Band-Aids for Broken Bones

A few weekends ago I drove a grand total of just under 700 miles to different points in the northeast with a long list of things to do and people to see, but it occurred to me that I didn't have any trouble staying awake while driving despite the fact that I wasn't sleeping well because of the stress buzz. In fact, I haven't had a problem driving ANYWHERE in the past 4 months. And I've gone at least 300 miles almost every single weekend. I hate to admit this publicly, but this is HUGE. I used to have trouble staying awake while driving in trips as short as 45 minutes unless it was first thing in the morning. Before this year, you could bet a lot of money that I would fall asleep at least once in ANY lecture. You might have found me passed out: on random couches, on desks, under desks, on tables or floors, in the race cars when parked, on computers, laying on a grassy hill at a concert... I was a napping CHAMPION. Once at my internship last summer I had a mid-afternoon meeting in a tiny room around a tiny table with FOUR people, and I fell asleep in my chair. I was 50% of the presence representing our company in that meeting.

Some of the ways I tried to address this over the years were:

- playing my iPod into one ear during class (this had to be done discreetly)
- bringing my computer to classes where it was welcome
- engaging in other activities during class like writing letters, balancing my checkbook, doing homework for other classes, etc.
- unhealthy amounts of Red Bull (sugar free and regular)
- using the buddy system (friend notices I'm out and kicks my chair)
- eating (I have NEVER passed out with food in my mouth. food is exciting)
- for driving: Books on tape, and I sometimes I'd fast-forward through the slow chapters
- also driving: conversation (on a cell phone. I know. Lock me up.)

The initial thought was that "You're in college, you work hard, no one sleeps well." That's actually fairly incorrect, though, I'd be in bed by 11 and up by 8am almost every day for at least two of those five years. But I still wanted my afternoon naps every day, sometimes twice a day, with no more than 3 hours of class (6 if I had a lab) in a given day. After college it was "Well you didn't really take a break between work and a super stressful job at a startup company." Ok, maybe that's fair. But then when I was unemployed and sleeping roughly 16 hours every day, it finally got diagnosed as depression. Which fit decently, since I was also losing vast amounts of weight, was constantly sick and had horrible insomnia (because I had to wake up to pee every two hours at night). Not to mention the unemployment in the start of the economic downturn. But I have never been hopeless in my life. Overwhelmed, maybe, but never not in control of my own body and mind. I agreed, since I didn't know what else it could POSSIBLY be, but it was weird and never sat right with me.

When I was finally diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in February and put on the correct treatment, it was a slow, steady trickle of health coming back to me - almost imperceptibly because of the surreality of the whole situation. I started sleeping through the night immediately. I stopped craving gallons upon gallons of water. I gained the weight back, which showed at follow-up doctor's appointments. I stopped getting sick (though I was ready with the antibiotics-distributing doctors on speed dial, and loads of sugar-free cold remedies). My hair slowly stopped falling out in handfuls in the shower. I went off the anti-depressants and didn't bat an eye (although I did notice that I could really hear and feel music, again after a few weeks). After about 2 months, I looked at my MIT employee ID photo and it made me sad, how sick I looked, so I got a new one.

But only now have I noticed that I'm not tired during the day or while driving. I just don't need naps. And I work 8-9 hour days, many of them non-stop. But even on the slow days I keep myself going without trouble. I get through three-hour meetings without a single yawn.

After YEARS, I have finally discovered my permanent solution.


Unknown said...

Oh honey! I am so sorry I couldn't protect you from all that. I wish they would find my fix with my endocrine system so I could be all energized as well. I love you so much. I'm sorry you had to go through that. Those things are so subtly all-pervasive and make your life miserable.

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