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Losing my mind along with sleep

Sunday, July 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:34 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 27, 2008

Being more than a half century old, I have my share of aches and pains. But lately I’ve been acting strangely. And I’d really start worrying about myself if I weren’t surrounded by friends who have the same problem. Sadly all of us weirdoes are women. Men at this age either are not inflicted with this syndrome or are good at hiding it.

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Simply put — I can’t remember what I had for breakfast if I don’t write it down. I’ve surveyed my friends and they have the same problem.

I have one friend who calls almost daily to chat. Right in the middle of a story she says “Have I told you this before?”

I don’t have the heart to say yes. Besides, I figure the second time around she might include a detail she left out on the first telling.

I’ve read that this particular type of forgetfulness has nothing to do with the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. The experts say it’s due to stress. This is supposed to be the beginning of my golden years. Right now I call it fool’s gold because I’m not having much fun.

The cause of my poor memory is simple. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in almost a decade. It started with night sweats at the onset of menopause. I would be sleeping soundly and all of a sudden my body temperature would heat up to the point that I dreamed I was baking in the oven. Waking up, I noticed that the sheets (on my side of the bed) were saturated with sweat. I’d get up and dry off and place a towel on the sheet and fall back to sleep. An hour later the same thing happened again — some nights as many as a dozen times. The next morning I was up and running at my usual 6 a.m. The fogginess didn’t begin until around 5 p.m. And by 9 p.m. I was usually dozing on the couch. I would drag myself to bed and by 1 a.m., the sweats would start again.

That went on for at least four years. I no longer have night sweats. Now I wake up around 3 a.m. for no apparent reason. My mind is whirling with hundreds of different thoughts, and it takes me about an hour to get back to sleep. I’ve tried over-the-counter sleeping pills, but they have the opposite effect and I’m awake all night.

The result of these sleepless nights is a constant state of confusion. I will be having a conversation with a friend and I can’t remember the noun or verb in the sentence. My close friends usually come through with the correct word without missing a beat.

A conversation goes something like this:

“ My husband…” I start.

“Jerry,” my friend adds.

“Told me that he finally made an appointment with …” I hesitate.

“The doctor?” she queries.

“When he’s off next week,” I say.

“That would be on Thursday.” She knows he’s off that day.

“Right.” I sigh.

This forgetfulness doesn’t stop with word usage. Yesterday I came home from the dentist to find two workmen parked in my driveway. One had come to give me an estimate and the other was going to work on our hot tub. I jumped out of the car and let the one man in the front door, then raced to the back door so the other could get to the deck. I went about my morning chores, and when my husband came home for lunch three hours later he asked why my car was running. GULP!

Because I’m always so groggy, I don’t use good judgment, especially around sharp or hot objects. My hands and arms look as if they have been through a war. I used a steak knife to cut a piece of cloth. It didn’t harm the fabric but it had no trouble slicing the end of my finger. I was having trouble assembling my new dicer and found it worked quite well julienning the palm of my hand. I have also learned that dish towels don’t make a good substitute for oven mitts.

I used to make lists, and now I have note pads in every room. The problem is I have no idea what my notes mean. So I spend the early morning hours trying to decipher my code.

I’ve started telling people not to call past 7 p.m. That’s when the serotonin kicks in and the fog really descends. I’ve been told not to drink coffee or alcohol. I’ve tried that. But maybe I should reverse the two. When I get up in the morning maybe I should have a belt of scotch. And then brew some espresso to drink after dinner.

I’ve been told by my OLDER friends that all of this will pass and I’ll be able to sleep anytime I want. Until then I’ll keep checking my caller ID to see who called after 7 p.m.

If you have a comment or know where I can find a whistle, please e-mail me at jdh@socket.net


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