Thursday, March 29, 2007

Letters at 4am

I am currently mucking my way through an extended bout of insomnia that shows no signs of abating after two and a half weeks. I've tried Simply Sleep, valerian, chamomile and a few glasses of red wine. Nothing seems to do the trick.

Right now, I go to bed every night around 11pm and wake up every morning around 4am. Then I lie awake in bed until the alarm goes off at 7am. These are now the most lucid moments of my waking hours. Once the working day begins, I carefully sleepwalk my way through it, hoping the sleep deprivation doesn’t make me miss an important deadline or cause a car accident.

So why can’t I sleep? I think it started with the double whammy disruption of early daylight savings time and SXSW combined with a growing level of career-related anxiety. I’m coming up on 14 years with the state in April. That’s a long time to work in a government office. So long as the Legislature doesn’t change the “Rule of 80,” I’ll be eligible for retirement in another 14 years. Then I can start my second career making homemade organic apple butter or teaching kids how to sail. The problem is I’d have to stay with the state another 14 years. I’m no longer sure that’s what I want to do.

The time has come to take stock of all possible courses going forward. Maybe I should stay put. Maybe I should find another gig at the state. Maybe I should leave civil service and try my luck in the private sector. All have their pros and cons, but I figure exploring my options will at least alleviate the dreadful sense that my groove became a rut when I wasn’t paying attention.

Just thinking about all these things sends my anxiety-driven mind racing through one worst-case scenario after another where I end up alone and broken. I’m living in a Stewart Smalley shame spiral. There’s no logical reason why I should think I’ll blow everything, but my ever-doubting inner voice won’t shut up about it. Hopefully the insomnia will start to abate once I finish my taxes and start looking around for the first time in 12 years.

If not, garden variety exhaustion will take care of things sooner or later.


K said...

I still think you should go write that buffet across America book....get Giles to take the cheesy photos, etc. You have always had the talent to do anything you want, now just go do it and don't be a pig-robot!
And good luck sleeping.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I'm lucky if I get more than 5 hours a night. Doesn't matter what time I go to sleep. If I go to bed at 10:00, I'm up at 3:00. Since I have to be up at 6:00, I usually just go to bed at 1:00 or later.

Any chance you have sleep apnea? If you snore loudly, you may. Does your girlfriend notice you stop breathing in the night?

My apnea is so bad and I stop breathing so frequently, that my body has compensated by cutting back the hours I sleep, I assume to minimize the amount of time the oxygen is cut off to my brain (I stop breathing for minutes at a time, apparently, according to my last girlfriend, who left me because of it. Said she was so worried about waking up next to a corpse that she couldn't sleep herself. Didn't help when I joked that I felt as if I came to bed to a corpse every night. Oops!). I actually feel worse on more sleep.

Anyway, if it doesn't improve, Greg, I'd recommend taking that health insurance the state provides and going to a doctor that specializes in sleep disorders and a sleep clinic. I just scheduled mine for next month.

jennifer said...

I've had insomnia for years--mine is the kind where you toss and turn for hours and never fall asleep.

I've had luck with melatonin in the past, you might give it a try. Anyplace that sells vitamins, including HEB, carries it.

Anonymous said...

Not much to recommend about sleep deprivation since I'm reliant on Lunesta myself. As for jumping to the private sector, I'd think long and hard, though. I spent 9 years at a private law firm and it drove me batty and contributed to alcoholism. I've since switched to the state attorney general's office and the amount of relief I've gained by not having to consider any "commercial" interests in performing my work is astounding. Whether it's law or journalism, the fear of private clients is inevitably compromising.

By the way, is there some sort of Class of '87 reunion, Greg, at BHS? Not that I'll be there but I was curious and would love to hear a report if you went.


Kilian said...

I think you're on the right track to explore your career options. Getting a project like that started will probably cure your insomnia and even if you stay put at your job you will do it with more confidence because you've scrutinized the alternatives. I'd even go on some interviews, "do the numbers" on a private business, all that sort of stuff.

E. B. said...

Stay away from the Ambien and Lunesta. Remember these stories from last year?

I'm particularly wary, since when I dream, I often dream about grilling beef.