Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Turning mental illness into mental illn-YES.

Sleep disorders are a lot like your other bad habits that you don't notice while you're single.  If no one is around you enough to freak out every time you leave your socks on the floor or chew with your mouth open, you can start to think that you're awesome, even in large doses.  But, no.  You're not.  Once you've spent an extended period of time with someone, especially living up each other's asses (like in marriage), eventually your partner will enlighten you to all the areas in which you're a fucked up person.  I can say that my husband, Drew, is actually pretty normal and easy to live with, other than the fact that he's a bit of a pack-rat and lets fly the occasional thick, wall-shaking fart.  On the other hand, I am host to a legion of demons that, much like in the movies, only come out at night.

I knew I always had trouble sleeping.  As a baby, before I could even walk, I allegedly broke out of my crib on multiple occasions and crawled to my parents' bedroom.  When I graduated to a big-girl bed (and my parents began bolting their door), I remember waking to see a woman's purple, headless torso drifting around my closet.  As an adult, I've heard countless tales of me coming up out of bed, turning on lights and pointing to some unseen monster in the room, generally on the wall or ceiling.  Sometimes I remember, most of the time I don't. 

To be specific, I suffer from the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Parasomnia
  • Hypnagogic hallucinations
  • Bruxism 
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sensitivity to light/sound (as part of inability to achieve deep sleep, a side effect of sleep apnea)
Most of the time, each of these conditions will effect me grab-bag style with combinations of two or three at a time, though they all pose a looming threat like the closet-dwelling, creepy headless torso in the back of my mind.  To make matters weirder, I can't really do prescription sleep-aids.  Ambien, Valium and Clonopin do nothing to me.  And while Ativan is a magic bullet (that I have referred to a few times in my life, after 4 days without sleep), it also gives me panic attacks.  So instead, I put together a sort of Boy Scouts survival kit.  Just as many boy scouts have learned, all the pocket knives and rope-tying badges in the world aren't going to save you if a grizzly comes out of the woods to eat you.  But having the kit can at least make you feel a little better, like you're doing something.

The only thing not pictured, here, is the quarter I use to make 
a fuckin' wish.

On an ideal night, I'll take one tablet each of my 3mg Melatonin and Gaba protein.  Then, I'll insert my mouthguard (to protect my teeth from grinding/snapping) coat my lips with a thick mask of Chapstick (as the bruxism/mouthguard combination rips my lips apart from the inside), apply the butterfly-looking Breathe Right strip (to help combat sleep apnea), then place the ear plugs in my ears and the sleep mask over my eyes (to keep the chirping of birds or lights outside from waking me, once asleep).  

It's become a ritual for me to ask Drew each morning, "Did I sleep okay?" instead of "Did you sleep well?"  Most mornings, if I follow each and every step of my nightly preparation, I'm answered with, "You flopped around like a fish," or "You snored like a buzzsaw," or "You don't remember sitting up and yelling about the giant spider?"  If I were eccentric and independently wealthy, I'd probably own a sort of deprivation-chamber for sleeping.  As it stands, however, this is the best I can do.  Aside from the occasional flopping, snoring and hypnagogic spider monsters, the kit works.  I may be the unsexiest human alive at night, but my husband has stated that there are times where you accept you have to make sacrifices for the sake of living with someone.  And marriage is all about sacrifice.

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