Aftermath :: Sean :: Decompression is a Drag
Saturday, 23 February 2013
It’s been one week since we were released. You’d think I’d have some profound revelation to report, but really it’s been seven days of trying to get back to normal and catch up on work. I haven’t even read my fellow Subjects’ posts–but that’s out of vulnerability more than anything else. It still all feels very raw.
Here are some thoughts I jotted down along the way. if there’s a deeper meaning in here it’s only that there is no deeper meaning.
I dreamed last night that I was in another sleep study. Can’t decide if that’s a good sign (the unconscious is working through recent experiences) or I’m stuck in a loop. PTSD beckons.
Sanity can never be overrated, but it can also be boring at times. I found a lot to enjoy in my ever-so-slightly-psychotic ride with The Subjects, but there was also a lot that challenged me. In terms of inspiration and stress, it’s right up there with my Writers of the Future trip way back in 1993. Both were amazing experiences, above and beyond all expectations. Decompressing from both was immensely difficult. Maybe I never will decompress entirely. That’s probably a good thing.
Things I’ve enjoyed since leaving the study:
foods that weren’t on the menu, like chocolate, noodles, lemon slice, cake, tofu, Brussels sprouts, nuts, eggs, eggs and more eggs
drinks that weren’t on the menu, such as champagne, Sauvignon blanc, cider (and perry), and peppermint tea
dietary supplements (my rash is now completely gone)
going for a walk
shaving in a sink with a plug
feeback on the story I wrote as part of the study
family (obviously this list isn’t in order of priority)
Things I’ve not enjoyed at all:
disturbed sleep patterns
inability to concentrate
hundreds of emails
missing my fellow bees
The sleep pattern problem is the worst. You’d think I’d sleep when I wanted and as long as I wanted, now there’s no one metaphorically poking me with a stick. But that’s not the case at all. I get sleepy at weird times. I nod off for an hour then wake up and pace about all night. I am incapable of sleeping for long stretches. Boy, what fun.
I’ve been puzzling over why this has affected me so badly. I mean, it’s not like being jetlagged at all. I’m used to that: it has a predictable trajectory that can last as long as two weeks; I know that for the first few days I wake up early or late, depending on where I’ve come from, and it’s just a matter of time before my wayward cycles sync up with the one around me.
But this . . . there’s no cycle. Or at least, if there is, it’s not a 24-hour one. For the last few days we were on something like a 14-hour “day”, and before that twice that much or more (waiting on the details). What chance has that of ever syncing up again with the real world? None, really. All four of us has had to find the rhythms again from scratch, and, not wanting to speak for anyone else here, I’ve found it damned hard. Exhausting, emotionally draining, frustrating, fascinating. Is this normal?
(Most people who volunteer for sleep studies are in their twenties, two decades younger than me. It galls me to think that I’m having a hard time of it simply because I’m old.)
Anyway, it’s definitely fascinating. There are lots of places that don’t have to stick to a 24-hour cycle if they don’t want to. In deep mines, for instance, or in submarines. The International Space Station. Such places will only become more numerous as we step more often outside the environment we evolved to inhabit. Moving between them is going to be hard.
That’s not to say that such things aren’t to be ventured because we must prioritise the rotation of the Earth as something inherently proper. It’s just one way of getting through the day–and depending on your definition of “day” that could last anywhere from 9.8 hours (Jupiter) to 5,392.8 hours (Venus). As a speculative fiction writer I’m interested in exotic environments and how people respond to them. As a writer I’m interested in all these new feelings I have to explore, while they last. They’ll fade in time, leaving me marked in ways I can’t yet fathom.
I don’t think my brain was permanently broken, but even if it was, maybe it needed to be. There are different kinds of sanity, just as there are different kinds of crazy.
As we all move off again in our separate directions, we make plans to reconnect on Twitter, on Facebook, in the Real World. This is something we’ll always share with each other, and to a very real degree we share it with the scientists who wrangled us through the study as well. it’ll be nice to see some of them again at the launch of the Institute, a couple of days before our panel at Adelaide Writers’ Week.
I say that I’m dying to see the data, but if I can’t even read the posts about The Subjects, how will I feel watching the videos?
The week is over, but the experience is forever.