Before I begin musing, I do want to start off by saying I have missed my WordPress community. One of the highlights of my morning, while sipping on coffee and preparing to spend the day immersed in editing, is to sojourn through your blogposts, enjoying your anecdotes, stories, encouraging messages, passions, and projects. I love that. My negligence can be explained simply by saying that I have existed in what I would call a living nightmare for the past five days: insomnia.
It started Sunday evening; I awoke in a panicked state, grappling with the sheets, sweating, disoriented, and in pain. A severe, dull throbbing pulsated at the back of my head, just above the slight indention. I shook violently. I couldn’t catch my breath and my heart raced like I had spent the last ten hours running for my life. I was terrified.
Nearly swooning when I stood up, I reached over, turned on the light and woke my husband. Groggy and confused, he asked me what was wrong. I could hardly speak, but managed “I don’t feel well.” I was unable to tell if my nausea was related to an actual symptom of what was happening to me, or if in my terror I had caused it.
Our bedroom felt like a cell; if you live in California, you might know we have been experiencing unusually high temperatures which hardly cool off in the evenings. It’s been miserably hot lately and nearly impossible to rest comfortably. Amid the shaking and the flush like a fire I couldn’t snuff, I knew I had to get outside. Michael and I walked out the front door and I took off down the sidewalk at a slow gallop. I think I was trying to outrun whatever was gnawing at my neck and stomach. The pain was unfamiliar, nothing I could remember experiencing.
My first thoughts in those moments: I have a tumor. I know, it’s crazy, but exhaustion depletes you of sanity. Also, about ten years ago a sudden double-vision struck me over night. I simply went to bed and the next morning woke seeing double. Just after insomnia, double vision is one of the worst, terrifying, stressful times in my life. And of course, one of the main predicators of a neurological issue is double vision. Though it was likely no more than a week or two until I had my MRI and we received the news that I did not have brain cancer, I would have pledged on a bible that at least a century had passed.
Moments grow into decades when you’re living in a bubble made out of fear molecules.
The sky had only just turned; a pale, streaky pink, with blue and white blotches. We had decided for whatever reason to take Bella (my pup) with us on our walk. I can remember watching her zig and zag across the sidewalk thinking, “I’m dying. I know it. I’m dying.” I should mention now that I have anxiety issues. They run in my family, and when anything potentially life-threatning occurs — usually the completely irrational fears — I start spinning backward in a tumult of hypochondria.
Michael eventually suggested I sit down, and so I did, thinking that any moment here, any moment . . . I would wake up.
That day, I continued to experience an awful head pain and a plethora of other weird pangs and sensations, both bothersome and uncomfortably eerie. I couldn’t sleep. The best I could so was sit on the couch, watch TV, and try to take my mind off the situation. My husband began researching my symptoms, to which we eventually arrived at either a “tension headache” or a sinus infection. I was experiencing lots of popping in my ears; however, none of my sinuses were activated to any painful degree. My mother-in-law, a nurse, shared that we have sinus cavities all around our head and it was possible they were inflamed, or my ears were filled with fluid. After an ear examination, normal bloodpressure, lack of fever, and Sudafed that helped none at all, I privately contended with the possibility that I was having an aneurism, bleeding in the brain, or my tumors (hypothetically) had grown to the point where I was now in serious peril.
I didn’t sleep that night. Or the next.
A tremor had developed, usually starting in the evenings just before bed, shaking me so hard my teeth rattled and causing my abdominal muscles to ache with constant pressure. I shook for fourteen hours straight. I thought I would die of it. The headache, too, would not lighten up. It circulated around my head, touching my temples and lower skull with hands like slow firing grenades. I fell into an exhausted delirium at some point, my legs dangling off the side of the bed in attempt to ease the tremor. Possibly I might have slept about ten to fifteen minutes at a time, amounting to something close to an hour, but the sleep was fragmented and not restorative.
After the third night, I had Michael take me to Urgent Care. Only, he had a very important meeting that day, from 8 to 10. He couldn’t miss it, as it was the very first meeting that would start his new career as a permanent School Psychologist. When he came in that morning — he was sleeping on the couch at this point — I told him I needed help now, right this minute, knowing it was impossible, but unable not to want it. It was 6 a.m. and I hadn’t slept. Tiny explosions continued to detonate all around my head, stomach, and heart. We discussed my coming to the meeting with him, which would get us to Urgent Care maybe thirty minutes sooner. I couldn’t stomach the idea of just sitting in his car, counting the minutes until he would come find me. I stayed home and waited, pacing the short corridor of our home.
Around 11:30 a.m. we saw a doctor I had never met, and I desperately pleaded my case: “Help me. Please.” I think he cared. I don’t know. I can only imagine the amount of patients he sees on a daily basis, all of them complaining about this and that and such and such. I informed him of my long-standing history with insomnia; that at eighteen it, just like the double vision, sprung up and persisted for over a month. (To date, this was the lowest time in my life.) I let him know what medication I had taken for over ten years, how I was able to wean myself off with acupuncture and extremely strict bedtime rituals. It was not easy. In fact, it is the most difficult thing I have ever done. But I did do it. And now, the thought of putting that drug back into my body was all at the same time devastating and liberating.
