These days, I’m more of a morning person, but it’s kind of due to the insomnia I’m experiencing. I wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning, and often, that’s it — I’m up. So I just go about my day and try not to take a nap.
Sometimes, not often, I stay up until 1 or 2am. I figure that the later I go to bed, the later I’ll wake up. Normally I would go to bed at 10pm. But if I do that, I wake up at 11pm or 12am. And then I’d worry whether I could fall back asleep or not. Usually I do, but with a lot of tossing and turning and pulling the covers back to my side.
Thirty years ago I might have called myself a night owl. I worked in bars, so I was up all night and didn’t go to bed until the morning. I tried to fall asleep before the birds started chirping, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all. I’d just be lying there, staring at the ceiling, with the sunshine peeking through the blinds and the birds singing their songs.
How about you? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I have had what the professionals call “sleep disturbances” for a little over a year now. I can fall asleep just fine, probably thanks to trazodone, but I can’t stay asleep and when I do wake up (the first, second, or third time) I have a tough time falling back asleep, though I do eventually. For maybe an hour.
My bedtime has changed from 10 pm to around 11. I’m afraid that if I go to bed earlier, I’ll wake up that much earlier (at say 11pm or midnight). When I go to bed later, I don’t wake up until 2 or 3 am.
If I get up at 2, I might take a Benadryl to help me fall back asleep (my psychiatrist suggested this). Unfortunately, I always forget to do it. And 3 am is too late to take it because then I might oversleep.
So at 3, I just get up and go to the living room, where I check social media, crochet, or read. As I said, I fall asleep for an hour, wake up around 5 am, maybe fall back asleep, and then awaken at 7.
I take melatonin at night along with my trazodone, and it helps some. However, I hesitate to take Ambien, which my doctor has mentioned. For one thing, I was on it a long time ago and it didn’t work. Second, he and I want to delay being prescribed yet another prescription medication as opposed to over-the-counter.
My sleep hygiene is not in perfect shape, but I try. I’m thinking of taking Ambien because I’m getting desperate. Our bodies change over time, and maybe mine has changed enough for Ambien to work. I don’t want to be on another medication, but the sleep disruptions are taking its toll.
Do you experience insomnia? What remedies do you use to combat it?
I had an appointment with my psychiatrist today, which couldn’t come soon enough, even though it’s only been 4 weeks since my last appointment. I’ve been going through a severe depression for the past 3 weeks, right after the short hypomanic episode triggered by my misuse of my light box (I was supposed to start using it for 30 minutes, but I skipped right to an hour). Because of the hypomanic symptoms, and under doctor’s orders, I went a week or so without using it.
My mood slid smoothly from one pole to the other (hypomania to depression), so with my doctor’s permission, I began using the light box again for 30 minutes max per day. It hasn’t helped, but today we agreed that I’d start using it for up to 90 minutes a day. Still, I think I’ll work my way up from 30 minutes to 90.
The depression has been so severe that if I want to change out of my pajamas and into sweats and a t-shirt, my husband has to help me. I haven’t showered in a week (and for 2 weeks before that), and I can barely brush my teeth. Once, when I couldn’t stand the way my hair felt, my husband had to wash it for me in the sink because I couldn’t do it myself.
I’ve also had terrible insomnia, so not only do I have my depression lethargy, I’m even more tired from lack of sleep. At least I’ve kept up my meditation practice and blogging daily.
I have no desire to go anywhere, but I did go to a hockey game, saw a friend’s acoustic show, and went to a coffee shop with my husband maybe twice, in the past month. A hat is good camouflage!
I’ve also made it to my weekly therapy and salon appointments (self-care, you know? 😉 ). I don’t particularly care about my appearance right now, but it’s nice to be pampered. Other than that, I haven’t left my house, not even to walk Rudy.
And that’s another thing. I’m experiencing hip pain, so it hurts to fu@king walk! I’ve been on 2 different anti-inflammatories that haven’t helped, and had an x-ray that looked normal except for a touch of tendinitis. I see my primary care physician for a follow-up in 2 days. It’s very painful to walk, even in my own home, so that hasn’t helped my depression.
So I described all of this to my psychiatrist, and after thinking for a few short moments, he was the conveyer of news I didn’t want to hear: he thinks the best course of treatment for my current episode is ECT. I was hoping not to have to go through that this winter, like I have for the past 4 years.
I’m taking high doses of 6 different medications for bipolar and anxiety, and he was hesitant to increase any. The good news is, there was one medication that he felt he could adjust, and that’s the Prozac. So starting tomorrow, I’ll be taking 40 mg instead of 20 mg. I’m hoping this will help.
He said we’d see how I feel in a week, and if my depression doesn’t improve, then it’s ECT for me. It’s my choice, of course, but if even my meds aren’t helping, and ECT is the only thing that helps (based on my history of ECT treatments), then I guess I’ll do it. (If you’d like to read what the procedure is like for me, check out this post.)
I don’t really want to do it, mainly because I hate going to the hospital so early in the morning; getting a nurse who may not be good with inserting needles — I’m a “hard stick” — very few discernible veins; the anesthesia. But I can’t stand living the way I have this past month. Fingers crossed that the Prozac helps.
Have you ever had ECT? Would you be willing to share your experience? You can always use the Contact form if you want to discuss it confidentially.
