I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have at least a small issue with insomnia. I managed it okay, all the way up to around age 40.
I don’t type so much as I retype. I have to backtrack at least every few words. For instance, I just wrote “all the way up to around age 400”. Then, I decided that wasn’t a typo. I feel 400 when insomnia is kicking my ass. But I digress.
Anyway, around age 40, my insomnia meant I slept between 15-30 minutes at a time. Sometimes, I knew by 2:00 a.m. that I wasn’t sleeping any more. That was bad. Sometimes, I knew by midnight. That was worse.
It took months of badgering my doctor for a sleep aid before he gave me Ambien. I went through 9 months of hell while he prescribed different antidepressants, each one making more miserable than the last. What a nightmare, but that’s a completely different story.
My doctor wasn’t happy about giving me 12 Ambien. For a year.
He had no problem putting me through physical and mental hell with harmful drugs, but didn’t want to give me something that one can grow dependent on? The horror! He made it clear that he wasn’t convinced I wasn’t just trolling for drugs, but was encouraged that I was willing to try other therapies before jumping to the Ambien. The fucking asshole.
Don’t get me wrong. I was happy for relief. Even 12 days worth.
What? Are you kidding me? I’m going to get to sleep one night a month? That’s like a miracle. Maybe I’ll skip a month and sleep two nights for my birthday month!
And forget about a reasonable supply of Xanax for panic attacks. I had a precious few that I kept more as a talisman than actual medicine that keeps full blown panic attacks at bay.
The Ambien worked like a goddamn charm. I would sleep all night and wake up, perhaps a little groggy, but at least I slept.
The only drawback I saw with Ambien is that I had some super strange dreams. For instance, what do you think it means when you dream that your husband’s penis turns into the ruler that Sister Jones used to hit your knuckles with in the second grade?
I took my sleep aid as prescribed. Pop one 20 minutes before bedtime and lights out.
Except, I learned something once. And I am in no way saying anyone should actually do this, but once I took my Ambien and I got involved in doing something and went past that 20 minute mark.
I had this weird, psychedelic 20 minutes where I felt funky and it appeared as if the clothes in the laundry basket were undulating. It wasn’t scary though. It was a completely, okay nearly completely lucid psychedelic experience. Like instead of going on an actual jungle cruise, you go on the jungle cruise at Disneyland. I mean, if Disney had a drug fueled jungle cruise ride. Which of course they don’t.
It’s an interesting thought, though. Right?
Everything changed once I got past age 50. Doctors no longer treated me like I was junkie begging for a fix.
I remember the first time it happened. I had bronchitis and a sinus infection. I was miserable. He prescribed an antibiotic and then mentioned that my cough sounded painful. I said that it was painful. He asked me if I wanted cough syrup with Vicodin in it.
I thought I was being set up at first. Are you fucking kidding me? Pain killer? For a ramped up cold?
I stopped having to ask for Ambien or Xanax, he’d just refill the prescriptions when they were up.
I read some articles about benzos and was concerned that I was taking way too many. I talked to my doctor about it and told him I was going to cut out the Ambien.
My insomnia got slightly better once I was post menopause. A xanax will help me get to sleep and, generally, I stay asleep. A few bad nights here and there, but totally manageable.
He was skeptical. “Are you sure? I mean, you can always get them if you want them.”
I told him I read that too many benzos can cause early onset dementia and, while my brain and I are often at odds, I’d like for us to keep understanding each other for as long as possible.
He told me that I shouldn’t worry because about dementia because that was more of a problem for my loved ones than me.
So, I have that going for me.
In his defense, I am pretty sure he was kidding about the dementia thing. My current doctor has a weird sense of humor.
I have less than a year before I turn 60.
That is just so fucking weird.
A lot about aging is difficult, but I’ve at least reached the age where I can get my addictive substances at will. And so far? I’ve self regulated in a responsible manner. Mostly. Those jungle cruise moments were pretty cool.
Photo courtesy of Bruno