Well, that was just for the sake of a catchy title; I should more accurately say: “Why I am pro reducing (not eliminating) some prescription medications where possible”. Partly because I am British and we fear many drugs (except birth control which we apparently hand out like tic tacs) and their effects. We have a (possibly overblown) fear about medicated personalities and tolerance and addiction and about, quite frankly, not manning up and dealing with the fact that sometimes life is tough and it is not always going to be a level playing field.
This is the scenario that has lead to my latest blog outburst:
So, my sleep schedule has been a little messed up. It started last Saturday after a slightly emotionally-charged (but fully resolved) day. I got up from bed at midnight and listened to some podcasts online, watched a trashy chick flick and fell asleep somewhere between 3 and 4, getting up ~8 am for church. I was a little tired, but it didn’t stop me doing everything I needed to do that day, pretty cheerfully, and having guests over the evening to sample the champagne for the wedding. And sample we, or at least, I, did. Amazingly I slept very well that night 😉
Monday – no sleep. Nothing was bothering me, nor making me anxious. I just felt excited and spent the night watching trashy movies, catching up with friends in England, snuggling my cats and yes, looking at the odd wedding website. I fell asleep at about 6.30 and had to get up at 8.30 / 9.00 for work. There were no serious effects… apart from skipping my workout (heavy lifting on no sleep? Nay!) there was nothing other than a little tiredness. Here is my email about the day:
“I am shattered! All achey and tired, but OK really 🙂 Little difficult to concentrate but AM doing a very boring grant review. Meeting with Donna in 40 mins, I am going to ask for some help with my job apps and if I can apply for a new grant – I need to be faculty for it, and Donna may well agree to that (without the accompanying salary hike) for a year. Exciting!
Hopefully I will sleep like a baby tonight :)”
I don’t think this sounds like someone at the end of their tether. We had guests over that night, I worked after until about midnight, then fell asleep at 3 am (after, yes, more trashy movies. I am the master of these mwah ha ha).
Next, again, about a 3 am sleep, maybe 4, but I just didn’t feel tired. I mentioned it to people in the UK and as long as I was still at work (I was), not unhappy (I wasn’t), not unduly tired (I wasn’t) and not missing out on anything in life (heck I was still zumba-ing and doing my weekly HIIT sprints with no problem) they found it funny and cute, and were surprised I had not expected it before.
“You’re getting MARRIED in 2 weeks, we’d be worried if you were blase”.
Have wine and a hot bath / don’t work or talk to anyone after 10 / watch the wedding scene in 16 candles with cocoa were the pieces of advice I received; until I mentioned it to my PCP. I sorta wanted her to smile and giggle and perhaps have some lifestyle-advice gem I had missed (try a cooler room, don’t be hungry, stablize blood sugar with a light snack… anything). As I clearly wasn’t bothered by it, (in fact, I secretly liked the fact that it made me feel ‘bridal’) I was shocked when she prescribed a benzodiazepine.
I took it that night, fell asleep in 30 mins, slept through my alarm, was groggy the next day and dissolved both asleep, and into tears, at my desk. Ick! I told my fiance – he said I needed Ambien, a different type of pill. Many of my friends (US friends) had warned me about this, and advised against it. I said that I didn’t think I did – I didn’t think I needed pills at all. He said, I just needed to take it earlier in the evening.
Anyway, I didn’t take it the next night, but my not sleeping sorta bothered my finace and even though he went to sleep ~2 am at 3 am I took 1/2 a dose and dozed off, because I was worried if I didn’t sleep and he found out I hadn’t taken it, he would get frustrated. The next day, I said that I didn’t think I needed anything, but he was fairly insistent I did, and that I needed Ambien and I was scared about an argument / lecture if I didn’t sleep again so I took the tablet at 9, as he suggested, fell asleep at 9.30 and then apparently had the weirdest 1 & 1/2 hours of my life – which I don’t remember. Falling asleep on the floor 1/2 undressed; sleeping sitting up, sleep walking, drinking frikkin’ coca-cola (full fat, this has upset me most), standing in front of doors asleep, crying in my sleep. I woke up then and watched Grey’s Anatomy (NOT my choice 🙂 ) and Michael McIntyre (absolutely my choice) quite happily for a while and fell asleep.
I. Don’t. Want. To. Take. Drugs. That. Affect. My. Personality.
Wait for it. See? My personality is to get hyper and excited about things, and then I crash out when it all gets too much. It may not be ‘ideal’ but it doesn’t affect my life, and anyone who has CHOSEN to be in my life has CHOSEN to put up with that. I always say when I am dating someone “the door is open. I am not doing to force / persuade / emotionally blackmail you into going out with me. If I try and change it will end up being temporary and it won’t be ME. I am who I am, and you don’t have to sign up to that”. Most do; I remember only 1 who didn’t. But sleeplessness nights and being excited and running on a lot of energy has been a feature of my life, periodically: when I first went to Cambridge; when I wrote my PhD thesis in 10 days; when I first moved to Alabama. It is who I am and it doesn’t bother me.
