Tag Archives: insomnia

PTSD and a day in May

Standard

tulips-1352561_640.jpgMy nightmares haven’t been as bad the past couple weeks: in fact I think I went a whole week without any. I still have intense dreams without the nightmares, but I can live with those.

I am feeling rather weak and I’m not sure why. My sleep schedule has been way off and I suspect that as the culprit. When I can’t sleep at night, I turn on General Conference (LDS Church) and listen to it. I haven’t had much exercise and perhaps that’s made me weaker.

I’m applying to finish my BYU Bachelor of General Studies degree (independent study) and I think that’s helped give me more empowered dreams. I’m really excited about it. In the past three years I’ve had trouble and writing and reading more serious subject books due to problems with focus and being “foggy-brained” but I think maybe I can do it now if I pace myself. When I was on campus, I had to go full time, and that was a no-go. I think writing two blogs has helped ameliorate my issues with perfectionism, so hopefully now I can just put my thoughts down on paper and get papers written. I’ve struggled for years with the fear that I’ll never be able to finish school and support myself.

I’ve also been a bit bored despite having projects to do, and my therapist sees that as a sign that I’m getting better. Now I just need more normal sleep and more exercise. It’s beautiful out there today: can’t wait to get out.

More Springtime Recovery

Standard

flowers-747206_640.jpg I’m so happy that it’s spring. I really wanted to go for a walk today because it was so beautiful outside, but every time I stood up I felt discombobulated. I also have a head tremor today. 😛 I’m working to get my days and nights back to normal (more on that in a bit), and I’m sure that’s a large part of why I’m so “off.”

So, my latest attempt at day/night normalization:
(It’s currently Thursday evening.)
-On Wednesday morning, after being up all night, I decided to once again stay up all day. We had a Relief Society (church women’s organization) activity Wednesday night and I figured that if I could stay awake, I’d have that as a reward. Plus, I miss getting out something terrible. Add Spring Fever and there you go…
-I don’t remember what I did all day yesterday (Wednesday) but it involved a lot of Hulu, Netflix, and putting away laundry.
-By about 1pm I just.wanted.sleep, so I turned on General Conference (it relaxes me) and lay down. Happily and for my own good, I didn’t fall asleep. My body was a jittery mess. I’ve never had coffee, but I imagine that maybe this is what your body feels like when you haven’t had your caffeine?
-By 3:30ish I was feeling like I could go to sleep, but I figured if I could just hold out until 6, it would be close to a normal bedtime and maybe I’d even feel up to the activity.
-By 6 I wanted to go to the activity, but when I’d stand up it wasn’t good. I let it go until 7pm, then I crawled in bed and fell immediately asleep.
-At around 7am I woke up briefly, but my body was in full anxiety panic attack mode and I couldn’t move, so I went back to sleep.
-I woke up again around 11am. I spent the next two hours, until 1pm, in a nightmare and unable to lift my head but wanting badly to be awake. It was one of those “trying to find my bedroom” nightmares again where things kept stopping me from getting home. At 1pm I opened my eyes and decided there had to be some way to get up. Sitting up took all my willpower and I sat there for a long time, shaking my head and rubbing my eyes and reminding myself that the nightmare was over.

So, hopefully I can fall asleep tonight. I managed to go for a walk! About 1/4 mile in I was thinking that I should just go home, but a McDouble at McDonald’s later I decided to try a bit farther. It was pretty iffy, but I got out! And spring is here!! There were bulbs poking their leaves out everywhere. Soon there will be tulips galore. There was a bush full of singing little birds, and at one neighbor’s the daffodils were already blooming! I love spring here so much. And as usual, the mountains were there. No matter what day it is, they always seem to look a little different, and they’re always majestic.

Martin-Luther-King.jpg

 

 

More ssleep…

Standard

sleep-197718_640So, after about 10 days without my sleep med, I was able to get a refill yesterday. Then I slept until 6pm this evening. I’m hoping that it’s just because my body is getting used to it again. When I first went on it, I was very sleepy 24/7 for about a week.

