I sure did get jolted out of my boring old routine. I have made it to the other side (I hope) of a very tough couple of weeks. Nothing all that major happened. I had more trouble than usual sleeping, but shouldn't I be used to that by now? I went to Boston for work and had my laptop stolen, but it was all backed up, it was covered (at least partially) by homeowners, and the thing was more than four years old anyway. But for some reason, I went a little crazy.
Night after night, I kept waking up at 5:30, 4:30, 3:30 and then lying there hour after hour with my heart pounding out of my chest. Each day, I got a little more tired and a little more scared of what would happen if I didn't sleep the next night. One night, I just lay there for nearly three hours, too exhausted to get up, my heart feeling like it would explode out of my chest, weeping quietly. Even my dog realized I was having a rough time and tried to comfort me. Now, this middle-of-the-night anxiety is not all that unusual for me. This was maybe a bit more intense than usual, but always, always, the sun comes up and I am OK--tired, but not mentally unbalanced. My nighttime terrors always seem strange and silly in the light of the day.
But this time I got out of bed and my pounding heart galloped on unabated, my terror laughed in the face of the sun and said, "Fuck you!" I spent the day in a state of anxiety that I feared would overwhelm me. My stomach roiled. I had so many digestive issues I feared I would become dehydrated. I worried my heart would wear out from excessive beating. Every moment, I struggled to hold back my tears. It felt terrible. Maybe the worst part was this felt very similar--but even a little worse--than the incident four years ago in Cape Cod that kicked off my adventures with insomnia. And I have worked so hard since then on meditation and mindfulness. I thought I had developed skills that would ensure it never got that bad again. But here I was back at square one. Maybe even square negative one.
I called my mother, and she urged me to go to the doctor. So I did--to some new office I had never been to before, because my old doc recently moved away. I saw a physician's assistant who talked to me for about 10, maybe 15 minutes, before recommending a low dose Zoloft. She told me stories of other young women who are on these miniscule doses and are now sleeping like babies, loving their children more, happy as clams. It was such a low dose that the FDA didn't even consider it effective. No big deal! Just take this little pill and feel better.
I took it for two days, and I started to feel like an open wound. Weak and shaky, spaced out and heavy limbed, slightly motion sick, jump-out-of-my-skin irritable. Kind of how I felt during early pregnancy, plus extreme agitation. I know that many of these side effects abate within a week or two, although even that period of time sounded like eternity. But what those feelings made me realize is: this is a big fucking decision. You don't just feel crazy one day, spend 15 minutes with some PA you don't know and then start on a (possibly lifelong) course of anti-depressants. No, that is not a good plan. And the idea that this dose was so low that it was hardly anything (a line I hear from doctors all the time)? Obviously exposed as complete bullshit.
So I demanded Ativan, the drug that has broken my horrible insomnia cycles before. And it worked, despite my crippling fear that it wouldn't. I could sleep again, and start to make some rational decisions. I went to see my meditation teacher, and I started to have some revelations about what this all means. But let's talk about that in Part Two, coming very soon.