I'm deciding if I should take a sleeping pill.
I know tons of people who take them. I never understood the need, to be honest. I remember when I was in a mental ward. My group therapy was a bunch of eating disorder girls (which I was part of, but a little old for) and a bunch of grown-ups who were depressed and maybe receiving electroshock therapy. (Does this still happen? I don't know.)
Anyway, the girls' biggest problem was that they hated their family and wanted to live in the mental ward instead. (I definitely fell into that camp.) The adults' problem was that they could not sleep.
At first, I thought, “If this is your biggest problem, do you need to be in a mental ward?”
And this is why I loved the mental ward, by the way. You learn so much about life from people who are unable to live it.
The facilitator, whose job was to get people to talk but often had to quell my penchant for talking over people, explained to me that when people cannot sleep, they cannot deal with the rest of their problems. And it snowballs: some problems lead to no sleep and no sleep leads to worse problems. You go on and on until you get to electroshock therapy.
She didn't say that last part. I did. For effect. But also so you know where I'm coming from when I tell you that I think I am going to be a regular for using pills to sleep.
I just can't find the right ones.
It's clear to me that I sleep better on the porch. Alone. But it's freezing at night. And also, no shitty relationship ever got better without people trying to make it better, and the farmer thinks that me sleeping on the porch is me giving up.
Then I started drinking wine. Sort of to have a better evening with the farmer. So I am less upset that everything is sucking between me and the farmer. And anyway, for sure the farmer likes me better if I'm drinking a little (but not a lot). So I was drinking wine at night, which is not easy in Darlington because the only wine here that costs more than $11 is Kendall Jackson. And there's just so much of that you can drink. And, by the way, I am becoming an expert on cheap wine, and I want to tell you that Crane Lake is the best cheap wine. You will need to know that if you are driving through the Midwest, buying alcohol at desolate gas stations.
The wine scares me, though. I would be a good alcoholic. People who are bulimic have all the trappings of someone who could be an alcoholic. It's the same: Food or alcohol. So the wine scares me for that reason, but also this: I knew a guy who was cheating on his wife who told me how she was drinking wine every night but he didn't even know it and now she goes to AA and she's scared that she ruined her life.
If she only knew the guy was cheating on her.
But anyway, that scared me.
So I can't do wine. I have Xanax. I have it left over from when I had a panic attack over not having any money and having two small kids at home all day while I had to get Brazen Careerist off the ground. The nurse felt bad for me that I didn't have time to wait for triage to see a psychiatrist because I had to get back to my kids, so she convinced some doctor to give me ten Xanax to get through my life.
I used a couple. To sleep. But I love getting up at 4am to write. And I can't do that if I take Xanax.
Then I tried taking one at 6pm. So it wore off in time. And that was fun. Mixing it with wine was fun. And also, suddenly, the farmer and I were getting along again.
The complete unnaturalness of that really scared me. So I stopped everything, and went back to sleeping on the porch. And then, to prove to myself that I was not falling apart in every aspect of my life, I forced myself to sleep in the same bed as the farmer and read until I fell asleep.
Then I remembered how you can't know what an author is like until you try two different books. So maybe that is true of sleeping pills, too. Because I tried Vicodin. I saved them in case I ever got a urinary tract infection again. And sleep was nice. And I had ideas of having wine and Vicodin. After all, I have decided that I'm trying to have in interesting life rather than a happy life. And wine and Vicodin might be interesting.
But only until I am addicted. And then my posts would get really stupid. Among other problems.
Don't ask me, “What about the kids?” When I'm my regular self, everything matters and I want to kill them for not clearing their dishes because maybe they will get married and treat their wife like shit and their wife will say, “But look at how his mom let him treat her—she didn't even make them clear their plates.”
But on drugs, whatever I happen to have selected, I am a laid-back, fun parent.
What's scary is that my kids know there's something wrong when I'm laid back and fun.
Okay. Pause. I sent this post to my editor. And he said, “This is not very useful to your reader. Can you say something useful?”
I said, “No.”
So the post sat for two weeks.
Then, on a night when I ran out of new things to read, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to fall asleep, I started reading a magazine about mindfulness that I bought after I started having sleep problems but before I got my hands on prescription meds.
It's the March 2010 issue of Shambhala Sun. Of course I dove right for the article by Michael Carroll about mindfulness at work. He says that he starts out by asking his clients to fill out this sentence: “At work I want to be …”
And the most frequent answers he gets are
Then he says that we think we want this stuff, but really, we probably don’t. Work would be totally boring if there were not both success and failure. And stress-free work is not challenging enough to be fulfilling work. We know this, I think. We just forget.
Also, we don’t know what else to want. Carroll says, “What we really want is, to be confident: confident that no matter what work offers up, we will remain self-assured and at our ease.”
This rings completely true to me. It helps me understand why I feel okay about work even though my company just moved to DC without me. And it helps me understand why I’ve got insomnia.
I don’t have that confidence about my personal life. But depending on sleeping pills isn’t going to give me that confidence. Everything comes together for me here: that I want to believe that I can handle whatever comes my way in work and in life. I’m better at doing this at work, so I can use my work skills to help me with my personal life.
I don’t think I would ever take a sleeping pill to get more done in my professional life. So I set a schedule. I go to bed at 8:30 and wake up at 4am and as soon as I tell myself that will work, it starts working. Not perfectly, but enough so that the pills and the wine and the self-destruction are not necessary. But they are there, just in case.