Last summer I stopped sleeping. I don’t even remember how it happened and I’m still not really sure why, but it did. I couldn’t fall asleep and if I managed to after several hours, I couldn’t stay asleep. I started using every sleep aid I could find in order to knock myself out in the hopes of grabbing a few hours before the next morning brought another round of post-insomnia headaches and nausea.

It took some 6 – 8 months before the nightly insomnia started to clear up; I sleep better these days but not reliably so. Today I can look back and recognize that stress was a huge contributor to the problem but I’m still unclear on what all the contributing stressors actually were. Aberrations in the pattern should be given close attention and although occasional insomnia is nothing new for me, this kind of long spell was a first.

For 18 months I’ve been dealing with some really profound anxiety, stress, depression, and related feelings of powerlessness. I’m OK admitting this because I know I’m not alone in these things and I know that such things are an entirely natural and understandable response to the kind of things that were happening in my life; or rather, they were the culmination of several years of stress that finally refused to be managed successfully any more.

Although I’ve been through any number of bad periods this was unique for reasons I won’t go into; if you’ve read any of my entries in the last year or so you’ve no doubt seen that I’ve struggled with some really deep interior stuff. On the good days I can recognize that I’ve reached a point in my personal development and quest for self-knowledge that is the Anxiety Layer. I’ve been through lots of layers of emotional and psychological sediment – depression, fear, anger, etc. Now I get to confront my various anxieties and see how they impact my daily landscape. It’s sucked, no doubt. I don’t think I’m exactly out of it but perhaps I’m on the downhill slope of this current stage. There’s no doubt I’ll return to it again but hopefully by then I’ll be somewhat more familiar with the territory instead of flailing around trying to name the many things that feel wrong.

Being in these periods of development is really shitty for lots of reasons, including how it tends to isolate one. Being this self-absorbed makes me feel like a bad friend, a bad person, and just all-around kind of a heel. The simple fact is that I’m being forced to face some unpleasant things about myself and deal with the consequences that those things have for my life, including my daily routine.

I’ve responded by trying to maximize the value of my religious engagement and to seek shelter from the various traditions that have contributed to my winding path. It’s been good in many ways (though I struggle with the issue for lots of reasons, not all of them logically sound or helpful) and I was reminded this weekend that this kind of engagement is a form of self-study. If my path continually puts me in the position to learn about all the contents of this current being (and it does), then I owe it to myself and to my future path to take advantage of every opportunity to study this self. The various activities I’ve struggled with, trying to determine whether they’re part of “my” path or not, the many ways that arrogance slips into my engagement(s), the opportunities for growth that I shy away from – all of these things are invitations to know myself and to therefore know the gods I love.

This small mental breakthrough has reoriented my heart and mind somewhat and it’s been a very good reminder of my priorities. I forget these priorities all the time, or think that they’re not quite so important as I imagined they were, and then I come back to them. This is entirely normal, I suppose – at least for me. I must know myself in the mode of forgetting and in the mode of remembering. I must become familiar with the curves my personality takes on when I’m unhappy or anxious or celebratory and find ways to match those shifting contours to the forms of engagement I’ve taken up.

This long, long process of personal assessment does not go in a very linear progression in the short term or even the long term. It perhaps requires the very long term to see the progression at all, so I shouldn’t be concerned that I don’t see it when I conduct these on-going personal assessments. I wonder, though; I always have questions about where I’m going and what I’m up to and how I’m doing and whether I’m on the right track. These are not the answers I get through self-study though, so clearly they’re not the questions I should be asking. What answers do I get? I’m not sure, but last night I had the most calm, relaxed, contented hours I’ve had in recent memory. Something changed and maybe it changed because I learned something.