So, I mentioned on facebook that I had a benzodiazepine. A lot of my friends wrote back and said “don’t take it girl! It’s not that bad yet” (one who is a surgeon said that she had even been tempted in her time when she was working on frequent boats of 3 hours of sleep, but had never succumbed)” and an American commented “I am annoyed your friends have that attitude. They don’t know you, and they don’t know the detriment to your life of not sleeping for a few nights”.
Thing is, they do. They know both of those. They know me, they know I am excitable and they love it about me. They celebrate differences in people and support them through and downsides. They know, in my life, I have skipped sleep for a while and been just fine. They have sometimes supported me through it with girlie nights and trashy magazines. They know that I do just fine (heck, I write a thesis that doesn’t need corrections… go figure). They know that if I am not unhappy about it, then all I need is a ‘dear dear’ and an encouragement that this is justification to break the diet and have some cheesecake.
The American who said that, my GP, my fiance – these are the people who do not know me, and do not know how I personally cope with not sleeping for a few nights. These are the people who have not sat down and honestly talked me through whether I have anxiety (I don’t, except now about my last post). That have not asked how my work is doing (quite well thanks, had some good meetings and wrote up a paper). That have not asked if I am too tired to do some healthful exercise (nope, I kicked ass in kickboxing!). These are the people who, in my mind, want to stop me being me.
A while ago I was diagnosed with an infected wisdom tooth just before I was flying. It was a misdiagnosis – it was actually inflamed from slight impaction, but that is what you get with free medical care I guess. Oh no, wait, I paid for it here. My mistake. They have me Percoset for the pain – and it certainly killed the pain. But (shhhhh) so did aspirin and paracetamol. Why shhhh? Because I took the Percoset. It made life so good! It reduced my everyday little worries, it made me calmer, more focused, more attentive, easier to be around. I thought it was great, until my bottle ran out. I asked my (then) boyfriend if I should go and get beta blockers, or anti depressants, or a mild anti anxiety drug to mimic the effects of Percoset in every day life. I knew I wanted to marry him when he looked at me, in the car, at the intersection of Highlands and Clairmont and said “No baby. You go up and down, but that is you. Your friends and I love you, you don’t need a drug to change that”. He captured exactly how I felt deep down and what I wanted to hear. It breaks my heart that that it not the sentiment I feel anymore, and that I feel my personality is a ‘problem’ to be ‘solved’, without a real discussion of if I am happy with that, and without trying alternatives to manage, rather than change me.
I cling on to my friend David’s words. When I was still settling in to UAB, and wondering if I needed to be more ‘Southern’ in my dress, attitude and so on I asked his opinion. He said “You’re wonderful. Don’t ever change. Be you – but be it knowingly”. It was about a year ago, but these words still help me sleep at night (except this week it would seem 😉 ).
I really love my life. I used to smoke marijuana (in the UK only) until (1) it made me feel queezy and (2) it made me paranoid. But, I was always against it being smoked as part of everyday life. Sure, add it to your occasional party arsenal if you so like. But, if I needed or wanted it every day I would think there was something wrong with my life, and rather than change my mental response to what is my daily life, I’d rather improve the actual life. If my job is boring, I don’t want weed to make it tolerable – I want to change it so that it is and I am LUCKY to be in a position of privilege to be able to do this (which is why I don’t judge others). If I think life it better through a slightly stoned haze, I’d rather change things to recreate that level of enjoyment myself. If I need it in the evenings, because I am bored – I’d rather get a new hobby (maybe that’s why I grow orchids, play video games, write books, weight lift etc etc 🙂 ). If it is because I am stressed at work, I’d rather sort that out differently.
I don’t want to be divorced from my life. I don’t want to miss out on this final 2 weeks of excitement. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. As Daddy said today “If you get tired, the adrenaline will see you though the wedding day and you’ll sleep like a baby for the next week. It’s just two weeks Lek”. I don’t want to be put to sleep ‘like a good little girl’ (unless my life is feeling some detriment from insomnia) while my fiance can keep whatever sleep schedule he likes (he frequently goes to bed at 2 am and naps during the day). I don’t want people to give me something that changes my behaviour without sitting down and talking to me, and deciding if it is the best thing for me, and if I am happy for that. From the bottom of my heart – thanks to Mum, Dad, Stella and Ryan for doing so.
My experience (subjective) is that I am in a state where 40% of the men I interact with are medicated / offered medication for ADD / ADHD (although this is definitely a sampling bias), and would like to offer me ADD medication. If this number is on the increase, in 11% time, will we soon medicate the non-ADD people as abnormal? And when will we stop telling people they are ‘not OK’ for who they are? And that they have the power to change who they are, of they want? And that they are capable of adapting their lifestyle without a pill, sometimes?
I am not against medication per se, not even psychological medication – I have even advised people to take it. This is just a bad experience, and reveals some underlying attitudes that I would like people to consider and challenge in the light of their potential consequences.
Thank you for listening. You did better than my PCP 🙂