Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Insomnia: the forgotten symptom

Taking over my own health

I took a drive to the Rural Health Clinic over the weekend to see and maybe feel if I could, the beginning of what has become a mudslide of health problems that started in my life.

Yes, I'm bi-polar, but does that mean I am more prone to other disorders, mental or physical, or really what I'm saying was it the chicken or the egg?

Did my bi-polar  have anything to do with my thyroid problem for instance? The stress of being bi-polar could certainly link it to other problems, and here's the biggest problem I suddenly realized that I face: Insomnia.

For the last 8 years I have had differing levels of insomnia, meaning losing restful sleep so important to a BP, but also to any human being.

I could probably say that this symptom of itself has been a serious problem in my ability to regain my health. I've had autoimmune symptoms, and no diagnosis, but the problem I see is the fact that the symptom of lack of sleep, can exacerbate the rest of the problems.

Now I believe I may understand what happened with Michael Jackson

I've never had a sleep problem, I liked to sleep, and I made sure I had my 9 hours a night. It was clockwork back then, I didn't have to work to sleep, I just went to work and came home and fell asleep.

It seems easy enough, just like breathing, it was on it's own clock, the timer in my head, the Melatonin, all smooth sailing for 40 years.

And like a dark force had come over me, I couldn't sleep, my body went into stress.

Doctors immediately bring up "sleep aids" such as Ambien and I was given this drug at a time the insomnia was far beyond control of a drug.

The sleep pattern became so disturbed that I was in mania all the time, and I after a while I could not control it. In fact, my bird is living in a $800 dollar cage that was "free" to the crazy lady who nitpicked the imperfections of the cage, that the company decided to discontinue our purchase, and the cage was without cost.

But it's never without cost

As I was saying about Michael Jackson, he obviously suffered from insomnia to even consider using the particular drug, I don't have the name of it in front of me, but it's delivered via licensed anesthesiologist, to get to sleep.

His health, mental health was at stake, and the doctors even with all his money did not treat him properly.

I don't know anything about his potential for abuse of children, but I do know, that insomnia can cause a myriad of symptoms, including lack of self control.

When Jackson died, it was unnecessarily so in my opinion. He was sick, he couldn't sleep, his body had no recovery system to steady his mind and keep a balance in his body.

I could not handle the loss of sleep. I have a sleep journal my friend, not doctor, suggested I mark down the pattern which was occurring. Looking back in time, I see that I had a serious problem, and nothing on my medical records says "insomnia."

Why is insomnia not noted for it's debilitating side effects?

When I arrived here in this rural area above Bakersfield, I was sick, very sick, and probably slept one minute a night. But I was never sure, as I would writhe in bed, trying to get comfortable all night long. Suddenly I think the candle blew out for only a moment, then with a start, I would re-awake to the unreal, the one minute of sleep.

I assume my brain had to shut down or it simply began to shut down on it's own, to save my life.

Stress a killer and Insomnia the stress-or, together break down muscle, change the chemistry of the mind.

Now I'm not saying as a bi-polar that I haven't done some really strange things based on a mind which had no "off" switch, but what happened 8 years ago, was way beyond my "normal" strangeness.

I was in constant stress, my heart, my mind, and followed by these symptoms, my hair fell out, my hands shook, my strength wavered, and nobody thought to ask how much I was sleeping.

I've been thru one of the most horrendous stress events of my life, when the local hospital, a health trap, mishandled a case of Bradycardia with the use of Narcan, an opiate antagonizer. Not only that but the issue of "informed consent" but the misunderstanding about lack of sleep.


The name of this drug sounds like a new car, but unfortunately elicits judgment from healthcare staff, as it is an abused drug apparently.

The drug is in the class of drugs called "benzodiazapines" which are anti-seizure medications generally speaking, but are also used for anti-anxiety, and for manics who just won't shut up.

This group of drugs has the benefit of calming, and it helps in sleep.

I started taking Ativan, which is close the the characteristics of Xanax, but not all of the "benzo's" are created equal, meaning they do not all act the same way.

After six years on Ativan, up to a dosage of 8 milligrams, (yes, that's a lot of honey for the bee) and Melatonin, Valerian root, other herbal sleep aids, and hell even milk, to try and get that sleep I so need, I knew it was no longer working.

I stopped and started various remedies trying to get back to the eight hours or even seven, and it has not changed, except to the extent that it harms me.

One, two, three...and I'm up and awake again, each night. Often, I find food in my bed, so I am getting up during the night in a state that is almost like sleep walking, but more like sleep eating. Crumbs and ants, walk over me, in my "slots" of sleep, then I'm back up.

Netflix has been a good addition to my night owl activities, as it keeps me from getting started on a project and finding myself at noon the next day still writing. I stream TV programs I have heard were good, but since I despise the lassitude of laying in front of a box of numbers deciding how my next few hours are being spent, so Directv, go to hell, I don't watch regular television.

But during these stressful nights, I took my Ativan for years, in fact, as I said, I was at a 8 mg. dosage and was still not sleeping for more than a couple hours at a time. I could have taken more, but I began to realize there was a change in the effectiveness of Ativan for me.

Previous uses of Benzo's

When my mother died, I took Ativan to help the stress. I took 1/2 mg. of the stuff, and I was out in a moment, even a little sleepy when I would arise.

Can you even imagine the shape a person would be in to take 8 mg. of Ativan? I can't even imagine, but now, with a few doctors who care, I am beginning to learn some new things about what is really stealing my health.

I took 10 mg., not voluntarily, at a hospital which had staff making a mistake and insisting that I take, kid you not, 20 mg. of Ativan.

I told these nurses that they needed to check their nursing manuals, and come back with the 5 mg. I was titering down to. It took me 1 1/2 years to go from 8 mg. to 5 mg. and these nurses, who usually will always give less of these types of drugs, came on like gangbusters, trying to force me to take this dose.

Instead, I was given the option of splitting my 20 mg. into 10. So, knowing I had been on Ativan for five years, and it wasn't working properly now that I was reducing the dose, I took the 10 mg. and chewed them, accepting no water.

One half hour later, one of the nurses returned, and I was wide awake and angry that I had to take this mistake, and I say it was because I was bi-polar that I was forced into taking more drugs than necessary. I was also not asleep.

Most people who have no chemical problems, would not have awoken from this 10 mg. error, but I did. Why is the question, and it is the why the doctors avoided the anomaly of why I can take this much of the medication.

They called me the "light weight"

I was never able to take drugs, I was what was called a "lightweight." And I'm not talking about my weight, but my ability to handle intoxicants.

Why hasn't this been addressed? Several reasons such as the moniker "drug seeker" and "user" which don't help to find out what has happened. These are lazy judgments designed to get a doctor an extra hour of flirting with his staff while his wife/husband cooks dinner at home.

I would NEVER recommend that anyone else with insomnia, concomitant with bi-polar and thyroid the master hormone, problems, that they use benzodiazipines for insomnia.

I also would NEVER tell anyone to try Ambien either as it made me angry and a feeling of being drunk.

But it's a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Part two coming up... 

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