A friend texted me at about 7pm and wanted to know if I wanted to go to institute. At first I thought, “there’s no way…” because I was (and still am) ready to crawl back in bed, and my ability to speak is a bit hampered. Then I realized that all I had to do was get dressed and sit and listen. My friend is already used to me when I have trouble speaking, as are (what a blessing) several of my friends. I went and learned and even conversed and enjoyed myself.

Now I’m going back to bed!

Medication

Standard

vitamins-521365_640So, a friend who deals with depression and anxiety was wanting to compare our medication history and how different meds have had such different affects on the two of us (as you can imagine, this is a common conversation between experienced mental health patients and family members of mental health patients). I figured that since I took the time to type it out in one place, I may as well share it here. I’m leaving out plenty of stories, but this hits the basics. And humor hits the spot and is the spoonful of sugar for psyche outpatients. (I still haven’t been an inpatient….I really hope that I never have to.)  And to those reading this who may need some of these meds someday, remember that our bodies are all *very* different. I was in the very small minority with some of my reactions to these medications. You can’t give up from having one or two bad experiences. Fortunately, I started out with good experiences. But the right meds will be helpful. And don’t *even* think that I would have been okay without medication. I know it’s not the same for everyone, though. But that’s a tale for another day. And I appreciate the concern of friends and family members who freaked out as I was (and still am) going through this. Not that I want them to continue to freak out…I just appreciate those who studied the meds I was on and were concerned.

***PLEASE NOTE: I am not trained or qualified to diagnose or give medical advice on any type of psychological or psychiatric condition.*** The purpose of this blog is simply for me to share my experiences.

To my friend “Gabby”:

Effexor has been amazing for me. I’ve been on it for about 10 years now, I think? It replaced a few years on Paxil. I noticed an immediate difference. It’s still helping me, even though it’s been that long, but the doctor’s had to add the Prazosin and Klonopin and Ambien. He wanted to add more anti-anxiety drugs, but the other two we tried gave me horrible side-effects, and I think we’re down to a place where I can’t do several categories of drugs for various reasons: one category gives me Parkinson’s Disease symptoms (which would become permanent), one category lowers blood pressure and I already have low blood pressure. I think Klonopin is one of those, but the “safest,” and it hasn’t lowered it in the few months I’ve been on it.

Yes, Neurontin helped me get to sleep. Prozac actually made me sleepy (I think I was one of 5% on that one) so I took both at night. If my anxiety/insomnia gets bad enough, though, not much will put me to sleep. I think that’s why they gave me the Ativan at the hospital. It did the trick. The “retrograde amnesia” was rather amusing. They were going to have me stay the night, but my “home teachers” from church (one was my bishop) came to pick me up and the hospital felt comfortable letting me go with them. Most of my shaking had stopped and I’d managed several hours of sleep. They took me to the In N Out drive thru on the way home because I was starving. The last thing I remembered was entering the drive thru. The next thing I remembered was waking up in the morning. My roommate thought it was pretty funny (we need a sense of humor about these things.) I mean….what a tragedy. I got to eat In N Out and I didn’t get to remember it? I still don’t remember any of it. So I called my home teacher and he said that the hospital had warned them that I would end up forgetting things. Maybe it was a higher than normal dose? And I called the hospital to ask if I’d ever remember it….they laughed and said that it was normal and that most likely I wouldn’t ever remember. Such a tragedy.
In-N-Out_Burger_cheeseburgers

In_n-out_burger_sign

Worst medication experiences for me: Zyprexa (made me gain 60 pounds in six weeks. Yup. I went from 127 to almost 190. They took me off it and I lost most of it in 6 months. 127 was too low for me.) It was too bad because I felt the least anxiety on that med that I have since I was a child. But I was *starving* ALL the time. I was very, very strange. Abilify made me gain weight, too.
Other bad medication experience (the worst) was Geodon. It helped my energy level and made my sleep schedule almost normal. After about 7 months on it, though, the Parkinson’s Disease symptoms started. I could do hardly anything with my hands. Signing my name was stressful. Somehow my psychiatrist didn’t pick up on it, and I’m not one to always know that something is a problem. I thought they were side effects I’d have to live with. It affected my eyesight and I needed glasses to read. One of my legs bent and turned inward as I walked. I had developed a facial twitch (which I hadn’t noticed) and TMJ. My arms twisted in and out, too. My father in law and ex-husband (my former father in law has Parkinson’s) were the first to think something was really wrong. I saw my parents for the first time in several monthsand my step mom flipped out at the changes she saw and called my doctor and insisted they see me right then. Getting things done fearlessly is definitely one of her strengths. I had to see a neurologist for a year, and I couldn’t drive for a year. The shaking went away and my eyesight back to normal, but the neurologist was disgusted and said that it would have become permanent. I really appreciated him and his help.

