Tuesday, April 27, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream?

I remember when my body
was a friend,

when sleep like a good dog
came when summoned.

The door to the future
Had not started to shut…

--Linda Pastan

In the manic wicky-wackies, I don’t sleep. At least, not that much. Not when its accompanying racing thoughts lunge for my throat and give me a good, tough shake, like the unstuffed mallard duck my enormous Labrador Retriever, Athena, mauls in good fun. Shake, shake, shake! Kill the duck, kill the duck! So while I resent that 3:17am blinking, blinking, blinking on the clock, I am also not tired at all. Eyes wide open, staring at absolutely nothing on the ceiling; hands clenching and unclenching; empty stomach growling (“Shut up,” the Eating Disorder says. “Shut up. You are not hungry.”); legs restless; heart beating fast.

What is most annoying about the insomnia is the weekend, when my kids do in fact sleep until 8 and then disappear into the next room to watch cartoons until 9:30. Christopher is deep in dreamland, an occasional twitch or toss lets me know his imagination is hard at work. But me? Awake already for hours and hours, inventing plotlines for the novel I have yet to write, listing (and then discarding) story ideas, pinching my stomach and hips for the weight IT says I need to lose, worrying about the financial fallout from my upcoming Long Term Disability leave, despairing over the tenure track job I’ll be giving up, and mostly cataloguing all that I’m losing (or have lost already) to IT, both body and mind.

One of the things I’m losing is my memory. Lately, Dr. B. has noticed my diminished capacity to remember—what happened ten minutes ago, yesterday, last week, last year. Side effect from the meds? From the insomnia? He is convinced that it is neither and tells me, “IT wants everything. IT wants to wipe out your memories. IT wants to wipe out you.” I recount the skip-hop middle-of-the-night ruminations to him, how they continue on into the day, how they encroach on everything. For instance: an hour ago the entire family was sitting on the couch, Christopher and the kids tumbling around in a ticklefest. What was I doing? Sitting apart from them, on the other end of the couch (it’s a big couch so I might as well have been sitting on a Yangtze riverboat in China), chewing over ITs abusive litany of my failures. And then my own guilty conscience weighed in, berating me over the fact that I am letting myself get pulled under by IT, that I’m not on the other side of the couch tickling and being tickled, that I’m not part of this new memory-in-the-making.

“Why don’t you get mad at IT?” Dr. B. says. “You get mad at yourself for everything, but not at IT. It doesn’t make sense.”

And it doesn’t. None of IT makes sense. Instead of listening to my healthy self in recovery, time and again I stupidly (habitually) listen to ITs lies. I listen to IT when IT tells me to secretly skip a meal--say I ate the ½ cup of yogurt and granola and blueberries but don’t actually eat it because that means I can start the day in a calorie deficit. I listen to IT when IT tells me to purge the French fry (yes, one) I swiped from my son’s plate because that is an extra, not part of the carefully calculated mealplan. I listen to IT when IT tells me that there is still room on my forearms to draw the razor, that the dozens and dozens of thin white scars aren’t nearly enough, that my body can only be a site of pain, no pleasure possible. I listen to IT when IT tells me to run one more mile, then two, to add on another one hundred sit-ups, to weigh myself and weigh myself again because maybe in the minute difference I’ll have lost an ounce. I listen to IT when IT tells me that I am better off alone, that I can’t possibly be someone that matters to anyone, that all I am capable of is inflicting damage on those that I love, so, IT says, you need to die.

“Push against this,” Dr. B. says. “You’re smarter than IT. You have a choice: you can listen to IT, or you can listen to that part of you that wants to live.”

A choice. So often it feels like IT (and the accompanying Bipolar/Eating Disorders) is an implacable, inexorable monolith, presenting ITs grim, immobile face, demanding immediate, punishing appeasement. Add insomnia and its resulting manic exhaustion to all that? I forget that I have a choice—that I can choose to eat, choose not to purge, choose to be nice to my body, choose to love and be loved, choose to live. But I forget and forget again and forget yet again that I don’t have to die. That I want to live. See how IT eats away at the most important thing I need to remember? I don’t have to die. Say it again. I don’t have to die. One more time for your husband and kids and family and friends. I don’t have to die.

And I don’t. What I have to remember is the manic wicky-wackies will lift. It’s happening now as I write. I came to my computer a roiling, irritable mess. I mean, how is it possible to be cranky and stand-offish during a full-on family ticklefest? And yet, there I was on the couch short-tempered, prickly, oowwing a bit too deliberately and loudly when my son’s finger poked at my side. I was having none of their fun. See if they could make IT laugh. I hear Dr. B sigh, “You’re losing out, letting IT win again.” So I am writing about IT now, putting IT on notice that I intend to win.

One small victory? For several days now, with the help of an increase in Lithium and Abilify, I have finally, blessedly slept through the night. And dreamed. And dreamed. And in my dreams I remembered this: as Wynken, Blynken, and Nod sail off in their shoe, the moon asks, “Where are you going and what do you wish?” A perfectly wise and useful question, akin to the one Dr. B. asked me before I left his office today: “What will you choose? Death or Life?” I need to remember that there is a choice—IT, the nasty cult leader who will slip me the fatal Kool-Aid or Life, with its sunset pizza parties in the backyard, its two kids in the bed, their breath warm on my neck, its spontaneous, rollicking family ticklefest, and the kids’ breathless cries, “Stop!! No More!!”, its being with them instead of being without.

Where am I going? I am going to recover.
What do I wish? I wish to live, to thrive, to love and be loved.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,"
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

--Eugene Field