Post-Nap Confusion And Peak Ambient Stress

I had the misfortune of taking a nap today. It was not a long one, thankfully, but I woke up from this accidental time jump incredibly disoriented and completely disconnected from reality. It fell at the cusp of my transition from work mode to post-work-writing mode, as I took a break to sit on my office’s couch. Since I’m working from home this week due to being under the weather and wanting to avoid spreading this respiratory bug around the office, I usually take some time to move away from my desk, do something else for a little bit, and then return to my desk. Since I’ve been ill and exhausted lately, I’ve barely had the energy to do anything after work and have thus developed the habit of just sitting down on my couch under a blanket while some music or a podcast plays and I sort through post ideas in my head.

That did not happen today, since I remember sitting down and then nothing else for about an hour after. Given that I’ve also struggled with getting enough sleep due to coughing and feeling like a gross collection of fluids, I’m not surprised it happened. A little annoyed, because such surprise naps frequently make it more difficult for me to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, but not surprised. I’ve had trouble with not nodding off most evenings (which is frustrating since I know if I go to sleep before 10, I’m just going to wake up in an hour or three and then be unable to sleep again for four or more hours) and I feel like I’m sick enough to need more sleep and rest but not so sick that my body is doing that thing where it actually tries to get more rest. Having sleep issues is the worst and I wish I could afford to spend a month or so disconnected from the 24-hour day so that I could just sleep as much as I need, stay awake until I need more sleep, and then repeat. That would be my ideal.

I’ve long had the unhealthy habit of sacrificing sleep intentionally when I’m stressed out about something because if I’m not sleeping enough, then I’ll be too tired to think about anything and won’t have to deal with anxiety spirals as I’m in my bed at night, trying to fall asleep. It’s a bad habit I developed in college, fixed immediately after college, redeveloped about six years ago, fixed soon after, and then redeveloped again during the pandemic as the relative isolation has left me with more thoughts than I’ve got people to share them with. I’ve made some progress over the last year at addressing this problem, at weeding out the subconsciously or consciously intentional loss of sleep events so that the only reason I’m losing sleep is the involuntary loss of sleep events (anxiety attacks, my decades-old insomnia stuff, local noise issues, etc.), but the problem is that I sometimes do it subconsciously and I’m not always aware of it. You know, definitionally.

I’ve had some of that going on lately, as I’ve prepared for and attended some family therapy sessions, as the dark of winter has set in, as the stress of the upcoming holidays has grown, and as my usual financial stuff has shifted from being more background problems to more foreground problems as I look ahead at what will be an expensive and busy year. I have a lot of low-intensity but high stress stuff in my life right now, so it’s difficult for me to calibrate accordingly, especially when I’ve already spent most of the latter half of this year streamlining my life to reduce the mental load of my day-to-day existence as much as possible. There’s not much stress I can remove from my life anymore, so peaks like the one I’m currently working through have few solutions beyond just “wait it out/muddle my way through.” Which aren’t terribly satisfying answers when I’m trying to figure out what I can do so my mind can relax enough to sleep at night.

Such a high level of constant stress is why stuff like getting sick with a respiratory cold (not the flu or Covid so far as I can tell, four days after my symptoms appeared) can have an outsized effect on me. Beyond the coughing, sneezing, goopiness, and general exhaustion of my body fighting off this pesky invader, I don’t feel too bad. Still, the quietly smoldering anxiety that maybe it’s Covid and just isn’t coming back positive with the tests I have around my house is an extra weight on my already overloaded mind. It’s apparently all I needed to go from barely managing to mentally ragged.

The worst part is I know that things will look a whole lot more manageable (especially with the gained awareness of how much subconscious avoidance I’ve been doing and the blearily written list of things I can actually address from some restless one am wandering around my apartment) once I’ve gotten some rest and don’t feel as ragged anymore, but I’m not sure how long that’s going to take. Between being sick and barely sleeping, I feel like I’ll need more than just a weekend to recover form this particular bout of weariness, but that might just be the post-nap mental fog I can’t quite shake off. I keep hoping that I’ll get a really good night’s rest and wake up with the clarity I need to start working through this stuff, but I keep waking up feeling like a sludge beast emerging from a swamp to find a foreign world of cold wind and empty space in which I do not belong.

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