Greetings from 4:30 am: Day 42 of Medical Leave

My insomnia problem is almost cured, I swear! Ever since my body started adjusting to the acupuncture and I started taking melatonin, I’ve been falling asleep between 10 and 11 every night and waking up somewhere between 6 and 8, and then I’ve been taking a nap mid-day if I feel like it – probably about half the time. So what happened last night? Not sure. I felt out of sorts after I had blood drawn in the afternoon – they had to take four vials and I found that I felt lightheaded about 2-3 hours after I got home. I didn’t feel much like dinner, so I just snacked around and found that everything I ate gave me immediate heartburn. I was exhausted through the evening and went to bed at 10 – but then I was wide awake at 12:45, humming a song I heard yesterday on the internet and dying to find out who won the Hawaii primary.

To be honest, my general pattern of sleeping and feeling sleepy is a large part of the reason I haven’t blogged recently. My brain still works, and I have all kinds of ideas – some of them quite ambitious – of blog entries that I want to write, but my body drifts from bed to couch to chair, avoiding the onerous task of sitting upright at the kitchen table with the computer, and my brain decides that it would be a good idea just to drift along for the ride. This is part of my problem with “executive function” and is a symptom of the MTBI – my brain knows exactly what it needs and wants to do, my body is capable of doing it, but the communication between the two is faulty. I don’t “execute” things – get it? Just like all the papers I didn’t grade when I was teaching, all the deadlines I didn’t meet.

Today marks the end of my sixth week of medical leave. The title of my blog is simply a reference to the fact that I started my leave on Groundhog Day; I realize that the reference to six weeks in the title might misleadingly suggest that I had planned or arranged to take six weeks off. On the contrary, my leave is open-ended. My school is in the middle of its spring break right now, so I couldn’t go back right now even if I wanted to. But overall, I can’t even begin to tell you how NOT ready I am to go back to work and how profoundly my symptoms have NOT changed. Even on my best days, when I have slept well and don’t have a headache and have only a moderate amount of body pain, that executive function problem is still there, sitting around like a lump in my head and not executing things. Laundry remains a gigantic problem. The dishes. Vacuuming. Cleaning the litterbox. I am capable of all of these things – my body pain does not disable me in any kind of physical way. But my brain is full of Venetian blinds that snap shut every time I see something that needs to be done.

Last week, aware that school was ending for spring break, I was struck by the fact that I felt exactly the same way I always feel when I reach spring break: flattened by a steamroller. I felt just as exhausted and drained as I usually do when I have worked for nine weeks solid since New Year’s – and that was after five weeks of medical leave. Several friends have asked me recently if I feel “rested,” and the answer, unfortunately, is no. I have been resting – all the time, really. But “rested”? No. I can’t say that I feel rested or that I really remember what rested feels like. Is it when your rib cage stops throbbing? Because I think I would enjoy that.

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