My doctor here tried two other meds recently, both which gave me problems. Seroquel gave me bad flashbacks as I was falling asleep, and I was starting to have problems with my eyesight again. I can’t remember the name of the other one, but I was depressed. That’s when I asked if I could try a sleep medication. (See two entries ago for more on that).

I cannot wait to try some holistic remedies when (hopefully not if) I get my disability back pay, if I get approved for disability. It’s supposed to happen any time now.

 

Day and Night, Stop getting confused…

Standard

day night I started dealing with insomnia in 1993. For those who haven’t ever dealt with it, it’s about like you’d imagine. I could be exhausted, but I still couldn’t fall asleep. After a couple of months, it could last until the next morning. I was a missionary at the time, and my mission president happened to be a doctor. He said “sleep when you can.” That was a relief, because I was big on guilting myself at the time.

When both my kids were small, and in their first year of life, I would get so “jacked up” trying to stay awake during the day with them that I would end up like a robot but still unable to sleep. I’d read about Scandinavian royalty years ago that had a strange disease that would leave them unable to sleep, so eventually they’d die of exhaustion. (So comforting, but at least I knew I wasn’t alone???)

Somehow, at least for me, I think it paired up “nicely” with the extreme fatigue that started around the same time. Also while a missionary, I fell asleep on my bike several times. I was so tired once while riding home with my companions on the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice, France, that I’d stop my bike for just a second, put my head down, and sleep a bit. Then I’d start out again.

Both during my divorce (about 10 years ago) and ever since, if I’ve tried to do too much, I end up exhausted, and at least a dozen times I’ve ended up sleeping for more than 30 hours at a stretch. Anytime I woke, I’d still be what the French would call “crevé,” or spent and exhausted, as if it were still 3am and I’d been hit by a truck the day before. This started again when I tried to go back to school three years ago.

A doctor tried to put me on a sleep medication (that I don’t remember the name of) during my divorce that knocked me out for 24 hours and made me feel glued to my bed and unable to get up. Obviously that didn’t work. Since that time I’ve been too afraid of trying any sleep meds. Finally, last April (2014), when my doctor was changing my meds, I asked if we could just try a sleep medication. So, he did. And it’s worked. I still get insomnia sometimes, but nothing like the past 20 years. It was hard to get used to, and my right eye twitched for the first couple of weeks, then stopped. I felt like a zombie the first week.zombie-156138_640

Somehow the last time I saw him I either misplaced my prescription for my sleep med, or I forgot to ask him for one. Sometimes he calls it in instead. I had to do without it this past weekend, but I was okay. In the past, if I didn’t have it, I didn’t sleep. But I did sleep. I was….normal? 🙂 Then when I was at the clinic on Wednesday, I found out that they had accidentally printed it out at a different clinic. So I decided to try to go without it until my next appointment. Oops. I didn’t sleep last night. My days and nights are mixed up again.

So, the classic way to get over it when you mix up your days and nights is to either

  1. After being up all night, stay up all day to, then in theory you’re back to normal
  2. After being up all night, sleep through the day and then the next night. Then you’re back to normal.

In theory, these work pretty well. Of course, even when they work, your body is a little confused and you feel sort of funky. The second (sleep all day and all night) has worked for me when I’ve been extremely tired. The first has been the strategy that’s worked best for me when my mind is just off. Unfortunately, sometimes (like last week or the week before, forgot which it was) after being up all night and all day, I still couldn’t sleep the next night: then when I feel asleep the next morning, I had really intense nightmares all day.

However, I blame myself for this for not keeping better track of whether or not I had a refill for my sleep medication. And who knows, maybe I’ll fall asleep within a few hours. I’m not going to try until I feel sleepy, though. Ever lay in bed for an entire night without sleeping? Not fun. Better to get out of bed and do something.

