It’s a chilly Labor Day, too soon to start the furnace, but too cold to be comfortable without it. I am wearing both a sweater and a light jacket.

Two weeks ago, I postponed shoulder surgery, partly because I was afraid it either wouldn’t help or leave me worse off, partly because I dreaded the long recuperation (for the first ten weeks, my arm wouldn’t even be able to support its own weight), and partly because I wanted to give physical therapy another month or two. At the time, I showed little progress with therapy, and, to tell the truth, couldn’t actually say but what it was hurting more than it was helping. Since then, I’ve deteriorated greatly—a deep massage plus my reluctance to forego exercise seems to have triggered my decline—and now I don’t dare exercise at all.

Shoulder pain keeps me from sleeping on either side, and now my back is hurting me as much as my shoulders. Since my sleep apnea mask doesn’t allow me to sleep on my stomach, I’m challenged to get any sleep at all. An Ambien, plus an anti-inflammatory, plus Tylenol, plus heating pads and ice packs, enable me to sleep, at most, for a few hours before I awaken in pain. They also make me nauseous. Even if I went ahead and had the surgery, I would feel worse for weeks if not months before I felt better—and that on one side only—and I don’t see how I could bear it.

Of such problems as I have had, sleeplessness is the worst. To be so tired yet be unable to rest engenders a feeling very near panic. Just the thought of lying down fills me with dread although I can scarcely stay awake.

I suppose I will try a chiropractor and maybe an acupuncturist, although I can find little evidence to support them. But then the evidence for surgery is mixed too. My particular surgeon boasts of a 96% success rate (how would he know?), but the average seems to be more on the order of 80%.

I wish to god that I knew what to do. I am finding it hard to direct my actions from moment to moment much less to make major decisions.