Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Wednesday, April 23, 2003

 

The gunk in my head



For the past two years I've slept in three bursts - maybe a 20 minute nap at lunch, a longer one around 6pm, and then sleep, when I could, from 3am to about 4:30, 6:30 on a good day. I got on the cpap machine on march 18th, and sometimes I would get a llttle sleep at night, 3 hours or so. I'd feel good enough to knock out some subproject. I'm bottlenecked now on trivial crap that I find insanely hard - dealing with the mound of paperwork for disability, dealing with the government, dealing with a myriad of bullshit I'm not good at even at the best of times.

There are so many todos piled up that starting any one of them requires that I finish a dozen others. I give up, sometimes, in despair.

Basic details - feeding myself, taking care of the house, I'm finally managing to do fairly well, but digging out from years of personal neglect of the most basic requirements of living life in this society - AND starting to thinking about work at actual paying work again, oh, man - for somebody that feels about 3 inches tall the speedbumps I face seem like mountains. Every time I do get a decent amount of sleep it seems like the gunk in my head clears out a little, and I get enough energy to try tackling some of the major outstanding tasks.

It doesn't take much to stop me in my tracks, though.

After thinking about it for a long time, and discussing it with my shrink, I figured that if I can solve the sleep problem, even temporarily, the other problems will start getting easier. Friday I got a prescription for Ambien. 10mg of the stuff's supposed to last 7-8 hours. I get 4 1/2. This is still more sleep in a row than I've got in years, and while I wake up feeling logy, it passes after an hour. The gunk in my head, the great big black ball of 90% non-functioning neurons has seemed to shrink a bit and turn grey. For two days I took one at night for 4 1/2 hours sleep and another in the afternoon for about 3, and felt enormously better - more energy - better ability to surmount trivial obsticles. I blasted through a bunch of paperwork, thought hard about memes, blogged heavily, even read slashdot.org and installed redhat 9...

I don't like being dependent on a drug, any drug, in order to function. That seems hypocritical, now that I think about it, as the best way to get focus right now seems to be to sit in one place and smoke pipeful after pipeful of tobacco. Cigarettes contribute to the ADD I'm feeling. Going outside to have one breaks my concentration. Nicotine is part of the downward spiral I'm in - I smoke, I can focus better, briefly, then need to smoke again. If I don't smoke my concentration goes to hell completely, and the last time I quit (only three months ago) I spent 3 weeks in an utterly confused haze...

I like the smell of pipe tobacco, and with that crutch nearby, and a ton of sleep, I was able to sit and focus all day monday on something important to me. I broke a song down to its essentials, I got the timing right (75 bpm), I got the chord changes right, I laid down a drum track, I got the melody almost correct... I managed to spend 6 hours in a row, sitting in front of the computer, smoking incessantly. I wrote a few days ago about the process of subtraction, and here I was really managing to isolate a set of problems to essentials and work on each one, and move forward. I slept pretty good that night.

I woke up yesterday morning only to find that particular program had crashed, hard, and I couldn't hear the results of the previous days work. That blew my entire day. I bounced from frustration to rage and landed in a spate of depression. I got nothing else done except a blog entry that tried to capture what a day like that felt like. A couple other things went wrong yesterday, too. Yesterday sucked.

I really wanted to go to the ETech conference thursday but I'm too broke to pay for a day at that. I have to deal with what seems to be an infinitely high and growing stack of trivial parking tickets in places I can't remember being, and don't remember receiving - especially since I never bothered to update my address with the DMV 7 months ago. This particular bit of personal stupidity has led to a suspended license - that just now got my insurance canceled. I can't fix the tickets without getting my car out of the shop - which I can't afford to do if I pay the tickets. I have the DMV address fix paperwork right here, I've been meaning to mail it for weeks, but am out of stamps. It was cold and raining so I couldn't get stamps.

I also got a letter from my employer yesterday, telling me they could fire me any time now and giving me until may to explain to them if I qualified for special treatment under the americans with disabilities act, or had a clue as to when I would be able to return. The letter was just so... formal... so devoid of human concern and quality - I've only had three "good" days in three months and I am supposed to figure out if/when I can go back to work? I want to work. Work is my life. I've never, in 20 years, ever collected unemployment or disability before.

Screw work. I gotta make myself work properly, first, then I'll work. MS-Project doesn't has an option for that. Tough. If it costs me my job, I don't care. I want to live, I want to Live with a capital "L", I want to have the same things normal people have and to stop sleepwalking through life and the corporate world.

I skipped my "normal" nap and by 8:30 I was really beat - and deeply depressed. So I managed to sleep until about 11, without the drug, and, now, after lying in bed and staring at the ceiling for the past two hours I'm ready to take a pill, just so I can, maybe, tackle some of these problems tomorrow. Um, well, today.

The "book" says I should stop napping, that I should try and get all my sleep in a row, go to bed at 11, get up at 7, work 9-5... but I don't know how. I've always harnessed my insomnia, when I couldn't sleep I'd turn it into productive worktime. Most of my best work has been done between the hours of 10 PM and 4 AM for over two decades. I've gravitated towards jobs and employers that reward sleepless behavior. At the ISP I founded I made insomnia part of the corporate culture. I keep thinking "why be normal? - it doesn't matter so much when I sleep so long as I get enough sleep..." - but 8 hours in a row from 11-7 is what the book says, and I'm trying to fit in, I'm trying to be normal... I'm trying to be healthy... I don't know how.

Not sleeping enough is unhealthy. OK, I'm shooting for 6-7 hrs a day by every means at my disposal.
Being overweight is unhealthy. I'm down to 187 and shooting for 170.
Smoking is unhealthy. I don't know how to function during the detoxing period, I think that I should set a list of goals that I must achieve first - and then drop everything else to lock myself up on a boat or some island or esalen or jail or something and STOP for however long it takes to detox myself and eliminate the behaviors that lead to it.

I keep thinking:
Being an engineer leads to sleeplessness, being overweight, and smoking. The kind of work I do is unhealthy.

God, there's so much gunk in my head that I need to clear.
 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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