I’m still kicking

Standard

something will grow
I may have mentioned that for some reason I have had pretty bad depression and anxiety the past couple of weeks. At first I attributed it to

  1. Not getting to be with my kids for Christmas because I had the flu (would have been a two week trip)
  2. Getting to finally see them for one day during a quick three day trip (one day traveling there, one day with them, one day back) and then the subsequent let down
  3. Realizing that I’ve been here (a couple states away) almost four years when I thought it would be 6 months to 1 year
  4. Waiting on my disability hearing, which is supposed to happen this month….but I’m thinking it may not. It’s been a two year wait. I just want it over. I have a lot of emotional work to do on this one, I’m realizing, and I need patience badly.

My stomach has been hurting for days, I got my days and nights all mixed up last week (but not in any kind of “regular “order) and yesterday I just couldn’t eat anything. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and I was hoping that would get my sleep schedule back in order (something people who know me really well have probably heard 100 times, especially before I got put on sleep meds). I fell very happily asleep early last night, after a fun singles home evening at our place. I woke up at some point to use the restroom in the morning, then slept fitfully with lots of nightmares until….5pm. Yup. I will do another post sometime about my fatigue and sleep issues over the past 23 years. It could be a long one.

So, between not having eaten much yesterday and then sleeping for a really long time, I woke up with really low blood sugar and unable to speak much. A good friend brought me McDonald’s (I eat the hamburgers without the buns….gluten free) and it helped a lot. I had no desire to try to go anywhere, but my roommate came home and said that she was going to volleyball/game night at the church and was only going to stay to play a few games. With as little as I saw anyone last week, I figured that maybe I should go. It was perfect. No one had turned on any music during the amount of time we were there, so it was quiet, and I was able to just sit and watch and realize that the world is still moving along and that I’ll be okay. I joke with people that my brain isn’t functioning enough to do certain things sometimes, which of course people laugh at because they relate, but I need to say it less often, I think, because it’s so very true for me so often. I didn’t try to play board games because I knew that I couldn’t. There was no way I was up to volleyball. I can just imagine the ball coming towards me and me ducking and saying, “Help!” which is kind of funny but possibly a little disturbing.

One of the PTSD support groups I’m in was rather helpful today. There can be so many posts in that group that it seems like most of them go unanswered, but in reply to someone asking a question, someone replied with this great post on a website that is a lot more informative than most that I’ve been on. It seems like most web pages about PTSD (or other mental illnesses) are really general and don’t give any hint of how complicated each illness/category is and how everyone experiences it in so many different ways. I’m going to use it for another post that explains more how my PTSD is the same and different from some of the things they mention. It really made me happy. I feel like it was the direct result to a prayer, as well.

I have so many blessings, and it can be easy to forget them when I’m experiencing things that just seem way too much. My home teacher mentioned a few days ago that that’s when he needs to look at the past for all the ways the Lord helped him then, so that he remembers that things will get better again, and that he’ll get through. Such a good reminder.

The Holidays and Anxiety/PTSD

Standard

I know that this isn’t relegated just to those of us with anxiety and/or PTSD: the holidays tend to bring up my anxiety to the worst levels of the year. On the good side, it’s usually for good things. (See my post on good anxiety and bad anxiety here.)  This year I have added to it that it’s been harder than in the past few years to find a way to get down to CA to spend it with my kids, and to find a place to stay: and also looming, again, is the supposed-to-be soon Disability Hearing.

I also have a December birthday. When I lived at home with my kids, I don’t think it bothered me. Several years I even forgot about it until family reminded me that day. Away from my kids and with the “bad stress” of this year (Disability Hearing) or even without that, I have to admit that I haven’t looked forward to my birthday since moving to Utah almost 4 years ago.gift-2677_640

My friends have gone out of their way this year to make sure that I’ve had a good birthday. It’s actually not until a few days from today, but I’ve already been sung to twice, received a boatload of clothes from my parents, been taken out to lunch by my amazing little sister, and on my birthday I get to go to a choir concert with one of my oldest friends. I’m a huge choral music geek, and I sang with this choral organization for several years, and my daughter sang with them one semester, and their concerts are amazing, so I’m pretty excited.

