In early November, I was prescribed a medication called Elavil, which is best-known as an old-school tricyclic antidepressant but which is also used for chronic pain. I was using it for the latter, as it was then believed that I had a chronic pain condition. (This is almost certainly not the case.) It typically has very sedating properties, and is sometimes used as a sleeping pill. I took it for four days, and during that time I was unable to sleep for more than three hours per 24-hour period, and for no longer than about 45 minutes at a time. This was not a manic episode. It was just physically impossible to sleep.

It is now over two months later. The medication has long since left my system, but I have not been able to sleep normally ever since. (in the interim, I also briefly tried Cymbalta, which had a similar though less severe effect.) I have tried something like nine different sleeping pills, sedatives, and combinations thereof, and every single one has either had no effect whatsoever, or else sort of worked (that is, it allowed me to get about six or seven hours of sleep - I normally get eight to ten) for about three days, then stopped working and never worked again.

In short, for the past two months I have averaged about 4-5 hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle. This is not normal insomnia. It does not respond to sleep hygiene or melatonin, in addition to not responding to drugs. It is not caused by anxiety or other psychological factors. I am currently taking 10mg of Valium before bed. This has been a total failure in terms of allowing me to sleep, but I promise you, I am not anxious on 10mg of Valium. As far as I can tell, the Elavil had a long-lasting effect on the part of my brain that regulates sleep, which I am hoping to God is not permanent given that 1) I am fucking exhausted, 2) I seem to be effectively immune to sedatives.

It is possible to survive indefinitely on very little sleep. Obviously, four hours is enough to keep me going, and just enough that I don't accumulate enough sleep debt that I can ever sleep for much longer than that.

I am going to attempt a hard reboot of my sleep center by not sleeping at all for two nights in a row (approximately 64 hours, counting the next day), starting tonight. I am hoping that will produce enough exhaustion that I will be able to sleep for eight hours or so when I finally do sleep, and that if I can manage that once more-or-less naturally, I might be able to re-set my sleep center to normal. (I chose 2 nights because 1 is probably insufficient given the magnitude of the problem, and 3 is edging into scary territory - that is where people sometimes start hallucinating, for instance.)

Pro: Might work. Not dangerous or harmful. (I won't drive, obviously).

Con: Will not be fun. May not work, in which case I will end up more exhausted than ever. Will be extra-difficult because 1) I am already extra-exhausted due to basically not sleeping for two months, 2) I am taking sedatives (Valium) and cannot stop taking them due to withdrawal.

Anyway, since I need to stay awake and writing is more awake-making than reading, I may attempt to catch up on book reviews. Please comment if you feel so moved. Or randomly email me. Anything to keep me awake. I need to not sleep AT ALL until about 11:00 PM Saturday night. (Microsleeps are probably okay and inevitable. But no more than a minute or so a a time.)
This is a re-read. I’ve read this book multiple times. It’s one of Le Guin’s earliest works, novella-length and an expansion/continuation of a haunting short story, “Semley’s Necklace,” which is a science fiction version of a very ancient folkloric theme, the human visitor to Faerie who returns to find that during their brief sojourn, years have passed, their spouse is old or dead, and their children have grown. In Le Guin’s version, Faerie is another world and the time change is due to faster than light travel.

Rocannon is a scientist who gets stranded on a less technologically advanced world; there’s a loose plot involving him trying to communicate with his people on his own world and getting involved in a war on the world he’s on, but it’s mostly a picaresque about exploring a new world. The plot is not the point. (Nor is Rocannon himself, who is a blank slate and really exists as a body for the reader to inhabit.) The point is a series of beautiful or terrifying or strange encounters: the windsteeds, which are giant cats with wings; the city of angels and its shift from awe to horror as Rocannon realizes that beauty does not mean intelligence; the small furry creatures that rescue and guide him; his ordeal by fire, with echoes of the phoenix and Odin upon the tree. It doesn’t hang together particularly well as a smooth, continuous narrative, but then again, the picaresque is a perfectly legitimate form that just happens to not be much respected now.

Rocannon’s World is one of those books whose flaws are what make it wonderful. Le Guin has written about how it was written while she was still finding her voice and working out the rules of her universe; she points out that Rocannon’s impermasuit, which protects him from physical harm, was a clunky attempt to transfer magical armor into a science fiction setting, and ought to have suffocated him. No such thing exists in her later books. She’s correct that it is something of an awkward marriage between myth and science, and yet it creates the stunning scene in which he’s captured and burned alive, forced to stand unharmed but helpless within the flames, and finally emerges from the ashes, takes off the suit which, once off his body, appears to be nothing more than a handful of plastic and wires, and bathes naked in the river, trying to wash away the memory of flames licking at his eyes. How marvelous is that! We are lucky to have the book that Le Guin didn’t get quite right, that didn’t do what she wanted it to do. If it had been more perfect, it might well have ben less memorable.

This is the edition I have: Rocannon's World. I have to say, I really love that cover. What could possibly be better than a dude in a cape and armor, carrying a torch and riding a giant flying cat in a surprisingly practical-looking harness?
Made it to 6:00 AM, then accidentally fell asleep for about 2 and a half hours. So, obviously 22 hours is insufficient to do a re-set, because I did not sleep any longer than I normally do. I think my original idea might still work if I can pull it off. (In fact, it might even have worked if I'd managed 36 hours.)

As noted before, this is extra difficult given that I have not only been sleep-deprived for over two months, but also have to take sedatives. I am going to try again tonight, this time with coffee. Also, the next time I start dozing off, I will begin washing dishes or some other non-sitting activity. (I did take a walk around the block, but I can't do that all night. It's really cold, though not sufficient to keep me up except when I'm actually in it.

I should probably also find some non-sitting activities I can do the next day, assuming I can make it through Friday night. Maybe a gentle hike or a trip to the zoo.

LA is weirdly short on night life. Bars are basically it. I suppose I could try West Hollywood, where I at least am wildly unlikely to get in any actual trouble no matter how spacey I am (again, via taxi.)
.

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