Have I been asleep this whole time?

I suppose that question requires some context even for the very few of you that have remained in the loop the last few months… years. I don’t even know anymore. The minutes spun faster than expected on the hands on the clock and the pages slipped off the calendar just a little too quickly than should be naturally allowed by the hands of a chronometrically consistent God. What I mean to say is that, though time is supposed to be relative, it’s really only a question of perception isn’t it? Seconds still pass in the same amount of time independent of how we experience them, don’t they? I guess that’s not really the point of this. There was something else I wanted to talk about.

Drugs. Pharmaceuticals.

More specifically the fact that, as part of treatment for a diagnosis that was handed to me about six years ago. What some may not know about me if they’ve never read anything on this blog but this post is that I’ve struggled with depression now for over half my life. I have stared long into the abyss and seen my own reflection in the deep so dark and hopeless that I wouldn’t get out of bed. I’d stare at the ceiling for hours and I’d shut myself off from the world. I still do that but I call it being productive now. The creative process is a consuming one, after all.

Through a long list of both drugs and doctors they determined it wasn’t just your average, run-of-the-mill, clinical depression. I was, in fact, Bipolar, more specifically a type II. This means I’m prone to strong mood swings, chronic anxiety and impulsive behavior. There’s probably others but that’s not the focus. This is context because I’m a firm believer in context. Anyway, what was being attempted prior to this diagnosis was typical antidepressants: SSRI’s, SNRI’s, MAOI’s, etc. The problem is these have absolutely no effect on my brain because the chemical process for someone with Bipolar disorder of any flavor is different than someone who is just depressed.

So, with atypical brain chemistry comes atypical treatments and medications. Not to mention a long, drawn out and sometimes terrifying period of trial and error trying to find the right cocktail of drugs to manage the symptoms. Well, after trying even more drugs that didn’t work, having my case forwarded from a nurse practitioner to her supervising physician, firing her and finding another doctor I finally found a combination that worked. My moods felt stabilized and I was actually sleeping at night which is another issue common to Bipolar patients.

So, for the last five years I have followed the same routine every night. An hour before bed I’d get my nightly dose of all my meds and down them. Within that hour everything in my brain would slow down to a crawl. If I didn’t get into bed I would have to fight panic attacks, I’m assuming due to the sudden drop in heart rate. It was basically like being high but I couldn’t function. Eventually, I would fall into a deep sleep and wake up 8 hours later feeling fantastic and refreshed. Understand that, through my teens into my early twenties it was almost impossible for me to get a good night’s sleep so it was really welcome.

Then something happened.

I couldn’t stay awake. My alarm clock would go off, I would acknowledge in my mind that I had to shut it off, get out of bed and go to class. I’d get as far as getting up to shut it off, laying back down and waking up again realizing I’d slept for another 2-3 hours. This became pretty consistent regardless of what time I went to bed and it was starting to stress me out as it was having an affect on my attendance in classes I couldn’t afford to fail. I sought medical help, went through a sleep study and was told that, essentially, I had very low grade narcolepsy. My body allowed me to fall asleep five minutes faster than what is average or normal well into the afternoon. I couldn’t take the drug they prescribed because it messed with my heart condition.

Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

But being persistent as I am I chose to keep researching and reasoned that perhaps it was something I was already taking. I was right. The drug I’d been relying on to put me to sleep for the last 5 years was also known to cause excessive daytime sleepiness. Right around this time I was starting to experience serious disruption in my ability to sleep. I reasoned that if it wasn’t doing the one thing it was supposed to then I was going to seek advice about getting off it. So, I did. I got doctor’s permission and a prescription to taper off in small doses over the span of a couple weeks which brings us to now.

These have been the longest weeks of my life.

I had forgotten what it was like to try and sleep unaided. I was able to get a few hours here and there but nothing I’d call restful. There were a few nights where I didn’t sleep at all, I just stayed up all night watching episodes of “Skins” and “Cheers” on Netflix. On a friend’s suggestion I tried Valerian Root and Melatonin which got me a few hours but I’d wake up a few hours later. And for me, massive disruption to my ability to sleep is very detrimental to my ability to control my moods. So, I missed a bit of work in the process as well as fired my psychiatrist for being of no help during the withdrawal process. It’s so difficult to find good mental help these days.

Now, I feel like I’m on the other side of it though I still have problems sleeping. There’s a lot I’m still trying to process and I think I’ll split it into a separate entry. But this has been my journey so far.


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