I got to do a white elephant party last night with friends, in just the style I’ve needed lately: small, laid back, not crowded, and mellow: and lots of laughs. And singing. I was kind of a mess before the party (holiday PTSD, hello) much more unorganized than I’d like to be, wrapping white elephant gifts at the last minute even though they were planned ahead, forgetting to eat dinner, not getting to the pharmacy, forgetting what I was doing every other minute (squirrel…)   (squirrel…..). But I decided that although “good anxiety” is still anxiety, and still makes you tired, at least it improves your mood. I had insomnia after, and then slept for 16 hours (ugh) and had weird, complicated dreams that were thankfully only partly-nightmarish. I still had some “super hero” abilities in the dreams, which for me I think is a sign that I’m not feeling like things are completely out of my control. And this is why I haven’t been doing things on Saturday nights: ruins my Sundays.

As usual, I will miss my daughter’s band/orchestra concert, because it’s in CA and I’m in UT. I’m going to see if I can bribe someone to record at least a few seconds of it.holiday music

My step mother is yet again on another kick of asking me “why can’t you at least take a part time job? You know, at McDonald’s or something?”  I’m still so flabbergasted that she asks, even after having seen me at my worst so many times, that I just have to remind myself how worried she is about my Dad getting older (he’s in his mid 80’s, she’s younger) and ignore it. I think this is one of those things that worries me the most about my upcoming Disability Hearing: I’m kind of a disaster. I need to get out sometimes to help keep my sanity and my sense of hope alive. I can barely handle planning a trip to CA and inexpensive gifts for my family. There seems to be a huge contingent of people who think that if you can breather, you can work. When I work, both my employer and customers (if the job involves customers) catch it quite easily when my mind goes blank (which is frequent) and wonder why I’m trying to work. I had a group of holiday shoppers once completely freak out, and several of them insist on going to find managers to tell them I needed to go home and rest, when I was subconsciously channeling “I’m okay, I’m okay” in my head. When I try to work, (or do school, even, unfortunately), everything goes downhill. Even when I’m not working, I’m struggling. I have a really hard time not feeling anger for people who don’t understand.  I try to remember what another family member said, that “people just don’t know.” If they have someone in their lives who is dealing with mental illness, especially (but not just if) it is debilitating, I wish they would make more of an effort to read up on it, especially the latest research. Sticking one’s head in the sand and being determined to stay in the denial and anger stages of grief over a loved one having a mental illness can be so detrimental to the health of everyone involved.  I still am trying to be understanding, though. When I don’t just let it go, it consumes me. However, when I start to trust too much, it often ends up biting me again.

New meds and nightmares

Standard

I actually would prefer it if this blog wasn’t so negative. I usually feel like I’m a positive person. I guess that the subject matter would lend itself to the negative, but hopefully my sense of humor will peek in every now and then! I have many, many blessings in my life that somehow end up making up for all of this. First and foremost would be my children, then other family, friends, good roommates, friends at church and opportunities to serve. I could go on.
moon-165487_1280
I am sleeping less again since the medication change. I’m glad that much of the sleepiness has been wearing off, but I’m still sleeping more than when I was first put on sleep meds a few months ago.

One irony that I’ll have to speak with my doctor about is that since he upped my nightmare medication, the nightmares are still there. So, with my past two med changes, this is how it’s gone so far:

1.Got prescribed Ambien, nightmares mostly go away.
2.After a few months, they come back, but not as bad.
3.He ups my Prazosin and puts me on another anti-anxiety med, I start sleeping about 18 hours a day at first. The nightmares do not go away and seem to last longer.
4.After a few weeks, I’m sleeping less, but still more than when I first got put on Ambien.
5.Also, I’m feeling more lethargic, but that could be due to the cold weather kicking in!

The nightmares:
I have quite a few repeating themes in my dreams and nightmares. Last night’s/this morning’s included a lot of them.

