Illnesses are defined by cause and symptoms. Those with just symptoms are often called syndromes. On the other hand “unspecified” is sometimes a good enough cause to turn a potential syndrome into an illness.
Over the past week I’ve been suffering from what should be called an illness since the cause remains unspecified in discussions about it like this one. I’ve been unable to sleep for going on five days, and I can only take in a few mouthfuls of food every once in a while. On the plus side I’ve lost 10 pounds, and I can imagine getting into some of my old jeans in a few more weeks. I don’t know where the sleep has gone since I just feel a little loopy instead of severely exhausted. If this keeps up I will learn to be productive at night instead of just lying in bed waiting for sleep till dawn. This could be the best thing to happen to me ever!
The big problem is hope. Seeing hope in patterns of the random backdrop of life is easy. There isn’t any for those things I wish for so there is an infinite assemblage of patterned hints to rely on instead. I've had extended internal conversations about just letting go my handhold on the fantastic so I could fall ... fall.. fall into sleep.
The mind works like that. If you want to do something like have a sandwich you might say to yourself: “I would like a sandwich”. The person you are talking to in your head knows you want the sandwich because they ARE you. If it is a complex enough sandwich you might even discus condiments and side drinks in your mind. Internal dialogs can be comforting. They can give the appearance of helping things fit. Ultimately, however, it makes no real sense that the thought process jumps out into speech in order to become known.
It is possible to give the voices in one’s head the personalities of people you are dealing with. In the absence of direct communication these avatars can act out the “what ifs”.
Too often the play acting in my head re-runs highlights of events. They can run a particular partially-heard word through a million variations until it may mean something with importance far outshining the original intent.
If I continue without sleep for a while longer I will be much more productive if I can figure out what to do with these conversations. I get stuck on them telling me how much of a failure I’ve been lately. They sound like my father often. Dad calling me a looser again, “yay”. I would hope that I had heard it enough growing up that I would have grown tired of it, but it is a favorite refrain for my head’s more nasty voices.
If I stayed up at night working on stuff I could potentially find other things to talk about. I am a bit too loopy right now to carry on actual conversations with actual people, but I could easily chatter on for hours about specific wiring layouts and the awesomeness of little projects. I could also garden at night by headlamp; weeds can be spoken of at length, and my garden is full of them.
Perhaps my mind is trying to destabilize itself enough to warp the fringes of reality. There are things I want so very much, but they are incompatible with physical laws, or making them manifest would require tweaking the physical constants governing forces like gravity, and the Earth would go plunging into the sun. Enough sleep deprivation might make anything possible. I need to learn how to hope rather than act on the questionable advice my mind is dredging up.
The cure to the illness is to become properly hopeless. Give up on the patterns, and embrace the random. The waning moon is supposed to be a time to rid oneself of illness or for discarding stuff that is not working in one’s life. This Friday’s new moon promises a fresh start that may find me happily without hope. Hopelessness never looked so good.
Pandora couldn’t use her box to store knick-knacks until that last remaining hope finally flew away.
The French philosopher Bruno Latour was once asked a question so profound he wrote an entire book about hope in order to address it (Pandora’s Hope IBSN: 978-0674653368). The question was: “Croyez-vous en réalité ?" ("Do you believe in Reality ?"). I suppose it is not too strange then to have the reality-altering symptoms of my illness cause me to think about hope.