Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Mod Watch - 22

Still feeling OK, but my sleep schedule has gotten knocked out of whack. I’ve been falling asleep early in the evening and by midnight am awake again. This is actually a pattern that comes naturally to me. In my early twenties, I worked a full-time office job from 4:30 p.m. until midnight, then turned to my free lance writing and continued to labor until dawn. Similarly, I composed most of my doctoral dissertation between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

I like the peace and quiet and the lack of distraction. As a rule, I find that I focus better and get more accomplished. Nevertheless, any change in my sleep schedule always gives me pause. And although I am not running much of a sleep deficit just yet, I’m down to around six hours of sleep in every twenty-four.

Emails continue to appear in my mailbox thanking me for the Inside Higher Ed article last week. Most are a pure pleasure to read, but one was a bit disconcerting. It came from an individual with bipolar disorder who was inspired by my story but at the same time determined not to take medication, work with a psychiatrist, etc. I didn’t want to give the person advice, since often people will not accept unsolicited advice. Even so, I couldn’t let it pass without at least underscoring my own convictions on the subject:

I hope you won’t mind my saying that, for my own part, I regard taking medication, seeing a therapist and psychiatrist, etc., as being of fundamental importance to managing the illness. I’m a military historian, and after a lifetime of studying war I find that using combat as a metaphor comes very naturally to me. As I said in one of my comments under the IHE piece, I regard myself as being permanently at war with an enemy that will never cease in its efforts to kill me, either through a psychotic manic high or a depression so deep I commit suicide. Carl von Clausewitz, perhaps the best known of military theorists, acutely observed that, “In war, the best strategy is always to be very strong.” In the context of managing the illness, I interpret that to mean that I should avail myself of every resource I can possibly bring to bear.

Frankly, I doubt it will do any good. People generally have to learn such things in their own time and in their own way. It took me eleven years to really face up to the reality of my situation, so I certainly have no right to find fault. That said, in retrospect I can clearly see that I was immensely lucky not to have suffered disaster during those eleven years.

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