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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Insomnia: A Tragicomedy

It's been a really, really long time since I could sleep on my own without some kind of chemical help.  Too long.  Along the road, I have blamed my insomnia on all sorts of things.  Maybe writing it out will help me figure out what it really is.  Or maybe it will just be entertaining.

I've always been a light sleeper; maybe it's better described as a dark sleeper.  If there is a smidgeon of light shining through the window, I know it and I'm up.  If there is sound outside my window, I'm up.  I can rarely take naps - only if I'm completely exhausted or in the first trimester of pregnancy, and there's nothing else to worry about.  

However, things got much worse somewhere down the road.  It's easy to blame it on pregnancy (if you slept like a rock through all three trimesters, I bet you have a colostomy bag) or the extreme sleep deprivation of those first few months of my daughter's life.  In fact I think the most ludicrous advice I have heard about child-rearing, at least for me, was to sleep when the baby sleeps.  I have to pause a minute to let out all of the expletives in my mind associated with that phrase . . . ahh now that's better.  Ok.  I couldn't "just sleep" when my daughter slept.  I don't nap, and especially don't nap when I am worried about the baby.  I had post-partum depression and anxiety, and a million things could have gone wrong with said baby if I took a nap!  There were a zillion things I could be doing at naptime!  Like cleaning (which I hate to this day, and would beat myself up about because if I couldn't do such a simple task then I must certainly not be able to take care of a baby), sanitizing pumping equipment, sanitizing bottles, doing laundry, obsessing over whether she slept, et cetera, et cetera.  So I didn't sleep much at all.

Then when she did sleep, we all got sick.  I got sick for a very long time.  That's what happens in daycare, it doesn't stay in daycare.  Oh no.  It comes back to your house and infects your whole family.  I remember our first Thanksgiving party at daycare when all of the parents were there and I had bronchitis and I covered my mouth when I coughed.  And another mom said, "Don't bother; we all have it."  And she was right.  Hubby and I burned through our sick days and then our vacation like it was truly en fuego.  Luckily the happy munchkin would bounce right back; she's had two and a half rounds of antibiotics in her entire 3 years and three months' existence.  In contrast, I had 13 rounds of antibiotics in one year.  On top of the PPD which I still had, I was now either sick or recovering from the side effects of the antibiotics for six straight months.  This combination, I tell you, will truly drive you to the nuthouse.  Things were happening to my body that most people dare not to speak of, and they were chronic.  

Somewhere in the haze of the sickness, somewhere around her year and a half mark, I realized I needed serious help to sleep.  I was no longer sleeping every other night; it was more like two nights no sleep, one night six hours.  Rinse & repeat.  So I went to my GP and got a prescription for Ambien.  Sweet Jesus, rest at last!  I slept GREAT on Ambien.  I would bound out of bed the next morning with a big ol' smile on my face.  This was awesome for about two or three weeks, which is about the time the doctor told me I should wean myself off of Ambien.  Easier said than done.  One of the side effects is that you can't sleep the day after you take it!  Or the day after that.  Or the day after that . . . 

Four months went by, and I decided I needed another GP.  I was snapping at my husband over the tiniest little things and crying every day.  Every day.  It was then that I got a new GP and went through a sleep study (I most definitely do not have sleep apnea and I do have severe chronic insomnia), and we determined that maybe some happy pills were in order, as well as a therapist.

That was probably the best advice I had gotten to date.  The therapist and I worked on why I thought I was a bad mother, which had a lot to do with that sentence a few paragraphs back that went, "If I can't do x, then how can I possibly expect to do y" and a lactation consultant who might be super-qualified to help you figure out how to latch, but has never had a day of PPD training in her life.  More expletives in the head. . . that's better.  So I started to get better sleep hygiene habits, and started a worry journal.  The worry journal was great after a few weeks, as I could look back at all the stuff I worried about and see that either it worked out fine, or it didn't and I got over it.  So the depression went away.

But not the insomnia.  So I eventually quit the therapist, stayed on the happy pills, and decided a glass or two of wine would knock me out just fine, or some melatonin.  And they did, and that was fine, till I got bored of drinking wine (I know! perish the thought) and read that melatonin was not good if you wanted to get pregnant.  Because we were fine, right?  And we want another baby.  Well my body told me that we were NOT fine, and eventually I went back to the doc and was given an anti-anxiety med.  This one worked GREAT for sleep, it still does.  But it's not one of those things you take when you want to get pregnant.  In fact, it's gone rockstar-bad for some people.  

Finally this spring I decided maybe I needed a psychiatrist.  She switched my happy pills to happier pills and finally the anxiety is going away.  She tells me maybe now is not a good time to get pregnant (and I agree, reluctantly).  Maybe I have to sleep on my own before it's a good time.  Ok.  Then work got REALLY crazy.  I'm doing two fulltime jobs!  I even got Employee of the Month, which is awesome if you're single and have no attachments. Now it's a reminder to me of how much time I had to spend with people at work and not my family, how much I missed out on this summer.  Thank you, I'd gladly pass up that award and the plaque and the nice paperweight in exchange for my overtime back as vacation.  Alas. . . 

We recently went for a trip to see our families.  It was awesome.  I finally stopped obsessing about work and have decided that I'll give them my all for 40 hours a week, but that's it.  That seems to be helping.  But I am scared to ease off that insomnia medication.  Every time I have tried (before family trip), it goes like this.  Ok I'm not taking it tonight!  I'm gonna sleep!  Umm what if I don't?  Oh no it's x am and I'm not asleep!  Oh no! . . . let's think about. . . a song!  (get pumped up on song) Noooo I want to sleep!  Let's think about nothing.  Nothing turns into something . . .  I psych myself out of sleeping.  Hmm.

So I guess I don't really fit any type of description of insomniac anymore.  Kid's too old and I'm too happy with her for it to be PPD.  I've been practically bulletproof from sickness (cross my fingers) for the last year and a half, so it's not that.  Stress at work has eased.  I'm an insomniac for no reason.  Yay me.