Thursday, November 25, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream....Ahhh, Insomnia

Insomnia...the bane of the bipolar's existence.

It's 12:04 a.m. and Justin is snoozing away upstairs, able as always to instantly fall asleep the minute his head hits the pillow.  I usually give him a good twenty minutes to make sure he's really out so I don't disturb him as I slip from the bed, grab my glasses, and come downstairs to try to while away the time until I can actually go to sleep.

Somehow over the years, I have finally given up trying to force the issue of insisting my brain follow a planned sleep schedule.  It just won't work that way, no matter how hard I try to force it into the "normal" sleep mold.  It seems like for the past few years, my body is tending more and more towards staying up at night and then sleeping later into the morning - like, say, 8:30 or 9:00.  Nothing too decadent or teenagerish.  Just not the normal 9-5 working stiff's schedule.  Nor is it the county schools' schedule, which can be a problem when you have children still attending them.

We have one child in college who sets his own schedule and gets himself where he needs to go.  Case closed on Ben.  What a sense of freedom!  For him and me, since he can decide when he wants to wake up, work, go to school, write his papers....he told me yesterday that he had stayed up until 5:00 a.m that morning and gotten up at 2:30 that afternoon.  Well, if you don't have to be anywhere, what's the problem?   I applaud his ingenuity in using these years for flexibility, being that he's not a morning person and his goal is to teach high school history, a job that requires a morning person mentality or an addiction to caffeine.  I say enjoy it while you can.

My eighth grader and sixth grader attend the same middle school.  This will be the only year they do that together - next year Jamie will go off to his freshman year of high school.  But for this year, they are both up by 6:30 and out the door by 7:00.  At 7:05, my butt is back in that bed until my body tells me it is time to reasonably get up.  I can stumble through finishing up Joey's lunch and making his breakfast and making sure they are dressed appropriately in the half sleep that comes from only a few hours rest before my alarm went off, praying I won't have to get them to the bus stop in my pajamas in case Justin is, for some reason, not with the program one morning.  We try to plan ahead for those days.

Insomnia is kind of an integral part of being bipolar, according to my psychiatrist and every piece of literature I've read about the disorder.  The less sleep you get, the more likely you are to get manic, which means the less sleep you think you need.  It becomes a vicious cycle.  We have gone the ambien route for the last eleven or so years and it worked beautifully at first.  But, as with all medications, a certain tolerance eventually built up in my increasingly med tolerant system, and now even two ambien finds me lying in bed, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for Justin to fall asleep so I can just get up already.  That I won't get comfortable is a given, with the fibromyalgia, so I might as well be doing something productive to make myself sleepy.  I can either lie there in pain and frustration or get up and do something about it.  I find the latter to be much more satisfying and better for a more positive mindset.

I am eternally thankful to the flexibility that Justin has in his job and for the fact that he is a morning person.  It means absolutely nothing for him to begin working right at 6:30 am and work straight through until he is finished, even if that means skipping lunch.  That means for me, I can shuffle the last two kids out the door and drag myself back up to bed, where I feel much more amenable to the whole sleep process at 7:00 in the morning for some reason.  Maybe I'm turning into a vampire and don't realize it.  Does it now take the hours of darkness to produce my best work and daylight for me to sleep?  Sounds a little too Stephen King-ish to make me comfortable.

At any rate, insomnia being such a large part of being bipolar, it would be negligent of me to leave that particular part of my illness out of any of my little dissertations on being bipolar, since it is such a huge part of my life.  I start watching the clock around 9:00 every evening, just dreading the knowledge that Justin is getting tired and wants to go to bed and knowing that I am nowhere near ready to even contemplate sleep.  It is only long after the house is quiet that the sandman seems to come around and let me know that if I were to actually crawl in bed, I've got a shot at a few hours of rest.

I've suffered from primary insomnia for as long as I can remember, dating all the way back to the age of 7 or 8 and it got really bad when I was a teenager.  I can remember being a "good kid" and following those bedtimes that were set by my mother and tossing and turning in the overheated house during the summertime thinking morning would never come.  No one back then had any inkling I had any kind of mental disorder, mostly because I was so good at acting totally normal (it's absolutely amazing how you can hide a mood disorder if you try hard enough), so it never occurred to them that my wanting to stay up late was anything other than teenage opposition to the rules.

You would have thought, as I got out into the working world, I would have settled into going to bed at a decent hour, just to be able to get up and be at work in the morning, but again, I would toss and turn and get frustrated, not knowing why I couldn't shut off my brain.  It wasn't until I went through a severe manic episode back in 1999 that I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and my sleep disturbances of all those years finally made some sense.

I think insomnia is the reason I am such an afternoon person.  I can't go to sleep at night and I can't wake up early in the morning, so there's really not much left to be good at.   I spend a lot of nights sitting in front of cable television, remote in one hand, trying to rock myself to sleep without waking the dog.  It is in the darkest of night that all of our fears and obsessions and worries become of nightmare proportion and I have spent no few nights living out my worst nightmares awake, just because I'm that neurotic and there's no one to tell me I'm being completely silly and unrealistic.  Thank God I kind of have an idea of what's going on in my brain now, so that I can say, "Chelle, calm down.  When it's daylight, this really isn't going to seem so important."

Being bipolar means you're alone a lot.  Probably because you're awake a lot when normal people would be asleep.  The people who could reason or rationalize you out of the crazy things you are obsessing over are getting their much needed rest for another round or two with you tomorrow, so you have to be careful not to wake them up and drain their resources.  Thank God for writing and a great chain of consciousness, whether it gets read or not, because once I get it out, then finally I feel like I might be able to get a little sleep of my own.

So, goodnight...unless I find myself up there tossing and turning again....

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