Why am I like this? (A serious question)

My therapist recommended that I read the book When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. I’m about a quarter of the way through it, and I’m feeling it so far.

I don’t want to be overly optimistic, but I feel like this book could change my life, if I do the work it suggests.

Now I’m struggling against the tide of sleep, but why? Answer: it feels like I need to be doing something. I need to focus on something. I need to feel productive. Therefore, I need to be awake and actively engaged.

Response: Sleep is necessary for productivity in several obvious ways. I’ve been awake for a good 14 hours now. It’s no wonder that I’m tired.

I keep trying to read and do things to direct the nervous energy in my head, but I just keep on getting frustrated with myself for not being able to focus like I think I should.

Sleep is necessary for this. Sleep also improves retention of information.

And what am I trying to prove, exactly, by forcing wakefulness? Answer: I believe that pushing my body to stay awake and do as much as it can will help to get more done and thus make me a better and more valuable person. If I’m not crushing myself under the weight of my own expectations, I’m not worth anything.

Response: ?? ??? ? ???? where do I even start

A response to this would have to say what a good person is, how a person is valuable, etc, or at least give some clue as to what factors in for these things. But a rigorous analysis of what these terms all mean is beyond the scope of this post. Quick and dirty it is.

I want to say that all people are equally valuable. Therefore, it’s impossible to become more or less valuable, if I am a person, who is intrinsically valuable, just like every other person. So, if I am a person, then I am valuable, just as much as any other person. I am a person, and so I must be valuable, if all this is true.

And if this is true, then the whole argument that pushing myself to the breaking point and working essentially against physical nature is going to make me more valuable falls apart. The matter of whether or not I’m a good person is more complicated than that.

What is a good person? In what sense do I mean “good”? I think the answer is that I mean it to indicate a person who does what they should from an ethical standpoint. If forcing my body to stay awake and run on very little makes me a good person, then it’s ethically permissible to do those things. But mistreating oneself is (probably, arguably) not ethically permissible. Therefore, if forcing my body to do those things counts as mistreating myself (and I think it does), then doing so does not make me a good person.

Again, none of this counts as a rigorous philosophical argument. It’s quick and dirty, like I said. It’s just that processing it like this is helpful to me.

So, if I am tired, then, if I am able to sleep, then I should sleep. I am tired, and I am (presumably) able to sleep. Therefore, I should sleep. But I find it difficult to actually do this. I have ever since college.

I got PTSD and didn’t talk about it for half a year (and then only to my therapist) like a dumdum. I got shot at. And other things. I made some interesting choices. I also developed strange sleep habits (and other things). Maybe what’s really at the core of the sleep problems is this: if I stay up as long as I can, being productive in some way, then I will be safe and feel better? I don’t know. That doesn’t make sense, but a lot with PTSD doesn’t make total sense. I do know that I fear going to sleep and looking to other people like I’m lazy and careless. So there’s that. But I think there’s also the sense that if I’m on top of things, then I’ll be safe, and everything will be okay. I’m not on top of things, but that’s the implication in my brain, somehow.

I think that’s what’s going on. If so, it’s like PTSD fused with a little OCD, maybe, saying that these habits will keep me safe or keep something from happening or whatever it is exactly that I’m doing here. I just feel that if I have a normal style sleep schedule I’ll miss something and everything will go to shit.

But if I’m honest, everything has already gone to shit. Multiple times. In multiple ways. I’ve survived, and I continue to survive, somehow.

It’s all a confused mess. I don’t know if this is getting closer to the truth or not, but it feels like progress.


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