on the horizon

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It wasn’t all that long ago. I stayed awake with anxiety, a hot laptop leaving red wormy marks on my stomach. I only noticed them when I got up to pee. I was in too much pain to feel pain. The way I felt then is how I sometimes feel now, quite frankly. It’s the sort of emotional pain that kind of sits and rocks, like the lapping water in your canoe. It’s the type of pain that makes you feel small. It’s childlike.

I know this is odd, but it’s the only way I know how to explain the feeling. It’s as if you’ve boarded a ship, and you know you should be looking out at sea, watching gulls, or learning knots, but you can’t stop noticing the mate’s hands. They’re stained a kind of navy, as if they’ve been cleaned with plastic wrap, scrubbed several times, but it’s no use. You know you should be intrigued by all the people boarding, asking questions about the charted path, but you’re just staring at his green boots, and their gummy soles. And you wonder who taught him to mop and if he sleeps alone.

Someone’s talking to you all the while– asking "child" questions, saying things like, "Oh, boy, do you see that? Do you know what part of the boat that is?" But you don’t really hear them, just the words strung together with an overeager inflection. It makes you want to never look up again.

It can feel like the moments you’re living aren’t quite as real because you’re not paying attention to them. This isn’t the real you. This isn’t who you are, this quiet, this isolated, this stranded. Soon everything that’s happening to you isn’t even you anymore. They aren’t your sleepless nights because it’s not your problem.

When my nights were sleepless, not all that long ago, I felt lonely and worried. I didn’t want to turn off the lights and have to face the night because it would only bring morning. If I stayed awake, it meant I never set the feelings aside for rest, so I never had to wake up to them again. I’d write on my white screen, play speed word games, read, and hope that maybe there was someone online to talk to, a lighthouse in my night.

I’m having sleepless nights again.

3 YEARS AGO: Weighty
5 YEARS AGO: The Girl Can Sing



  1. You’re still seeing a therapist, yes? Sounds like you could talk to someone who might be able to help you.

    1. I agree. And I mean apart from the marriage counseling. This kind of emotional issue isn’t going to be solved with no action and honestly, as helpful and as supportive as a lot of your readers are, they are not professionals and all the helpful hints and compliments in the world won’t pull you up for long.

      You need someone who is actually trained, to talk to and tell you the truth. Not a fan. Not a family member. Not the blogosphere or a well meaning friend. You have everything you’ve ever wanted-a husband who challenges you, children (twins, no less), you are a published author-and yet something always seems to be off. Not that you haven’t shared moments of happiness, but more often than not you just seem, to me, to be so unsatisfied. Always.

      I don’t know if you don’t feel like you are getting your due in some way, although from an outside perspective, we can’t see it. I don’t know if it’s the double edged sword of being in TX and raising the taters but also missing that life you left behind. You haven’t really mentioned a new book and all of us that have read for years knew about moose from the moment you signed for straight up and dirty. You haven’t written any magazine articles. You talk vaguely about having meetings and learning how to write moose for the big screen, and maybe the perfect chick flick, but its all sort of meh. Maybe you are disillusioned with Hollywood. Maybe you are disillusioned with the book scene. Honestly, the market is over-saturated with crap on both parts, it makes it tough for good books (or movies) to rise to the top and get seen. And if you feel like your product is good, it can be frustrating.

      But do try and see someone on your own. If this isn’t related to you and Phil and it’s more of a personal or professional anxiety, you need someone who will be straight with you. Someone who doesn’t love or hate you, and will be hard on you when you need it and supportive when you need it. I’ll assume you have the resources with or without insurance to do it. Even one session would be better than none and would probably cost less than that Oscar De Le Renta dress you bought for your daughter (oop, of course).

  2. I’ve been shocked of late at the tone some people are taking towards you – it is downright spiteful.
    I often disagree with what you have to say, and think it is totally fine for people to voice a differing opinion, but it makes me incredulous that some people attack you as personally as they do – why are they so angry?
    I often wonder how you cope with it? It’s so petty and ridiculous and I hope you take some comfort (however small) in knowing that a person has to be pretty miserable within themselves to be so needlessly cruel – no matter what small buzz they may get from their judgements, no matter how much it makes them feel like the big person at the time, you know that behaviour like that eats away at a soul, and eventually becomes it’s own ill-reward.
    Whilst I am not convinced that putting your whole life on the web is the wisest decision in the world (and you have to admit there is something to be said for the argument “well if you’re going to live your life so publicly, then you have to be prepared for the “feedback”) I am entertained by you, and I wholly admire the way you go out and get what you want out of life.
    One of the things that annoys me most about this blog is the sycophantic supporters, however I feel this time I have to add my voice to theirs to say to all those pathetic anonymous people who’ve recently been giving you an uneccessarily hard time – get a freakin life! Attacking someone via the internet is not big and certainly not clever – and if that’s how you get your kicks, then maybe instead of bullying others from behind the safety of your screen, it’s time to take a look at yourself, because to me you look like a nasty, miserable coward.

