I haven't written much about the sleep clinic because it's boring. It's boring to think about, it's boring to talk about. I can't imagine how boring it must be to read about. It's also frustrating. So far there has been a whole lot of trial and error without much progress. My doctor has determined what my brain is doing that prevents me from sleeping but can't figure out the cause. So. Boring and frustrating. Not exactly blog fodder. It's been a huge part of my life for the last five weeks though, and I'm only able to see now, on the other side, how it's affected me. For the first time in five weeks I feel like I'm seeing clearly.
Five weeks ago my sleep doctor prescribed a sedative to be taken nightly for a month. I had a few qualms about taking a sedative every night but I kept them to myself. I feel a lot of (stupid! pointless!) guilt about living in a country where not only do I get to see a sleep specialist, I don't have to pay for any of the medical services provided. I know it's silly because those resources are not magically applied to someone who needs them more if I choose to not see the sleep doctor, but it doesn't change the fact that I feel like a first-world softy. I feel like I'm supposed to be grateful and willing to try anything so I shut my mouth and nod my head and wear the doctor-prescribed evil breathing mask for six weeks until I'm doing the ugly cry in the respiratory therapist's office, begging her to take the mask back from me. (She did.) So I didn't ask any questions. I filled the prescription and I started taking the pills.
I started taking the pills even though the pharmacist who filled my prescription told me that they should not be used for longer than 7 consecutive nights and despite the literature he provided that literally had a full page of warnings and possible side effects.
For a while, things were great. I slept through the night, every night, and woke up feeling rested. I felt a little druggy but overall I felt better than I've felt in a long time. I experienced a few side effects but they were either insignificant (like the ever-present metallic taste in my mouth) or funny (like the time I got out of bed in the middle of the night, opened the front hall closet, put on Shawn's jacket, and returned to bed without waking up.)
Then something shifted, sometime during my second week on the drug and suddenly things weren't so great. I couldn't verbalize it at the time but I stopped feeling like myself. Waking up in the morning wasn't as difficult as it used to be and I didn't constantly crave a nap, but I was so groggy. I felt slow, like I was missing connections in my brain. One morning I put my running shoes on then sat, completely stumped, for what felt like a full minute before I realized that the shoelaces needed to be tied. I knew I was missing something, I knew there was another step, I just couldn't quite get there. It wasn't just shoes, either. Everything required my full concentration. I was terrified that I would leave the house without wearing pants or call my boss "dad" or something equally as horrifying so I had a constant commentary running through my brain. It was exhausting.
My third and fourth week week on the drug were horrible. I have never felt so dark or listless. And I couldn't see it. I thought I had the autumn blues. I thought I was rundown because of work stress. Shawn could see that something was wrong but I ignored his pleas for me to see my doctor. It wasn't until one night when I forgot to take my pill until an hour past the correct time and I ended up lying on the kitchen floor, sobbing and clutching my head because it felt like it would explode if I moved the slightest bit, that I realized that something was wrong. It took Shawn threatening to take me to the emergency room before I was willing to admit that the negative side effects of the drug were far outweighing the benefits.
I've been off the drug for just over a week now. The first few days were extremely difficult. I suffered from rebound insomnia which meant that my body had become dependent on the sedative and forgot how to fall asleep. Fortunately, by day three I was so exhausted that I started sleeping again. Every day I feel like I've reclaimed a little bit more of myself. I'm back to being bone-tired because my sleeping pattern has returned to being horrid but I don't feel desperate anymore. I don't feel like the zombie version of myself. The sun is shining, a little bit, and I'm so happy that I can feel it again.