One of them, that I’ve had at least since I was a teenager, is that I can’t speak or move very well, but no one seems to care (or at the very least, they just don’t notice, or think it’s no big deal) and some get very annoyed and tell me to just stand up and get out of the way. (I’m often crawling because I’m too out of it to walk in these nightmares.) If I manage to speak at all, they yell at me that this is evidence that I’m okay and, again, tell me to get out of the way. This often involves being in a school yard, lost, or in the middle of a sports practice or game and I can’t seem to get out of the way. Once I manage to get out of the field, I can’t remember where home is or where I’m going, or I realize that I’m supposed to be in a class that I don’t know how to get to without going back through the field. My nightmares and dreams are frequently so vivid and lifelike that it is difficult to tell if I’m awake or not. I’m often trying to get back to my real life and wake myself up, but instead the scene will change, or I’ll wake up in yet another place. I can feel the textures and see all the colors and feel what is going on.

Dreams and nightmares that are that vivid may seem fun, but they’re tiring. The ones that are the most tiring are when I’m trying to wake up. Usually during those dreams, for some reason I’m trying to get back to Utah, where I live now. Sometimes I’ll wake up a little and see a glimpse of my bedroom wall or my alarm clock, but I feel very shaky and glued to my bed and my subconscious pulls me back in.

Some of this may not sound too bad, but my nightmares sometimes involve me getting stabbed repeatedly, a gang of people after me with guns while I’m trying to take care of babies and other orphans, confrontations with the gang where a gun is being pointed right at me, and once again, I feel a huge adrenaline rush of fear as if it were really happening. I’ve been raped in my nightmares, gang-raped, and more frequently chased by others.nightmare

Last night one part of my nightmare that’s another common theme was that I had to get from one building to another, and I kept having to walk along a busy street where, because I was so disoriented, I kept accidentally walking into the street into incoming traffic. A policeman got angry with me instead of wondering what was wrong. I also have nightmares where I’m trying to cross the street and either the green light is only a few seconds, or I’m so tired and slow that I can’t make it very far across. In last night’s, I also got stopped by a corrupt judge who was making up lies about me haven stolen something or being an escaped convict. Thankfully there were a few people nearby who said they were willing to testify that this judge was lying. The judge was a friend of the police officer.

Getting a little tired of the details? I understand. And this was only a very small portion of what I dreamed last night. It also involved trouble finding my cell phone, finally hearing it ring and not being able to talk to the person on the other end, people throwing darts with long, sharp tips (an inch and a half, not sure why that was the length and why I remembered) that would hit me and there wasn’t anywhere I could go where these “dart games” weren’t being played on either side of me.

As you can imagine, stress tends to bring on worse nightmares. I’m getting anxious about the holidays, about finding a way home to spend time with my kids for Christmas, and especially about my upcoming disability hearing that I’ll only have two weeks’ notice for. I’ve been waiting almost two years for this hearing, and if I don’t get accepted for disability, I really don’t know what I’ll do. Which is pointless to worry about right now, but even though I don’t think about it during the day, I’m sure it’s making it’s way into my subconscious.

“You Seem So Capable….”

Standard

superman-295328_640This is something I’ve heard more than once. Frankly, it’s something that frequently goes through my head, so I understand where it’s coming from.

In my inexpert non-doctor but “I live with myself every day” opinion, these seem to be my biggest issues with being able to work:

  1. I can’t guarantee that I can be somewhere at any specific time
  2. I deal with debilitating fatigue
  3. When you see me, I’m *usually* at my best
  4. I still don’t understand all of my “triggers” or where they come from, so I have a lot to work on
  5. When bombarded with unexpected or expected triggers that take over quickly in an unexpected way, my mind just “shuts off.”
  6. I have both a “genetic tremor” that, when combined with the shaking from the anxiety, kind of freaks out employers. They want me to go to the doctor to get it “fixed.”

 

Things that throw people seems to be that

  • I usually have higher than average abilities socially (with some quirks thrown in, but who doesn’t have that…)
  • I have (supposedly) a high I.Q.
  • I have a lot of people skills, writing skills, networking skills, etc.

