Stupid brain. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I woke up at 2am. At first, it was because my shoulders were aching from the vaccinations, but then my brain decided it would start composing new essay questions for the exam I’m handing out today…and my stress started rising. Then somehow it started dwelling on my dead siblings — I have two, a sister and now a brother — and at first it was serving up happy memories, but then it segued into contemplating how neglectful I’ve been of the family I was born into, and next thing I know I’m running on the hamster wheel of regret, which is not at all helpful if you’re trying to sleep. I’ve concluded that I’m enough of an asshole to have been less than supportive, but not enough of an asshole to not care.

So now I’m wide awake with a hyperactively depressed brain, tweaking that exam. I am going to be such a fatigued mess when I have to go to my lab.


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    Ugh! Tell me about it. Insomnia is my bedmate and I’ve spent many a night staring at the backs of my eyelids while my brain zips from one thought to another.

    Just like tonight! Insomnia AND COVID-19. I didn’t recommend it.

  2. Louis says

    These are feelings I know PZ (and Akira). I will second Akira’s lack of recommendation. But why not, you know, do something else. Have a cup of tea. Go for a run. Enjoy a hot bath.



    P.S. Sorry, sorry. I am being bitter about some of the comedy (due to unavailability/stretched resources) mental health help I’ve seen.

    Rumination is a bloody nightmare. It takes a reasonable amount of work to stop doing, but at a time of grief it isn’t exactly abnormal or unhealthy. I hope this part passes swiftly.

  3. beyondhope says

    PZ – You’re not an asshole; I bet you weren’t neglectful either. The world in which we find ourselves has forced you to prioritise a survival-level income over the well-being of you, me, and all the children of the working class. I’m so so sorry you’re grieving – I really am. Like many here, I know a lot more about you than you do about me, and what I know of you I truly respect, and genuinely like,. Know, then, that a fellow insomniac and worrier across the seas has you front and centre in his thoughts today. Courage mate.

  4. Zutano says

    To express condolences in Turkish you say “Başınız sağolsun” (“may your head stay healthy”). Its an acknowledgement of the mental wound caused by your loss and a wish for healing. Quite a nice sentiment, IMO.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    I often think about Ed Brayton and wonder why I did not reach out to him when I learned he had serious health issues.
    I often think of others who were geographically and socially closer who have passed away and what I did not do or say.

    As for insomnia it is not just a separate chapter but a multi-volume epic.
    Do some people get more than 3-4 hours of sleep or is that BS, like the economy renovering?

  6. llyris says

    This is what click bait articles and mindless puzzles are for. Putting your brain to sleep through an almost hypnotic process.
    My condolences for the loss of your brother. I am sure he knew how much you loved him.

  7. mooskaya says

    Poor PZ, I’m so sorry for your loss and your additional self-recriminations. I think it’s incredibly common to feel regret about not reaching out more when a family member dies. We could always have done more.

    Hope your brain lets up… mine never stops with this shit, so I truly sympathise. I hope seeing your family soon helps you heal AND reconnect.

  8. zygoptera says

    PZ, you are a kind person. Hopefully this will pass quickly. Take care.

    You are not the only person with regrets. I imagine it is very common. As I’ve aged and reflected more, I have regrets about all sorts of things – not speaking out, not doing more for the elderly relatives and climate, etc. As mooskaya said, we could always have done more.

    Many thanks for hosting the blog. I know I benefit a lot from reading your blog and readers’ comments. You are appreciated!

  9. hillaryrettig1 says

    @5 Zutano – that is fantastic! I’m going to remember that.

    I’m so sorry PZ, I dread losing my siblings. It is so important to be gentle with yourself at this time.

    For the insomniacs out there I – a true expert on the whole not-sleeping thing – recommend WYLD Elderberry gummies, which have a THC/CBN ratio that is really sleep inducing. DON’T buy online as the online versions don’t have the THC. Buy from a local shop.

    They don’t help with the rumination, but if you can tone that down some they do relax your body enough that you have a shot at getting sleep.

  10. seachange says

    There are a lot of spiders out at night but it might be too cold for this where you are? I say this because I go for walks when insomniac. Bored Panda is just enough brainless and divorced from reality that it is to me it is fall-asleep reading

  11. says

    So, as many of us here pointed out, confirming what PZ experienced, those who have any conscience face the same problem. Our brain decides, O.K. while you’re asleep, I’m going to examine and analyze highly emotional memories. And, in so doing it dishes out a generous helping of guilt and regret that lingers painfully in our minds throughout the next day.

    Why won’t someone create a safe and effective OTC ‘off switch’ for our minds so we can get some badly needed sleep??

  12. ealloc says

    Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
    The dear repose for limbs with travail tired;
    But then begins a journey in my head
    To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:

    Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
    For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.
    (from sonnet 27)

  13. chuckonpiggott says

    I got both shots this morning. Hope my experience is better than PZ’s. My wife got both about 2 weeks ago. She fared pretty well, just sore arms.