  3. Sorry the pain/sleepless nights have resurfaced. I hope it is at least small consolation that this was really well written.

    On a practical note, intense exercise (e.g. spinning) wears me out so insomnia (despite my best efforts) is not an option.

  4. Oh, that’s an awful place to be. You’re lucky Phil can still sleep with the light on for you, though.

    I hope you’re being seen for this, since it’s recurrent.

  5. I, too, have suffered insomnia. Terrible, worrisome, lie awake and wonder why in the world sleep is necessary, every little noise magnified and every problem quadrupled, insomnia. Hate it.

    I go through bouts of it – usually when someone in my nest is hurt or sad – and now with eldest baby leaving for college, and the big unknown looms, sleep doesn’t come easily.

    So – speaking from experience:

    1) Make your bed and bedroom a cozy, peaceful, restful, beautiful place that smells good and sounds good
    2) No TV or computer in the bedroom
    3) Wear jammies (or not) that are lovely to the skin (or sheets…whatever)
    4) Make peace before bed…whether with Phil, or yourself, or the universe…expressing gratitude for all of the goodness that surrounds me helps me go to sleep, and
    5) When I lie in my bed – staring at the ceiling watching the little sleep-keepers prance across my mind’s eye – I banish them. NO – I’m not thinking about you. NO – I’m not thinking about you. Until I get to the places I want to think about and want to dream about…then I can usually slip into a bit of peace.

    I hope this doesn’t sound nuts – I guess I’ve never written down the process before.

    Have some sweet dreams.

  6. I know you’ve ditched Bikram Yoga….can’t say I blame you…but I’d advise you to buy a DVD called Yoga for Beginners, the one that features Patricia Walden. When my mother was dying & I couldn’t sleep, I used this (as well as a class) and found that the breathing exercises in particular worked wonders for me. Hope the situation soon eases and you have some peace.


  7. So perfectly described, as I’ve been there before myself. Keep your head up and know that in time, it WILL get better!

  8. Hey thanks for the yoga at home dvd (above commenter) way more affordable than some places I’m getting it:)

    So sorry you are stressed…I know you have insurance so would you be willing to go to a sleep clinic? I did once and it was so helpful I regret not going sooner. Also, I love 2 teens mom’s suggestions. Blackout shades were installed (in addition to our existing curtains) and I cannot tell you the difference it made. I suspect the lack of sleep is psychological, Phil’s illness, major work obligations. You have a good life but not an easy one necessarily. So maybe see someone to talk things out (not marriage counseling- one on one therapy) you can go a few times or a few months, it’s all up to you. I feel like you would be so happy living closer to home. You need family support now more than ever and I think your soul knows that and is restless. Put it out there and make it happen. Life is too short to be stuck far away from the ones you love most.

  9. “It can feel like the moments you’re living aren’t quite as real because you’re not paying attention to them. This isn’t the real you. This isn’t who you are, this quiet, this isolated, this stranded. Soon everything that’s happening to you isn’t even you anymore. They aren’t your sleepless nights because it’s not your problem.”

    I couldn’t have said it any better myself. It’s exactly the way I feel right now dealing with the aftermath of my divorce.

    I hope things start looking up for you soon Stephanie. You’ve got so much good in your life and you deserve to be happy.

  10. Sounds rough, no doubt, but after all, you’re a writer. I think a new book is brimming.

  11. That’s how I ended up regularly taking Ambien about a year ago – my son was diagnosed with something very serious, my mom almost died in the ICU and the company I work for started to go down the tubes, all at the same time.

    The problem is, someday you have to get off the Ambien, which was hard (I just did it) but it sure helped me get through the rough patch. Things look so much less bleak when you’ve had a good nights sleep.

  12. Wow. This is EXACTLY how I feel right now. I’ve been trying to articulate it to people who have recently been asking why I’m not acting “myself” lately, and until now I’ve just come up blank.

    I hope you find your way out of this dark place, and when you do, please write about how you did it.

    Also, I want to add how much I appreciate your honesty. I’ve been trying to put on a brave face and act like everything is just dandy and under control, and I love that you are willing to admit to thousands of readers that even though you’ve got so much going for you in life, for whatever reason you’re having sleepless nights. If only we could all be as honest and own up to our feelings.

  13. If this is a current issue, I suggest looking into some naturopathic-type support as well, such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs. I held off for years on acupuncture, but I am now convinced that it, combined with herbs, provides subtle support for anxiety/sleep/hormonal issues. The treatment is actually pretty relaxing. A good naturopath may have some dietary/supplement recommendations too. Skip the Ambien, it gave me the worst hangovers, literally sick to my stomach in the a.m. Sominex works fine, but only in a pinch. Good luck!!

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