I just wanted my life back.
After that appointment, we went to see my friend Patrick, a chiropractor I see on a weekly basis. We were all fairly certain that it was tension headache ailing me, because I have constant issues with my trapezium muscles, to the point where they knot and swell so badly I can hardly see straight. I can work with the double, I’ve adjusted, but the blurry vision is just too much. Anyhow, the moment he felt my neck he knew something was very wrong. My atlas — the bone at the top of my spinal chord — was completely out of place. Within three adjustments he had put my bones back in alignment.
Guess what? The headache went away. This was the very first victory in three days. I celebrated with a Chai Latte.
That night the tremor came on at 9 p.m. I took the other medication the doctor prescribed me first: the anti-anxiety pills. The doctor had assured me they would absolve the tremors. I took two. Nothing happened, so I took another. Still, nothing. I couldn’t do this again. The idea of it was enough to send me into a writhing panic. I had shaken for hours and hours and hours the night prior. I wouldn’t survive another night of it. I took a sleeping-aid and had my husband hold me, him whispering prayers of peace and mercy into my ear. He didn’t just hold me, though; he grabbed me; as if I was his life-support and it was the only thing that would keep him alive. I cried, thinking that this could be one of the last times he ever held me like that.
The tremors began coming and going. They would be there for three minutes, then go away for five, only to arrive again with a maddening swiftness. Michael had me lie face down on the bed, then pressed his body on top of mine. The pressure helped a little; it prevented me from shaking hard, though I could still feel it there, like a fault line teasing my thighs. With a cocktail of drugs in me, I lay that way and eventually had Michael cover me with a blanket and told him to go to sleep. He left the room and I slept fitfully.
The next morning I thought I had died and been resurrected. Everything, I mean everything, hurt. If I opened my eyes, even for one second, nausea formed bile that launched into my throat. Somehow I found the remote and turned on the TV, trying to focus on that instead of the other stuff. After a while I started to function somewhat normally, had coffee, because if I didn’t, I would incur a reduced-caffeine headache. I didn’t taste it, I just drank it, the same way I was eating, the same way I was doing everything: with perfunctory obedience.
Mercifully, around 1 or 2 every afternoon I would start to feel better and even had desires of going out. We would go get coffee — decaf — walk around Target, take walks; just do normal people things.
The fourth night I only took the sleeping-aid. I took one. Then I took a half an hour later, then another half thirty minutes later. It’s hard to recall, but I think I slept about an hour that night. How this is possible, I don’t know, but I felt better that day than any other. Even more so than today, after nearly a full night of sleep.
I slept. Finally.
I think it was the acupuncture. I had went to see him (Dr. Hing, he’s a character.) yesterday, and as I mentioned before, this treatment was what helped me permanently cease using medication to fall asleep. We also went to The Lazy Dog Cafe and had a lovely dinner. We do this almost every Friday, but this time it was vastly different. This I’ll save for another post, but eventually I want to talk about what happens to a person when the customary and mundane suddenly becomes magical, making every moment with the ones you love something special beyond words. Another post . . .
So, today my double is still pronounced, but I am hoping that goes away with a few more nights of healthy sleep. I celebrated the slept night with cleaning out the fridge and dusting, wiping, and Febreezing our bedroom. It felt wonderful, let me tell you.
Now, I wait for the day after today. Will I sleep tonight? I don’t know. Perhaps I was so overly tired that the meds worked only because I was prepped for sleep. Or maybe I will sleep even better because it’s one more night my body is accustomed to the medication. Either way, I would appreciate your prayers. Jesus has been livened in me. At night, I pray without ceasing, clinging to His strength, asking for no more than enough strength to endure the next sixty seconds. It’s all I need: just sixty seconds of Him at a time. His promise to not forsake me is what has allowed me to hold tight, to not completely break and burst apart. I know He is with me, suffering as I am.
I continue to operate at half-mast. I am fuzzy and emotional and at certain times bleak. I am hopeful, though. I beat this once, I am pretty sure I can do it again. Once I am sleeping well enough to do things like exercise and think coherently, I plan to start weaning myself off the drug, which is always tricky. I have do it, though. I refuse to live enslaved to a pill.
I hope to make my way around to your blogposts. I really have missed them. Computer work, however, for any length of time is taxing on my eyes. As I type this, I really don’t even see the screen or the keyboard; my fingers do most the work, as they know letter placement better than even I do. But wow, does it feel good to write something. Even this, even just purging myself of the ordeal of the last week. Thank you for listening, thank you for reading. I hope each and every one of you is well and happy. I hope to be back soon.
Take care, my friends, and be well.