Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I have a tendency to stay up all night sometimes, and I also have a tendency to brood over this habit. I am brooding over it tonight, and my heart is heavy, because I have an appointment with Dr P tomorrow and she’s sure to ask me how my sleep is going, to which I have nothing but bad news to report.
Since the 15th of March, I have done seven all-nighters: on the 15th, 17th, 21st, 25th, 28th, 29th, and 31st of March.
When I do an all-nighter, I stay up all night, and I generally do not sleep the next day.
So my sleep is not, as one might think, “reversed.” My missed sleep is not postponed; it is nonexistent. In sixteen days I missed seven nights of sleep.
Goldie and Dr P agree that in doing this, I am being rebellious.
I am also beginning to realize that in doing this, I am practicing self-harm. I am pushing my body to its limits to see how far it can go. I am gnashing at a wound to see how close to the bone I can get. I have deprived myself until my body, wrecked and wretched, collapses on the couch, my dog licking my face in wonderment; I am unable to rise at all, to bathe, to eat, to answer the telephone or come to the door; I am out cold.
Pushing one’s body to the limit….I cannot help but draw parallels here. I sometimes tell myself that I can stay up for days, “because that’s what homeless people do when they don’t find a place to sleep.” So am I likening myself to a homeless person, a person who is deprived and suffering, just so that I can stay up yet another night? An anorexic girl might likewise compare herself to a concentration camp victim: if he can get by on nothing but broth, well, then, so can she.
There is something in me that finds suffering appealing. I don’t think it’s a healthy trait. I see it in my mother, clearly: She keeps the thermostat down below 60 degrees in winter, keeps the light dim, and wears shabby clothes and ill-fitting shoes, though she certainly has the money to afford otherwise. She seems to think it’s right for a Jewish woman to suffer. It is a sign of mental and physical strength to be able to endure these hardships, and when life is easy, one must create hardships for oneself, right? Right?
If you ask my mother how she’s doing, she’ll say she’s doing pretty well, she’ll talk about the taxes or her little bike rides, or how she’s fixing up the condo, or how things are going at the new temple she’s at. The only time she ever said life was truly hard was when she was taking care of Dad (he had cancer) and that was a time that she didn’t have to create hardships for herself; they were already there. But during all these times, if you asked her how her mood was, she would have said her mood was fine; she was never depressed; in times of hardship she was in her element.
Somehow, she taught me the myth that suffering is good because it means you are strong. Recently I told myself how “good” I’d been by skipping a trip to the toilet, until I realized there was nothing good in self-deprivation at all, that I had been stupid, not strong, to deprive myself of relief. Life is not an endurance contest. Nor is life a contest of longevity. I am not a better person for living longer or louder or more colorfully than my neighbor.
I do not enjoy tiredness, though. When I become sleepy from my medication, I get upset and have the urge to stop taking it–I might complain to my doctor. Sleepiness is not a desirable state, and yet what I induce in myself is more than sleepiness; it is extreme exhaustion. Perhaps it is the way “the whole bottle is not enough” for some alcoholics.
What will be the solution? What is the best approach? Good night–I’ll sleep on it, and perhaps will have more answers tomorrow.