like a breath caught between the chest and the throat

I can’t seem to stay awake these days. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But lately I find myself sleeping for up to twelve hours at a time (and then some, by way of naps: midday naps, I-need-to-rest-my-eyes-for-a-moment naps, this-is-so-fucking-boring-I-cannot-not-nap naps)–a far cry from my usual six or seven hours of sleep. It’s terrible. I get headaches from too much sleep, and because I feel ill, I get impatient and cranky, and I don’t accomplish as much as I should. I wake up at 6AM, fix myself a cup of coffee, list everything I have to do that day, lie down for a bit, and fall right back into sleep (it doesn’t matter where–on my mat, on a bed, on a bench, on the floor, on a chair–I’ve always had a knack for falling asleep wherever). I wake about three hours later and read a bit, have lunch, check papers, go to yoga class in the evening, check some more, and go home. To sleep. And that’s about it, that’s how my day goes when I don’t have to attend a meeting or teach a class: check papers, practice yoga, sleep.

D. says I am probably depressed and he is probably right. I’ve been in this situation many times since that summer when I was twelve or thirteen and spent a month or so sleeping all day and waking at night to read while everyone else tucked in. I’d wait until morning to have breakfast with my family, wash the dishes, and go back to sleep. When my mother asked me why I slept so much, I said I wanted to die.

I’m no longer so blunt or dramatic, outside my writing, at least.

A few times a year, and always during the summer, I fall into what I think of as an emotional trough, which lasts for several weeks or months. I have a naturally melancholy and withdrawn disposition (this has always been so, even when I was a kid), but when I’m in these emotional troughs, I feel… not just sad but in pain. Not a piercing, red-hot pain, but a soft, enveloping pain, sort of like being swathed by a thick blanket, but feeling cold. Pain like a breath caught between the chest and the throat, pain like stepping out the door at 1PM, clad all in black in 40-degree weather. I think that’s why I sleep so much, despite the headaches and the nightmares–it takes so much effort just to get through the day, to seem perfectly fine and chipper for a few hours, to be functional. That’s something I’m proud of, you know, even during my worst days, those months of restless nights and daily sobbing and self-harm, I remain functional. I take baths, I go to work, I turn stuff in. I feel like a zombie going through the motions of being a breathing, heartbeating human, but what matters is that I get shit done.

That’s how I deal, I just keep going through the motions, stay away from most everyone, until one day I wake up and feel like my life’s really worth getting out of bed for, feel like being in the world again.

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