  14. magistramarla says

    Sorry for your regrets and insomnia, PZ.
    Add me to the list of fellow-sufferers.
    The regret that interrupts my sleep the most is that I allowed my two youngest girls to grow up in Texas.
    I was horribly depressed while living there. Felt like I could never fit in.
    As a result, I wasn’t a very attentive mother to those two girls.
    One got involved with a dirtbag from Ft. Worth and wound up having to co-parent her son with him.
    At 17, the boy realized what a jackass his father is and cut the guy out of his life. My daughter is now happily
    married, and they are living in Colorado.
    The youngest married an anti-vax, MAGA and trump supporting Texas good old boy, and totally agrees with him.
    She has cut off all communication with her four Liberal siblings and her Dad. She barely checks in with me.
    I will always feel that it was my fault that my two babies are having so many difficulties in life.
    It’s truly tough for me to get a good night’s sleep, with the chronic pain that my body has and this emotional pain.
    So many of us are the walking wounded.

  15. rockwhisperer says

    My mother died at the end of 2001. My father died in the summer of 2006. I was very close to my father, and I was crushed by his death, but only spent a fairly short time pondering how I could have made the end of his life better. I was not close to my mother, despite being a partial caretaker for her near the end of her life; she suffered from chronic, untreated anxiety that made her very hard to live with for me. (Dad was very laid-back and understood how to deal with her respectfully without challenging her on unimportant things. I was all, “Citation needed, reputable publication, because I don’t believe that’s true. Mama, the National Enquirer is not a reputable publication.”)

    And so, for the last two decades, I’ve applied what I’ve learned since about anxiety, boundaries, picking my battles, how it must feel to slog through life thinking you’re stupid (she was uneducated, not at all stupid) and you’re second-class by virtue of being female (lots of internalized misogyny), and living with internalized terror that some horrible disaster will happen to you or your family any minute now. You might guess that she experienced far more than her share of serious trauma, early in her life. I look back, and think about how I could have approached our adult relationship differently, and made her internal life a whole lot better. It is unproductive rumination, it accomplishes nothing, and my brain wants to do that rumination at 3 AM.

  16. divineconspiracy667 says

    I try not to think about the past at all because my brain always remembers the shitty, stupid, embarrassing or abusive things I’ve done to other people.
    Unfortunately, when attempting to sleep I rarely am capable of making my mind stop thinking about such subjects.
    My grandparents are dead, my dad is dead, I haven’t spoken to my mother in a number of years, I have no siblings, and I basically don’t talk to any members of my family.
    I’m an asshole who doesn’t care. I came to terms with that a few years ago.
    I’m going to die alone, and that thought no longer bothers me.

  17. John Morales says

    divineconspiracy667, perhaps that’s depression speaking.
    You sure don’t sound like a happy puppy.
    Maybe you could use some support. Not that I’m any good at that.

    I try not to think about the past at all because my brain always remembers the shitty, stupid, embarrassing or abusive things I’ve done to other people.

    Surely, even given your trepidation, you must have also done non-shitty etc things to other people. Those things, you can certainly think about.

    (It’s a net sum type of thing)

    I’m an asshole who doesn’t care.

    Mmm. Were you such, why would you even bother to write that?

    I’m going to die alone, and that thought no longer bothers me.

    Nor should it. But that’s speculation, at this stage.

    (Probably, if you live in any sort of developed economy, it will be a palliative care facility. Maybe not with those who love you, but at least not alone)

  18. brightmoon says

    Insomnia is becoming an annoying companion lately . I just read a book until I get sleepy again. I was told once long ago that long ago, most people would only sleep a few hours , get up do something restful like sit on the porch, then go back to bed and that was normal . Sleeping for 8 hours straight was unusual or for children. They didn’t have streetlights or good indoor lighting to break your sleep cycles like modern westerners have. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not as I really haven’t followed up on it but it was a Sci Am article

  19. divineconspiracy667 says

    John Morales,
    I appreciate the concern, but it’s definitely not depression. I’ve dealt with depression in my own past and I do have a couple of people close to me who struggle with chronic depression regularly. I’m just stating how I feel.
    I have tried to think about good times that happened in my past, but my brain inevitably returns to thinking about bad things. I’ve tried to train myself to not think that way, but to no avail. I’ve discovered that, for me, it’s just easier to not bother thinking about the past at all.
    As for the comment about being an asshole, I was really just stating for PZ that some people really are assholes who don’t care about family. I don’t think it makes me a bad person. I don’t expect my family to care about me, either.
    And you’re right. Chances are I won’t die alone. Given my family history, I’ll likely live into my 90s, vegetating away in a care facility from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Hopefully it won’t come to that or I might have to Hunter S. Thompson myself before it gets too bad.
    Thanks for the kind words, though.