However, I also need a lot of sleep. My son asked a really good question of me one time when he said, “But if you work out, will you eventually work through the fatigue and build up more resistance and be able to sleep less?”  I wish this were the case. I’ve been dealing with the fatigue for twenty years now. Sometimes I can do more than others. Somehow it seems tied to my anxiety. I can walk 3-5 miles several days a week and I’m just fine. If I try to up the amount of just about anything I do, though, and I keep pushing it, my ability to endure doesn’t increase.  Instead, my body “crashes.” The most common thing that happens in that case is that I end up sleeping for about 30 hours, and you couldn’t wake me up if you wanted to or if I wanted to. If there was a fire in the building and someone didn’t carry me out or lead me by the hand, I’d probably die. It’s just a fact, not asking anyone to feel sorry for me.

When my son (now 17 years old) was an infant, I experienced extreme sleep deprivation. I was put on anti-depressants after that, and changed my diet quite a bit (I went gluten-free before he was born) and slowly gained more stamina. When my daughter was born four years later, I was doing a lot better, but it wasn’t hard to tell that I didn’t have the stamina that other moms had. I either felt like I needed to go to bed around 6pm, or I felt “wired” like I just needed a few hours to myself after everyone else was asleep. I was also so tired that I would forget to eat enough during the day, so just before bed I’d be shoveling in food during a time when I didn’t need to worry if everyone else was getting enough.

I didn’t take my kids many places, compared to the the other moms we knew in the graduate student family housing where we lived. If I started to think, “hey, maybe I am normal….” I’d have either friends or random strangers ask me if I was okay. The general consensus of the other moms was that I always seemed more tired than other moms. I supposed that, coming from other moms of small children, that was saying something.

I think that, more than anything, the way my mind will just “turn off” is the scariest symptom I have. I look normal (I think) when it happens, but if people try to talk to me, I can’t speak back. It can take a lot of effort to remember what is going on around me.

I think the mind turning off started towards the end of my marriage. I don’t mean to be negative towards my ex-husband, who has made a lot of progress and is a good dad and provider and (thankfully) remarried several years ago. He was in graduate school, trying to finish a PhD., and at least three or four years before that had just gotten tired of my anxiety issues. I had had several doctors and therapists tell me that I needed more time to relax, or things would get worse. He didn’t like that because he wasn’t sure how we’d accomplish it. He often took the kids to school, took them to the grocery store with him, or to visit his parents. But towards the end of the marriage and during the divorce, I could be completely wiped out, and he’d just leave. My kids watched a lot of t.v. and movies. More and more I had difficulties sleeping, no matter how tired I was. I felt like a zombie. I wanted to talk about other things we could do, maybe talk to people at church for ideas, and I was seeing a psychiatrist at a Post-Partum Clinic who after a year or two had me transfer to the Anxiety Clinic.

There was a lot more to it, but probably not worth sharing. I asked him if maybe the kids and I could go live with his parents, but he didn’t want that. My psychiatrist there (and the ones where I’ve lived since) said that I already had PTSD at that point, but that my marriage had made it a lot worse. The anxiety seems to have started when I was about 9 or 10 years old. It’s a very long story how I figured out that part.

Changing Meds is for the Birds

Standard

birds-311975_1280When you’re on psychiatric medication, it’s a given that at least every few years your medication will “wear off” i.e. not work as well, and that your psychiatrist will need to find some changes for you. I will not try to outline every problem I’ve had with every medication change in just one post. That would take a l*o*t of writing and trying to remember lots of random stuff. But let’s just say that I’ve been on one particular medication for almost 10 years. It’s worked really well for me. 10 years is a long time for one medication to keep working, though. (Now remember, I’m not a doctor….notice the “liability” notice at the very bottom. I’m spouting what I remember best from what I’ve been told through several sources. This is NOT medical advice. I majored in history, people. Minors in music and French. I can’t help diagnose anything or give advice on prescriptions.)bottles-309391_640

So, about three years ago when I came to this mountain state to try to finish my degree, the nightmares that I’ve had on and off almost my whole life (at least since my teen years) got a lot worse again. So, I got put on a medication that’s supposed to help lessen the nightmares, called Prazosin. It did help, a lot. Then trying to do school full time messed up all my symptoms. I’d be sitting in class and my fear would increase even though I couldn’t think of anything I needed to be afraid of. The harmless people around me suddenly seemed scary, even though generally I’m not that easily intimidated by people. I was exhausted and I’d go to bed around 4-6pm and sleep until 2pm the next day, and my roommates would be worried whether or not I’d eaten, and I’d wake up with my blood sugar abysmally low and unable to speak or walk straight. I had several bouts of sleeping 32-36 hours straight. When I was married, my ex-husband would call this “comatose” because he could say my name and gently shake me and talk to me and pick me up a few inches then let me drop to my pillow and nothing would rouse me. I’d be in a deep, deep sleep because I’d get so tired. My therapist in Los Angeles had done her Ph.D. Research in anxiety, and she explained to me that high anxiety, whether from good or bad things, tires people out. So, those with high anxiety problems are often tired….all the time.penguin-159784_1280 sleeping

