I’ve had bouts of insomnia since I was in middle school.
For the most part, these episodes of insomnia were mostly due to extreme night time anxiety.
I went quite a few years without having to deal with it, but about eight years ago, it came back with a vengeance — right about the time my depression and anxiety came and stayed.
I would lie awake staring at the plastic, glowing stars on my ceiling. After about an hour of not falling asleep, I would get up and start doing other things. Cleaning my room. Doing homework. Or my favorite, watching TV and researching random things on the internet.
Finally between 4-5:00 AM, I would surrender to my exhaustion.
Initially, I started to take melatonin. This helped for a bit, but I got to where I was taking about a handful every night, and it just wasn’t working anymore.
So I paired it with valerian root and Sleepytime tea. There was absolutely no improvement with these things.
Without much help from these more natural solutions, I picked up some sleep aid pills from Walmart. Diphenhydramine to be specific. This is nothing more than Benadryl.
One, two, three, four, five, six.
Having to take six of these a night, which adds up to about 300mg, is the amount I worked my way up to by the time I graduated college.
Throughout the last couple of years in college, I was prone to panic attacks at night. Many nights, I would ugly sob until my meds started to kick in and swept me away to a nice deep pool of sleep.
Right out of college, I got a job teaching, then about four weeks after I started my job, I got married.
A combination of having my husband with me at night and working 60 hours a week made for a balanced circadian rhythm. At last I could go to sleep free of medication.
I’m sure my liver was grateful.
I had trouble sleeping and staying asleep when I was hugely pregnant with my first and my second because, well, I was hugely pregnant. My husband even got me one of huge body pillows that wraps around your entire body.
Major sleep deprivation and a hormonal war made for a nice recipe after the birth of each of my children.
I ended up on a low dosage of an antidepressant after my first pregnancy. I stayed on it up until I found out I was pregnant with my second.
In the very first weeks of my second pregnancy, I thought I was absolutely losing my mind. My depression was managed fairly well, but I would have panic attacks at the drop of a hat. Intruding thoughts, sadness, anxiousness; it was all too overwhelming.
That is when I tried to get in with a psychiatrist, but was wait-listed. My general care physician increased my regular dosage and gave me Klonopin for when I felt the panic attacks coming on.
I went on a trip with my mom, and I fell asleep in the afternoon. This isn’t strange at all. However, we had just gotten in, and I laid back on the bed, shoes and coat still on, and fell asleep with my feet still on the floor.
When I woke up, she asked if I was pregnant to which I just laughed and said a big “NO.”
The next week I got extremely nauseated at lunchtime. I said to my toddling daughter, I haven’t felt like….since….I….was….pregnant.
I grabbed her up immediately and went to the store to pick up a test. As soon as we got home, I went to the bathroom to take it. Seconds later, the second line showed up.
I digress from this story to get back to my original topic, insomnia.
I didn’t have a problem with it again until after this new year began.
However, this time it wasn’t because of anxiety. My body literally wouldn’t stay asleep.
I didn’t really have trouble going to sleep, but I would wake up two hours later, wide awake.
After trying to go back to sleep, I would look at the clock only to see that it had been one hour or even two. Then I would traipse downstairs and watch TV. Around six AM, I would dose off and sleep for about 30 minutes until I heard my husband stirring upstairs.
Weeks of only getting less than 20 hours of sleep a week, wore on my mind. The antidepressant I had been on that worked amazingly for nearly six months, stopped.
I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was foggy. I definitely couldn’t remember little things that I needed to do, even though they were written in front of me on my To-Do list on my desk.
My depression plummeted and got r e a l l y bad. So did my irritability.
I’ve never been one to get in fights with people. Most of the time when there is a disagreement me between me and someone, I can handle it very well.
Not this time. I had two very explosive encounters with two people at two different times. Neither one of them was my husband who you would probably expect it to be since I live with him.
During the first encounter, I experienced furious rage. Yelling all sorts of terrible, hurtful things that I don’t remember. As soon as it was over, I was trembling and crying, but I couldn’t remember a thing that I said.
The second experience could have been prevented, but I let months of pent up issues with this person come out over something that was kind of stupid.
My brain broke a little more that day.
Being incredibly sleep deprived, I couldn’t function like a proper adult. I called my psyche office during their after hours to try to talk to a doctor only to be told that my husband had just called them. He’s my go-to person when the crazy hits hard. (He’s also my go-to person for just about everything, to be honest.)
Once we got a hold of the actual doctor, she prescribed me Ambien.
I’ve heard of Ambien making people eat while they’re asleep, get up and drive while they are asleep, cook something on the stove while they are asleep…I had high hopes that this medication would help me sleep.
Two hours after falling asleep, three hours after taking it, I was wide awake. So I got up.
I couldn’t go back to work that week. I was scheduled to end my job at the end of that week, but that Monday was my last day.
I just couldn’t anymore.
I was prescribed some very high powered medications to try to help me sleep. None of them worked until I went on max dosages for them. One gave me a nice case of tremors which were far from pleasant.
Here we are now, four months in and seven pounds heavier, still sleep deprived.
Not only do I only sleep a couple of hours a night, the time that I do sleep, I shiver like I’m freezing but wake up sweating.
I’m to the point now where I cannot remember things that people tell me, like, five minutes ago.
I lose time. Completely zone out, not thinking about anything.
I was using the bathroom at work the other day, and started looking at the wall paper.
Snapping to when someone came in, I don’t know how long I was in that stall, but my legs were falling to sleep.
I was given a new medication to try two days ago, and so far it hasn’t worked. It’s also an antidepressant, and truthfully, I don’t want to add another one in the mix that is just going to stop working.
So I’m going back to my old faithful…Diphenhydramine.
I hope you sleep better than me tonight,