Out of all of the things that I have had to deal with since my “headlong flight” beginning May 21, sleep has got to be the most troublesome and most annoying. That’s pretty emblematic of my lifelong relationship with sleep, though. Seldom have I ever had what a regular person would call a “normal” sleep schedule. I recall laying in bed for hours as a child, waiting to go to sleep, listening to my parents’ tv shows running in the living room, or worse, my mother blaring music on her stereo, which was on the opposite side of the wall from my bed, which she seemed to feel entitled to do once I had gone to bed. I seriously do not know what in the everloving fuck she was thinking, but it was not conducive to solid sleep for a child. Thank the Goddess, she got a pair of headphones at some point.
If I had something like public school or a job dictating my schedule, it was a lot easier, except for when I worked the swing shift at a convenience store, in which case I could be sleeping at any given hour of the day depending on when my shift started. That was fun, not.
What was pretty apparent to me, even before the end of public school and getting kicked out by my parents, was that I was a “night owl”. Only I often didn’t seem to have any control over how late I wound up staying up, no matter how little sleep I got, and in the absence of something like school or a job, my schedule would automatically revert to a 4am-noon manifestation.
Years would pass before I would stumble upon an actual disorder that described my sleeping patterns: delayed sleep phase syndrome, or DSPS. These are people who naturally adopt a fairly late schedule, and even when they are forced into a “normal” schedule by work, school, family, or otherwise, they do not truly “wake up” until what would be their preferred wake up time and have extraordinary trouble going to sleep at a “normal” time. For me, my wake up time was noon. It was a goddamned blessing to me to have a name for what was wrong with my sleep patterns.
Then I had my psychotic break last month, and sleep went to absolute shit. First it was a few nights of panic attacks in my sleep. That was fun. Then that went away, thank the Goddess, but my body refused to sleep more than about two hours a day. My mind was in a high, rapid orbit, though, so I didn’t feel tired and used the time to hammer out blog posts and work on my website. It gradually improved over the next couple of weeks until I was getting around 4-5 hours of broken sleep a day, still not enough, but an improvement. I was also getting sleepy really early for me, around 9-10pm, which was actually fine with me. I was just getting up too damned early as a result. Do you know how hard it is to work on a non-backlit laptop in the dark? I dare you to cut, copy, and paste without fucking it up.
Then I “crashed” last Monday, June 18. Honestly, much of last week is lost in an emotional haze of utter despair, so I don’t properly recall how well I was sleeping, although I’m fairly certain I was still getting sleepy around 9-10pm and getting up too early, because I remember those early mornings working on my laptop in bed in the dark. Then I decided to stop taking the antipsychotic that was causing more problems than it was curing (besides, I looked that shit up on the internet along with its side effects and went NO FUCKING WAY), and my shrink gave me a scrip for yet another antipsychotic that was known for being pretty damned good at being Mjolnir for sleep (that’s Thor’s Hammer for those of you living under a rock that haven’t seen the MCU movies). And it is, but I wake up really groggy and with a backache because I don’t move while I’m sleeping, so I only use it occasionally.
Unfortunately, after that single dose of sleep aid/antipsychotic, my 9-10pm getting sleepy time disappeared and I wasn’t getting sleepy until midnight or after. I would take my nighttime meds, which include a sleep aid (not Mjolnir), and noticed it wasn’t really having any effect until after midnight. So last night I tried not taking the sleep aid unless it was midnight and I wasn’t sleepy. I still didn’t fall asleep until around 1-2am, and I kept waking up all night, usually with my brain possessed with some idea or another, which has been a problem ever since my breakdown. These ideas make perfect sense while I’m asleep and then somewhat awake yet still in that liminal state, but once I’m fully awake I just go “what the fuck, brain? could you please not? I would like to sleep!”, at which point I usually can roll over and go back to sleep for a while until my brain kicks me awake again.
And that’s pretty much where I’m at right now. I know my brain is still settling into a sustainable orbit because of a) waiting for old drugs to wear off and b) new ones to kick in, so my sleep schedule will likely be in flux until it does so. It’s goddamned annoying, though, let me tell you. It’s the unpredictability that gets me, but that’s the nature of a psychotic break and subsequent recollection of personality traits until everything settles back down. I have faith that I will a) regain a semblance of a regular sleep schedule that hopefully does NOT have me staying up until 4am and sleeping until noon again and b) that my brain will eventually stop doing whatever the fuck it’s doing while I’m sleeping and stop interrupting me with ideas that only work in the Universe of odd physics of dreams.
Know what else my brain now does sometimes when it’s asleep? It hears people knocking on the front door, at which point I wake up my husband and fearfully ask him to go see who it is, knowing full well that NO ONE IS THERE, THE KNOCKING CAME FROM INSIDE MY HEAD but still needing the reassurance that, indeed, there is no one at the door. Sometimes the knocking is soft enough that I’m able to dismiss it and go back to sleep, but the other night it was like someone was knocking REALLY hard on the door, and I had to make my husband go check. He thinks this might be a leftover in my brain of an actual incident a couple of weeks ago in which I had been trying to nap all afternoon, only to be woken up by my nephew and his friends twice, followed by one of their fathers BANGING on the door because he wanted to know if his kid wanted his art supplies. The kids were outside so they didn’t hear him, but I stumbled downstairs half-asleep and looking confused when I opened the door, at which point he apologized but I was still kind of like “what the fuck do you want man?” And then he didn’t even bother to go ask his kid if they indeed wanted the art supplies that were so important this man felt the need to BANG on my door. I was rattled for the rest of the day.
So yeah, I’ve got a rather strained relationship with my sleeping brain. For about a week, I had the ability to take naps in the middle of the day, because naturally I was getting tired midway through the day, or sometimes just the morning, because I wasn’t getting enough sleep and my body was finally putting its foot down after the couple of weeks it spent wired to my 2-hours-of-sleep brain. I still get tired in the daytime, but the naps are elusive and mostly consist of my lying in bed with my eyes closed yet not quite sleeping, yet still enjoying the downtime in my nice comfy bed, so there’s that.
I know there are things like melatonin and SAM-E, plus Eastern medicine that a good friend who is a Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist would be able to prescribe, but I am damn leery of what I feed my brain these days, especially right now because it’s still settling. On the other hand, my brain now responds to fairly small doses of things it basically ignored before, like gabapentin, which is my go-to anti-anxiety drug now. I take it 4 times a day. I took it before several years ago, but it had no effect on me. Now it does. *shrugs* Point being, yes, I need to be careful what I feed my head, but I need to leave the possibility open to trying new things, after bouncing them off my shrink of course, because they may now have an effect they did not before. I haven’t written that post yet, but my psychotic break and return to Earth was a full mind/body/soul transformation resulting in some changes you would not believe, requiring me to relearn just about everything about myself and my body.
I think I’ll go write that post now, after I eat more breakfast (yes, I have to eat breakfast now, after decades of not doing so) and collect my thoughts.