Hmm, back to the subject. I had wanted to finish my degree so that I could at least be a substitute teacher in CA and work on the days when I felt up to it, and rest on the days that I didn’t. I also figured that school would be a good “dry run” because I had to go full time in order to get a Pell Grant, and I could “rest” when I wasn’t in class. Instead I had some of the same problems I had when I’d come home from France for my Junior and Senior years at BYU years before: sometimes I was okay, but increasingly I couldn’t concentrate, at all, on my readings. I could “fake it” pretty well in class, for a while, but then I crashed. The fatigue increased to where I couldn’t make it to class much anymore and if I did, my insides felt like there was an earthquake, and even if I though I looked okay on the outside, complete strangers would ask me if I was okay and if they could get me something to eat or find somewhere for me to sit down. I had been bound and determined to finish school, but it wasn’t going to happen.

This was about medication, huh?  🙂  So, it’s cheaper for my parents, who are helping me out (huge blessing) for me to be here than in CA with my kids. Not going to go there right now. Worst thing of my life. My kids are in great hands, though. Still worst thing ever. But…I started my application for disability, for the second time. I’ll tell the “first time” story another day. And waiting on disability can take a very long time. It’s been almost two years now.nightmare-455776_1280

Last fall, when I thought I was recovering, sort of, from too much stress, things got worse instead. After about 4-5 months of not being able to wake up and the worst nightmares I’ve had since my divorce ten years ago (but there were more of them, and they seemed “real,” and I couldn’t tell if they were my reality or not) my doctor tries a few meds that gave me severe side effects. We finally settled on something for sleep, and within a few weeks I had the most normal sleep schedule I’d had since I was 22 years old. The best part? I could wake up if I needed to. No more hours of nightmares about trying to wake up, and getting taken to a different place in my nightmares instead. I could set my alarm and wake up.

We’re almost to the end of this chapter. I had several months of good sleep and getting more Priesthood Blessings (I apologize if you’re not LDS and you don’t know what this is, I can explain or provide a link later) and learning a new sort of meditation technique called “tapping” and using some essential oils, then a few weeks ago things got really bad again. This time it was racing thoughts. I do have these from time to time, but it hadn’t been this bad since I was in school, and it was worse. I felt like I was losing my mind, like I was afraid of everyone. I think part of what precipitated it was a lot of paperwork I had needed to do for various things (I get kind of paranoid about paperwork, I feel like I’m going to do everything wrong) and some stressful things in my family life. All I could do for the racing thoughts was to lie down in bed and try to clear my head, but I was having trouble getting enough to eat. I wondered if I should check myself into the hospital. I got advice from several different people over the weekend and ended up with an appointment to see my doctor. I found a ride to my trauma group before my doctor’s appointment. That group is always helpful to me, but this time especially so. Everyone in the group said that it sounded like I was in need of a medication change, and that I would be okay. So much better than however expensive the hospital or E.R. is (thankfully I’ve never had to stay in the hospital overnight) and the doctor was really helpful.teddy-242848_1280

End of the story: the doctor upped one of my meds and put me on another one that I was on years ago. I’ve been sleepy for a couple weeks (only awake for maybe 6-8 hours/day) which of course also freaked me out, but it was much better than the paranoia and racing thoughts. The past couple days I’ve been feeling like I’m pulling out of the sleepiness. Also, I had a really nice visit from an uncle and aunt that I love a lot.

I do not want this to go one for the rest of my life. I’ve been told by a couple doctors that they believe I can come out of this eventually, as well as therapists. I want to believe that.

I didn’t expect to make this entry so long, but there it is. Kudos if you got through the whole thing.  🙂