Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dear Sleep, Thanks for the Memories

I have to start out with an honest admission--I really have no idea what to blog about today. I've just set a goal for myself to try to blog at least twice a week, and I know this weekend's going to be a tad insane, so post today I will. With nothing much going on in my lady-parts, I'm really having to be creative here.

Since I would love to have my default attitude in life be one of thankfulness and peace, I thought it might be a good idea to transfer that to my blog. Set my default post-mood on the gratitude setting. I'm not going to set a pattern of Thankful Thursdays or anything like that, but I will post today about something for which I am thankful.

Sleep. I've been hesitant to write about this because I'm afraid of jinxing things or something, but here goes.

Sleep and I have had a conflicted and angst-ridden relationship for quite a while now. I think sleep is considered Yin and therefore more feminine in Chinese medicine, so I'll call Sleep a she. Maybe I took her too much for granted for the first 19 years of my life. Not that I was never sleep-deprived in high school--I was, in fact, perpetually sleep-deprived--but I never had much trouble falling asleep once I got in bed. Lie down, relax a few minutes, and there she was, ready to escort me through a night of strange-but-rarely-scary dreams, straight through to the morning. If I woke up in the night, it was only to be thankful that I still had a few more hours to enjoy her before I had to get up at the excruciating hour of 5:45am.

Then, at some point when I was around 19 or 20, I started having the occasional night where I had a little trouble falling asleep. Looking back now, I wonder if it was somehow related to the dieting and crazy exercising I did that first summer home from college, when I lost 30 pounds and punished my body into hypothalamic amenorrhea. Throwing my body out of balance like that could easily have other results, as well, at least in theory. But it could also have been that I just had more to worry about.

In any case, any of you who have experienced the occasional sleepless night probably know how it spirals and accumulates. Insomnia is so psychological--it's almost impossible to tell if there's something physical going on or if you're just so nervous about not being able to find Sleep that you keep yourself awake. I was still on mostly friendly terms with Sleep. She came to me without too many issues most nights. But I dreaded those nights when she would hide from me for a while. In my mind, there were few things in life that were scarier or more nerve-wracking. Tylenol PM became my friend. I longed to be one of those people, like my brother, who simply didn't worry about it. Who wasn't phased by the idea of insomnia. Who took Sleep for granted, and therefore never had problems finding her.

A few years ago, I think God decided it was time I face my frenemy Sleep head-on. I had just started grad school and was a bit overwhelmed with how much I had to do, and then I stopped being able to find Sleep easily at all. And I was absolutely panicked about it. Even the mention of the word "insomnia" had always caused me to break out in a cold sweat, and here I was, basically an insomniac. My doctor was quick to prescribe me first Am.bien, which was great but too expensive, and then Traz.adone, a cheap anti-depressant with the side-effect of drowsiness. I took the Traz.adone for two nights in a row, and the second morning, as I was standing in front of our bathroom sink getting ready to head to school, I blacked out, fell out of the bathroom and into the hallway, and hit the door of the hallway closet. My husband says that was the scariest moment of his life. I guess my eyes were twitching a bit for the few seconds I was laying there. I came out of it quickly and it wasn't a big deal, but I decided Traz.adone might not be a good long-term solution.

I won't bore you with all the details of what happened for the next few months. I was depressed. I was terrified. I didn't sleep a single night without some kind of chemical help.

I eventually came out of it. I found some herbal supplements that helped. I found some generic Am.bien online for much cheaper. I began to really believe that I was not in control of my ability to find Sleep, so I couldn't change anything by worrying. And I realized that I really could survive insomnia. It wasn't actually the end of the world, as I had previously thought.

I've been back on speaking terms with Sleep the past few years. I still have days or weeks at a time where she's more elusive, and I have to make use of that Am.bien. Then I have other weeks where all it takes is a little valerian or melatonin.

That is, until starting acupuncture. Let me first just say that the verdict's still out on the acupuncture for me. I'm doing it to have normal cycles and get pregnant, and thus far, neither of those seems anywhere in sight. And my acupuncturist assures me that my other occasional minor...disturbances (eczema, digestive issues, nasal congestion) will also subside. All of those are still alive and kickin', though I have been since starting. But the insomnia? Pretty much gone. Seriously. I've surprised myself with how easily I've been falling asleep for the last 40-odd days since starting the acupuncture. I keep waiting for another bump in the road in my relationship with Sleep, but 40 days is a bit of a record. And not only have I been falling asleep more easily, but I also haven't been waking up as often. Just my nightly old lady bathroom trip. But I used to wake up and feel restless 2-3 times most nights.

The only nights I've had trouble have been either when I'm waking up super early the next morning, which always makes me feel more nervous and pressured about falling asleep, or when I've had irritating...ahem...gas issues.

Like I said, I've been nervous about telling anyone about my new-found peace with Sleep, because I'm afraid I'll lose it by talking about it. But I'm on the record now. I'm very, very, very thankful. Sleep, thanks for being my friend again. Katy, thanks for the amazing acupuncture and herbs. And God, thanks for taking me on this long journey through insomnia. It has been really painful at times, but I really have learned so much about you and about myself through it. And I would definitely still be stuck in my anxiety about Sleep had I never experienced the terror of its loss in the way that I did.


Josey said...

I think it's so interesting the whole mind/body connection. I've only done two acupuncture sessions so far, but I look forward to more this summer (once I scrape together the money for a package of some sort!).

Congrats on the zzzzzs. :)

Adele said...

I hope Sleep stays around for a nice long time. Like you, I've had my ups and downs with it. And I agree completely: so much of it is psychological. So often the reason I don't sleep is because, er, I'm afraid of not sleeping! And it becomes a vicious cycle. But I do think that sleep will always get better...sometimes you just have to wait it out.

Alex said...

I've had bouts of insomnia before, and it just messes with your whole world! I'm so happy for you that acupuncture seems to be giving you what you needed!!!

Kakunaa said...

I, too, hope Sleep stays around for you. I was one of those people blessed with lots of no problem sleep for years, but since this battle with IF began I don't sleep without help. It blows. I totally understand....Hope she stays here for you.

Katie said...

Speaking of being thankful, your post reminded me of this site a friend just turned me on to yesterday.

Maybe you should write sleep a thank you note.