Meeting without Sleep


I guess I should have expected this. I got one brief night of reprieve, but am otherwise definitely riding a solid hypo-manic/up period, including the sleep disturbance.


I mentioned previously that, being awake early can be a problem if an early morning meeting is later. Particularly if that meeting is around the time when I’d be getting my “catch up” / second cycle of sleep in.

Should I try to push though and stay awake? Should I use some caffeine to help make that happen?
When should I cancel such a meeting, even at the last minute? Sometimes, like today, that doesn’t feel like a real option for me: the costs would be too great in this case.

It’s a struggle, I’m unsure about what to do.

I’ve come a long ways to making peace with and accepting my condition, especially regarding this impact of lack of sleep that it can have. So my stress from the lack of sleep isn’t that high.

But I’m definitely concerned. I don’t have a record of trying various options in this scenario. That partly because I work to avoid being in this scenario. And partly because when I’m not hypo-manic, then this can’t crop up.

Yet here I am. In the middle of a hypo-manic period which is disturbing every night of sleep for nearly two weeks running, with an important, early morning meeting. Like two oncoming trains, the only question was when, not if, they were going to collide.

The only small changes recently to previous trigger lists are caffeine and interaction.

I allowed myself slightly more caffeine yesterday. It’s a weakness of mine. There was a weak justification I told myself in my head, but I drank more coffee because I wanted more coffee.

There was more interaction yesterday, after having less. In particular, the interesting and exciting interaction of new ideas and new connections (and again, fueled further by caffeine). When I got home, I said to myself that I was going to be awake in the middle of the night[1].

Maybe the sole bright spot is that there isn’t a song in my head this morning. Hopefully that is an indicator that this mania is subsiding.


[1] Long-time readers know that’s the easy bet: multiple days running of being awake, I’m in a hypo-manic period. Any given night will probably not be the first night of a changed sleep schedule. But still, I knew the ideas had hit me very profoundly and they would upset my internal emotional balance.

Photo Credit: Dave Gilbert

Meeting without Sleep




I was naive enough to think I was doing better. I knew I wasn’t “cured” – I’m pretty certain there isn’t such a thing, this is a chronic, lifetime condition and I’ve accepted that. There is likely something I could learn from other chronic health conditions to apply to my perspective.

But I had begun to hope that I had it well under control.

I hadn’t experienced any low / down periods in some time.

I had managed to level out the up times to be far less intrusive to life. While I still had some symptoms that intruded on life (e.g. sleeplessness), I felt I had it managed and minimized the impact on life.

And then I had another bout of being down. For several weeks. Mostly I managed and it wasn’t too bad[1], though the final week or so was pretty rough and it was difficult to get anything done.

I had allowed myself to hope this was going to happen less often and so I’m still working through the frustration of again being there: down, unable to function well, unable to accomplish much.

In addition to this frustration from being not well again, I’m also realizing how powerless I am in solving this. Not just the various things I was doing to manage better, but more in the moment. I think understanding this, and handling it accordingly, is helpful.

When I’m up, I can just do things. Whether it is sit down and focus on work, or errands, or chores around the house. It’s simply a matter of deciding. And making a decision is relatively straight-forward: evaluate things I want to get done, prioritize, time & energy available, decide, do.

When I’m down, it’s completely different. I should work but I just can’t. I try various tricks I’ve learned to get started working and… still can’t. My brain just refuses to get moving.

When I’m down, even deciding can be crippling. I feel like I have to loop through all options and possibilities of a decision several times, even if that’s just a deciding between going for a walk or going to the store to get groceries. It can be completely incapacitating. Sometimes I just sit down in a quiet place and need ten minutes of quiet to make that decision. And sometimes I’ll make that decision, start moving and any extra difficulty[2] will completely derail my ability to perform the simple task.

When I’m up, there is no internal fight, I can do the things that I want to do and I do them.

I feel like someone who is further along in their journey (quite possibly my future self), will read this and be screaming at the me to go get help.

And I’ve decided that I need to do that. I knew before that I should do this, but I think the helpless feeling is what is really pushing me on this decision[3].

I barely know how to start this process. I feel like it will take months of trying to work with different therapists and that each time it will take a lot of effort to stop and try a new one. And there is a risk that I’ll be demotivated after quitting a few therapists, not having found one who I seem to work with very well[4].

Thankfully, I’m at least in a place where I have the energy to attack that problem. And if I don’t solve it entirely in this period, I can keep trying – there are a lot of years left and room to improve in the future.

Frustrated, just want to scream.

[1] Mainly, just cutting out any “extra” things beyond regular daily life and work was sufficient to manage. Trimming social engagements, reducing any extra promises or

[2] Minor things: I left my keys in the other room as I am about to walk out – and I feel like I should just give up on the whole endeavor. Or, I was maybe going to make dinner in two nights and hadn’t thought about what I’d make, so that feels like my whole shopping list is invalid – and I just want to give up. Sometimes this requires stopping, sitting down, and another five or ten minutes of silent thinking to get back on track.

[3] And oddly, it’s more the helplessness of being up. In that, I have some internal self-talk congratulating myself on getting various things done: “Good for me,” I thought. Then I realized how silly that sounded. It felt like congratulating someone on their height or their hair color. Congratulations may be valid, but there is nothing someone did to be over six feet tall or to have blond hair; that’s just how they are.

And when I get things done while being up, I feel like it’s just nature not something I deserve any credit for: it wasn’t extra willpower, effort, or “pushing through” that got me to do that, I just felt like I could.

[4] Excuse the terrible grammar and odd sentence construction: I wanted to be sure that I phrased it not as the therapist failing me, but that I will be the one doing the work and that the therapist doesn’t jive with me. It’s all on me, no therapist will magically fix something for me.

Photo Credit: Maks Karochkin