Study this pic. Not a pretty sight, is it? I took this selfie at 4:52 this morning, over an hour after I woke up and couldn’t sleep again. I even practiced good sleep hygiene by taking my meds and going to bed around 10:30 PM, so I slept for about 5 hours. To anyone who has suffered from insomnia, that number may be plenty. Recently, when I experienced hypomanic symptoms triggered by my light box, I slept for 5 hours total the entire weekend. (Hypo)mania does that to you, but according to the Mayo Clinic, so does depression, which I associate with the opposite — sleeping a lot.
I’ve felt depressed ever since I’ve “come down” from my short hypomanic episode — even more than I was before my psychiatrist suggested I use the light box. It’s been so bad that I haven’t had the energy to shower in a week. That sounds disgusting, I know, but lethargy is not uncommon for people who are depressed. I changed clothes, though. Most days. Anyway, I only had to go out twice.
This morning, I couldn’t stand it anymore, but still couldn’t manage to get in the shower, what to me amounts to a monumental task right now, so my husband washed my hair in the sink. I at least found the energy to wash my privates. This blog is mainly about my experiences with bipolar, so I’m not hiding anything — the good, the bad, or the ugly. This is how it is for me.
I haven’t eaten breakfast in about 2 weeks. It seems like a waste of time, even though I know it isn’t. I almost always have yogurt, and lately, tearing the foil lid off the cup and mixing the fruit into the yogurt compartment is too much work. Is it any wonder that I can’t take a shower?
This past week, I contacted my psychiatrist about my mood, and asked about trying light therapy again. I noted that my husband didn’t think I should use the box at all because of the hypomania. The doctor agreed with him. However, I said that I’d prefer to elevate my mood without any dosage changes, so we compromised: if I still felt $hitty on Monday, I’d use the light box again, but only for 30 minutes a day, in the morning. So I started again today.
What I have managed to do is maintain my meditation practice. According to my meditation app, I’ve meditated for 290 consecutive days as of today. Go, me! I’ve also been writing daily, for both my blog and my fiction writing. I didn’t write for an entire year in 2016 because of depression. That was before I started blogging, something that has helped me write regularly, even when I feel like $hit. So there are some good things happening, in spite of the depression.
Have you ever experienced insomnia? What was it like?
Do you lack energy when going through a depression?
What is “coming down” from (hypo)mania like for you?
January 13, 2012
Near the end of our lunch time phone call. Me: Are you mad? My husband: No, it’s just, sometimes I feel like you don’t listen to me. Me: Well…sometimes I don’t.
My husband and I met in grad school in the fall of 1999. We began dating that November, and one of the first things I told him is that I’m bipolar. I was stable when I started school, but once winter hit, I became depressed, which was no surprise, as that’s a tough season for me. (It also could have been “grad school depression”.) I wasn’t expecting the episode. My husband (then-boyfriend) was supportive.
We moved to Chicago in 2001, after he graduated. I had a year left to complete my thesis (I had finished my coursework), which I could do from home. Our first few years were rocky because we didn’t have much money; my husband just started a job with a stressful commute to the suburbs; and I was experiencing the highs and lows of bipolar, despite being in treatment.
My antics, mainly hurling accusations, were difficult for him to deal with. When we fought, I’d entertain the idea of self-harm as a way of coping (inappropriately), and often went through with it. This was difficult for him, as well.
At one point, I was hospitalized, though I can’t remember what for. After I was discharged, I ended up in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) at a hospital near my husband’s office, rather than in the city, where we lived. This was because left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have gone. So I had to drive to the suburbs with my husband every morning to go to PHP. The fights continued.
A non-profit organization called National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI, who did not ask me to mention them) in the US offers a free workshop for family members and friends of someone who has a mental illness. It’s called NAMI Family-to-Family. Around the time I finished PHP, my husband attended the workshop, and gained a deep understanding of what I was going through.
But I continually picked fights. Everything was his fault. My moods were his fault. That I couldn’t sleep was his fault. That I could no longer work (teaching) was his fault. You name it. Unfortunately, he would engage in my accusations, and my unfounded arguments would escalate into blowups. He would shut himself in the bedroom or hang up on me when I called him at work. His reactions made me angrier.
We didn’t want to split up, so we went to couples counseling. There, we learned how to use “I” language instead of “you” language. “I” language is used when there’s a conflict, and doesn’t put the other person on the defensive. “You” language is basically pointing your finger at the other person using words. Learning this and other communication techniques didn’t happen overnight, and we were in counseling for many years. I learned (and continue to learn) how to listen. We also both matured; and in individual therapy, I learned how to accept responsibility for my actions and my moods. I’m still learning.
I’m better at identifying my moods, and not blaming them on my husband. Instead, I tell him how I feel, and that the particular mood may cause me to become argumentative. We don’t have knock-down, drag-out fights anymore, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have disagreements. We discuss them calmly, and rarely do they escalate. No shouting. No doors slamming. No blowups.
I was afraid that when I told my husband that I’m bipolar, that he would dump me. Instead, he stuck by me for 18 years and counting, through all the ups and downs, highs and lows. Ours is the first stable relationship I’ve ever had. It isn’t perfect — do those even exist? — but couples counseling saved us. He is my rock. (To my husband: I love you.)
Have you been in a romantic relationship with someone who’s mentally ill? What was it like? If you have a mental illness, what have your relationships been like, or do you avoid them altogether?