I have refrained from writing this article for 2 months because:
A.) I wanted to write about it when I finally had a solution for it.
B.) I didn’t want to air my dirty laundry.
C.) I hate showing weakness.
So why am I writing about this now?
A.) Because I have realised that there is no easy solution or quick fix for insomnia.
B.) I don’t really care about airing my dirty laundry anymore, because I have learnt that other people are just tumbledrying theirs.
C.) This does not make me weak.
2016 has been a tumultuous year for me for many reasons – all of them health related. When the time is right, I will write about this as I believe it can help many women out there.
Today I would like to talk about the thing that has haunted me the most: insomnia. I stopped sleeping 4 months ago and I have learnt 3 important things in this period:
1. Most people think you can only get insomnia when you have a baby. I have had to endure many a snide comment about “waiting until I have a baby” to feel what true insomnia is. This is pretty much as bad as telling someone with depression to just “go for a walk” to feel better.
2. The word “insomnia” gets thrown around very easily. Having a few sleepless nights does not make you an insomniac. It is natural to sometimes have difficulty falling/staying asleep. It is not natural to have 4 consecutive weeks of 3 hours sleep per night.
3. You can’t break insomnia by yourself. Drinking a glass of milk before bed won’t fix it. You need help, and sometimes that means taking medication.
When my insomnia initially started 4 months ago, I told myself: this is temporary, you’re okay, you’ll sleep again.
But a few weeks passed and every night consisted of me lying awake in a state of anxiety, panicking about the next day while I counted the amount of sleep I’d have to operate on. Five, four, three…
As sleep left my nights, happiness left my days as I battled with extreme fatigue and anxiety. I started drinking two cups of coffee in the morning to keep me going until 12:00, then another cup in the afternoon to get me through the afternoon.
By 15:00 everyday I am as tired as most people are before they go to bed at night. I then still have 2 hours of the day to get through. Those are the hardest.
When you stop sleeping, your body stops producing serotonin the way it usually does. And this is the real kicker about insomnia: depression.
It gets harder and harder to feel happiness the way you used to. Your body is literally too tired to feel emotions the same level it did previously. I’ve made no secret about the fact that I am not the biggest social butterfly on earth, but insomnia has made it even harder for me to socialise. I am either too exhausted to go out, or when I’m out I get tired too quickly to enjoy myself.
When did I decide to seek help?
I was in denial for a long time. I thought that I could overcome it myself by changing a few things.
I basically tried everything you can think of – changing my routine, going to gym, not using my phone too late, taking over-the-counter sleeping meds, using natural remedies, getting earplugs… The list goes on and on. When that didn’t work, I tried attacking it with logic. I started reading article after article about insomnia, trying to find a solution. I can tell you everything under the sun about sleep hygiene, melatonin and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia.
But still I was lying awake at 3am every night, crying because I am tired beyond comprehension but I couldn’t fall asleep.
I decided to speak to my GP about it and I was put on a sleeping tablet called Dormonoct. It went well for a week and a half, and then I was back to square one again. Only this time the anxiety was worse, because – let me put this truthfully – I realised I was completely and utterly fucked.
If a sleeping tablet can’t make me sleep, then what will?
Sleep became even more of an issue after that, as I would take my tablet at 21:00 and lie awake until 24:00 – freaking out over the fact that it wasn’t working.
When I say ‘freak out’, I don’t mean just panicking a bit about how tired I would be the next day. I mean chest closing, ugly crying, adrenaline pumping anxiety.
I then had to go on additional medication to help with that. This time around I was put on Trepiline, which I had to take with Dormonoct. Trepiline is an old school antidepressant which helps with anxiety, insomnia and chronic migraines.
I drank it for about a month until I decided to stop using it, as it seemed to not really change anything and was just adding to a list of pills I didn’t feel like being on in the first place. I was right. Going off it made no difference at all.
I wish I could tell you that I have conquered insomnia. I wish I could say that I am now sleeping 7 hours every night and that I don’t feel blindly tired by 15:00 everyday, or that I don’t get headaches from tiredness anymore.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
But I am adamant to fight this, and I have a game plan.
1. I am going to a doctor next week who is an expert on hormones and the role they play in our bodies. It is no secret that The Pill and depression are linked, and throughout these 4 months it has been at the back of my mind that all of this might be because of it. Unfortunately the Mirena isn’t an option for me, due to medical reasons. But that’s an article for another day. I was referred to this doctor by a colleague who lived with chronic neck pain for 4 years, and none of the doctors she went to could determine where the pain was coming from. When she finally went to him, he was able to pinpoint that her pill was the cause of it. I am hopeful that he could help me, but if he can’t I will…
2. Go to a psychologist. I know that depression causes insomnia. So it is very likely that I have it the wrong way around, and that my insomnia is not causing my depression – but that depression is causing insomnia. (That’s quite a mouthful.) I have tried everything in my power to avoid going on chronic antidepressants, but if that is what it will take to sleep and be happy again – so be it. I am grateful for modern medicine and that there is help out there. I also know through my extensive Internet research (seriously, like every article ever) that psychologists can help you overcome sleep anxiety.
3. I am moving in January 2017. My current living situation has not been conducive to a healthy sleeping cycle, and I am hoping that when J-P and I move next year it will help me to have a new environment and a fresh start.
The main reason I decided to finally write this article, is because I feel like I am living a lie on social media. So often I’ve posted a photo of myself looking happy and ‘living my best life’ while I was feeling like complete shit. Of course I have my good days, but I feel that it is unfair to pretend that my life is just rosy.
Another reason is because I think that there are people out there who are either going through this, or who have gone through this – and misery loves company, especially at 3am.
Lastly, I decided that I owe this article to my loyal readers. I have not had the energy to blog in ages, and I would like to get better so that I can go back to dissing Heidi Klum’s presence at award ceremonies and write letters to celebrities who will never read it.
I promise to write a follow-up post next year after I have made the changes and been on holiday. I hope this post makes you feel less alone in this world. And I hope you know that no matter what, there’s always help.