Monday, May 30, 2011

My Daily Dread

Early this morning, as usual, I awoke with a feeling of dread. I've read that the body is at its lowest ebb around 3 a.m., and I know that must be true because that is the time that I seem to feel the worst.  If I can go back to sleep, I'm okay, but if I don't go to sleep right away, I start thinking.  Usually I'm thinking of all the things that either have gone wrong or could go wrong, things I did or didn't do that I regret, things I fear or resent.  Once I start thinking that way, it's hard to stop.  Often I end up staying awake, getting up in three or four hours to go to work, sleep deprived.

It's been many years since I slept through the night without waking, without going through the hour of dread.  It's been only about 10 years that I've recognized the dread for what it is--bad brain chemistry--and tried to deal with it rationally, using a number of mental tricks I've developed to stop the obsessive thinking so I can go back to sleep.

Sometimes I think about a story I want to write, or one I've read.  Or I think about a mundane task I need to perform and visualize myself going through it.  And if I'm really having a hard time putting thoughts aside, I play word games in my head.  One that works well is to imagine a word that's fairly long and has a variety of vowels and consonants in it, such as perpendicular, and try to come up with as many words as possible that can be made from those letters, such as per, perp, pen, pic, pend, ped, pile, etc.  That exercise focuses my mind on something neutral, forcing it to set aside the obsessive thoughts and allow me to go back to sleep.

This morning, I thought about starting this blog, how I would begin to tell the story of a problem that has plagued me nearly all my life.  That technique worked pretty well; I was able to drift off and get a couple more hours of sleep.  It wasn't the first time I've used that particular focusing trick; I've planned this blog many times before, but never followed through.  This time, for whatever reason, I've been able to move past planning and actually begin.

So here I am, chronicling what for me is a daily struggle to keep what I used to call the gloomy-doomies at bay.  Writing is one of the things I do that helps.  But I have to be careful not to make writing an occasion for anxiety. If it's to work as a therapeutic endeavor, it has to be virtually risk-free. Perhaps that's why blogging works--I have very little to lose with this form of writing, especially since almost no one knows I'm here.  It is what it is: my thoughts on the topic at hand at the particular moment I write them.  I do try to be coherent and express myself as well as I can, but the important point is to get it down on "paper," to create a message that communicates what I know and feel about . . . whatever.

Here is something I know about dealing with bad brain chemistry: it's not at all easy, but it is, I think, simple.  And it is possible.  The main truth, the one I start with, is that chemical imbalance is a physical problem but one that can be solved by using the mind.  And that is what I'm chronicling here: my defective brain chemistry, its effects, and my efforts to control as much as possible its impact on my life.