off at one in the morning. Inspiring prose? Hardly. Evocative of tea and sympathy? Doubtful. Self-indulgent? No question. But if one cannot be self-indulgent at 1 a.m., when can one do so?

Thank you for your indulgence, dear Reader. May your sleep be long, uninterrupted, peaceful, and truly a blessing, and may your dreams be healing to your soul. And may Hypnos condescend to welcome me to return to his lair quite soon. As the saying goes, "to sleep, perchance to dream".........

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