Yesterday morning I woke up, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, decided I needed to take my vitamins and then removed two sleeping pills from their prescription vials and downed them with a gulp of tap water. Two seconds later I realized what I’d done, walked to the toilet, stuck my finger down my throat and tried to puke my guts out. Nothing. I’m 44 and I’ve never had to induce vomiting before. The fashion industry makes it sound so easy, but it’s not. In the end nothing came up, and all day long I walked around wondering … What happens next?

Just why, you might ask, do I keep sleeping pills on hand? Three words: European book tours, these current pills being remnants of a June United Kingdom tour.

A bit of background. In the old days (pre-1998-ish), the American edition of a novel was published, and the Canadian edition followed maybe six weeks later. The U.K. pubbed nine months after that, all of which allowed for a leisurely touring schedule. But with the arrival of Amazon, all English-language editions come out at once, and there’s this truly dizzying need for authors to do press and touring for all markets simultaneously.

The thing is, with few exceptions authors are not robust, garrulous, travel-loving people. They are insecure, introverted, socially awkward homebodies — which is why they write, because they don’t want to travel or meet new people. Suddenly they’re tossed into this machine (described in earlier postings) and expected somehow to be witty, vibrant, erudite, charming and lucid. They’re expected to fly once a day (travel to and from airport; security nightmares; flight disasters; weird media escorts; terrible or nonexistent food) as well as check in and out of hotel rooms that are crapshoots regardless of expense, and then they have to do a bookstore event or a venue reading where they’re being judged relentlessly by hundreds of people who, in 2006, all have digital cameras with blinding flashes or cell phone cameras and who, during signings, all need 90 seconds to focus, botch the shot, take another, and then take another after that.

Add to this mix the usual piñata of stupidity that is Q&A, plus the fact that for the month prior to this tour they’ve been doing phoners and e-mail interviews. And also add to this the fact that whenever there are 10 free seconds to think, there’s a phone interview to be done at a chokingly crowded airport flight gate, and whenever you check your e-mail, there are people from all the different English language publishing houses who understand you’re really busy, but could you please squeak in just this one or two more interviews because it would really make a difference?

Do this for six weeks, add Euro jetlag to the mix, and you have a surefire formula for a meltdown.

Plus you also have to take into account each author’s quirks and peccadilloes. Me? I can’t adjust to time zones. Period. Never have been able to, and never will. I go to bed at 2:30 a.m. on the West Coast and wake up at 10:30, and that is what my body wants to do, and nothing else, and it’s been this way for almost 20 years. I’m always so shocked by people who can zip off to Europe at the drop of a hat, those people with bungee circadian rhythms who can function on three hours of sleep and be daisy fresh. My circadian rhythms have all the flexibility of the German railway system circa 1934. I think you’re pretty much born with your brain and you have to live with it. My brain wants to write but it doesn’t want to alter its cycles. How people with kids do it, I’ll never know. And it’s not like I can wake up after six hours if I have to but won’t. I can’t. Or if I am technically, legally, medically awake, I might as well not have bothered. I can’t concentrate, I can’t think, my body’s thermostat goes all wonky, I can’t focus my eyes, my hearing blurs, I can’t distinguish one person’s face or name from another, and I’m unable to function in the world. Again, I’m 44. After a while you spot the patterns and work with them.

So I take sleeping pills.

And this is a disastrous thing to do.

For most people this isn’t a big deal. In fact, a lot of people look forward to taking sleeping pills — they’re like a mini holiday, just like movie stars take! And don’t you sometimes look at George Bush and Condoleezza Rice and Vladimir Putin and all of them, bouncing off of planes, bursting with vim, ready to make deals, and wonder what the hell it is they’re doing that you’re not? My personal theory is that Air Force One is one great big anesthesiological device in which everybody gets conked out once the landing gear pulls into the plane, and from which they’re awakened only an hour before touchdown.

Sleeping pills: they turn me into a monster. I don’t like it, but it’s what they do to me. And I’ve tried them all — opiates, tricyclics, diazepams and all these weird new ones that have slick TV commercials. The first night they work great — the second night too. But then the third day arrives and I become paranoid, depressed, hypersensitive to all outside stimulus, unable to speak to strangers and profoundly homesick. I can’t concentrate; I can’t think; I can’t even differentiate between clean and dirty clothes in my suitcase.

But unless I take sleeping pills, I won’t be able to sleep or wake up or do anything at all — so there’s no choice in the matter. So I’ll be in, say, London and I’ll have slept, but it’s pretend sleeping-pill sleep, and when I wake up my brain turns to sludge. All of the predictable fear, paranoia, confusion, cultural dyslexia and diminished social skills appear as predictably and as unfailingly as Halley’s comet. When I was younger, I thought all of this was the result of emotional instability and part of the drama of travel. But as the years have gone by, the process has been deromanticized, and in the end, my personality outside my home time zone is an alter ego that has confused publicists, amused and horrified interviewers and pretty much ruined a lot of the enjoyment I might have had while traveling the world. At the end of 1995 I foolishly did a U.S., Canada, U.K., Benelux, Scandinavia and Germany tour that might well have been called “The Booze & Pills 1995” tour. On the final day in Geneva I was taken out to a fondue restaurant (such places exist), and I sort of remember chunks of melted gym-sock-malodorous Gruyere cheese being waved in front of my face. I’m unable to even look at Switzerland on a map anymore. It took my brain half a year to rebuild after that 1995 tour debacle. I can barely go to New York these days, and if I do, it has to be on my own circadian rhythm’s rules, not somebody else’s.

So that’s why there are leftover sleeping pills in my bathroom. I should just burn the damn things. They are toxic and evil and dangerous.

To bookend this rant, what happened to me later that day? I slept for five hours in the afternoon. Those suckers make you sleep. But at such a cost.