By: Lori Lane Murphy
Before my Bipolar Diagnosis, I didn’t really give much thought to my sleep patterns. I guess that’s because I used alcohol so much that it didn’t seem like an issue. I confused passing out with sleeping for many years and I thought I had this whole resting thing figured out.
About eight years ago, I decided that a lifetime of “managing” my illness with alcohol was certainly doing me more harm than good (duh). I stopped, with support, for many reasons, but sleep was at the bottom of that initial list. I didn’t think sleep was my problem at all. I used to get a solid ten, twelve…. easy.
Once the veil was lifted and I realized the truth behind my addiction (self-medicating my BP symptoms), I was forced to look at other areas of my health. I knew that alcohol was bad for my liver. It was also bad for my weight, my skin and my energy level. Sleep, though. I hadn’t realized how little I knew about how poorly I slept.
First there were the symptoms themselves to contend with. For me, the busy brain never shut down. Even in my darkest depression, my brain still buzzed. It was all very dark and unhelpful, but you know how it is when you battle your brain everyday. I’d lay awake at night practically vibrating waiting for morning. It’s awful.
Then there were new medications to get used to (ha!). That was and still is a never-ending adventure. There was a time in the last year or so where I started to believe that maybe the alcohol was better. At least I knew what it was and what to expect. I moved through that phase quickly though, because overall, I was feeling a lot better (at least when I was awake).
My issue with my meds and my symptoms has always been pure exhaustion at bedtime, instantly asleep as soon as head hits the pillow. You would think that would be bliss right? Not so much. I may drift off to dreamland without incident, but I don’t stay there. Usually by one or two in the morning, my eyes snap open and my brain kicks into high gear. The problem with that is, my body is still wracked with sleep and I can’t move an inch. I may toss and turn a little, but I always end up paralyzed on my back staring at the dust on my ceiling fan.
I haven’t found the answer yet. I have tried many different sleep medications to go along with the plethora of meds for my BP. It all seems counter productive at times. One keeps me up, one makes me sleepy, others keep my calm and on an even keel. So, what do I do? I don’t want to have to artificially put myself to sleep for the rest of my life. I tried that, remember? Red wine didn’t work. Sleeping meds on the long term won’t work (at least it feels they shouldn’t, anyway).
Don’t think I haven’t incorporated some healthy sleep habits into my life, because I have. I reduce my screen time before bed. I make sure my room is dark and quiet. I’ve even invested in an anxiety blanket. They help. I just don’t think this disorder will ever allow me a full night of deep, restful, non-medicated, delicious sleep.
But that’s ok. I’d settle for SOME sleep.