INSOMNIAC in the New York Times

A few months after I came upon Tara Parker-Pope’s blog, March 21, my book Insomniac got featured on that same blog , “The Wretched Life of the Insomniac,” “Writer Gayle Greene’s new book, Insomniac, from the University of California Press, is both memoir and investigation into the world of insomnia.…. ”??

I wish Parker-Pope had called this blog something other than “The Wretched Life of the Insomniac,” since that title is so untrue to the spirit or content of my book. It makes it sound like one long moan, when in fact I say clearly that I’m one of the lucky ones, someone who has the good fortune of being able to structure my own work hours and who sleeps better than many of the people I interviewed for the book. Besides, INSOMNIAC is not just about me. It’s about millions of people who have worse insomnia than I do, who are caught in a 9 to 5 world and impossible schedules, trying to get kids off to school. it’s about trying to understand the problem from scientific and medical points of view, about learning ways of living with it, about getting insomnia taken more seriously. It is NOT about my wretched life because I don’t actually have a wretched life.

Anyway, there were some great comments left on this blog, such as,

I wish the medical establishment would do more to really address this and stop just doling out pills or advice I tried 15 or 20 years ago that did not make a dent in this. I believe this is as much a chemical imbalance as serotonin problems, and wish medical research would get to work on some real solution to this.

But the discussion got massively derailed by “Jack,” who, in comment #2, pointed to the glass of wine in my author photo as evidence that I hadn’t made all the necessary lifestyle changes (actually, since May I don’t even drink wine—not that it’s made any difference to my sleep). And Jack kept coming back, like a bad burp, accusing us insomniacs of wanting a quick fix, of whining, of choosing to suffer and enjoying our victim status.

I’ve met a lot of people like Jack. In my book I write about the negative stereotypes insomniacs so often come up against, from doctors, colleagues, friends, even family. Even in the scientific literature, I found insomniacs caricatured as neurotic, whining snivelers, chronic complainers. And along comes Jack, like Exhibit A, to make my point.

People in the rest of the blog called him a jerk, said he was just looking for attention, had self-esteem problems.

Jack, what is your problem? Have you never heard, “If you don’t want to help, at least don’t get in the way of those who do?” All you are doing is parading your own ignorance and tacky disposition.

Have you considered that seeking out a blog like this, just to comment that other posters are whiners, is also a form of whining?

Then other people came to his defense. Jack, in fact, provoked a lot more comments and got a lot a lot more attention than I did. His ideas, if you could call them that, were referred to again and again; mine got lost in the shuffle.

It was painful to see my book, which took me six years to research and write, get lost like this, and Jack, who hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about, get taken that seriously, making the discussion fizzle and dribble away. Why is it so hard to get on with the work we need to do? — to get people to recognize insomnia as a serious problem, seriously neglected, underresearched and underfunded.

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One comment

  1. Just a simple thank you. Suffering is more bearable when one knows one is not alone. An interesting book even if one is not an insomniac, very informative for those of us who are. My family is sympathetic and caring,and with the support of your book, the “Jacks” can go jump. Brava, Gayle Greene, brava.

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