Why can’t I sleep?
We’re barely even acquaintances at this point.
I’ve contemplated writing a story about my messed-up sleep before.
The whole thing felt ironic if I wasn’t writing in the wee hours of the night.
So here I am, at 3:22 am, telling you all that I can’t sleep.
It started innocently enough. Sometime in late March, when the sun starts to arrive after a long, grey winter. I was unmedicated but was beginning to accept that I am bipolar. I’d made two trips to town that morning. Once to retrieve two of our cats from the vet. Once for breakfast and coffee treats for the family.
Then I started dancing.
I wore noise-canceling headphones and danced and spun in a bright red gauze dress while cleaning every corner of our house. Killing Boys by Halsey on repeat. I chugged my Flat White as if it was the sweetest nectar. I praised the sun for returning to shine upon me.
My in-laws visited that day and I got drunk late into the night. One by one, everyone filtered off to sleep. I laid in bed out of sheer necessity and stared at the ceiling.
I simply wasn’t tried.
I fell asleep around 4 am and was awake shortly after 5 am. I was almost giddied by the whole thing. Aside from mild brain fog, it felt as if the sleeplessness wasn’t even touching me. So I got drunk and stayed up most of the night that second night too. I haven’t recovered since.
Medication hasn’t helped.
When I started seeing a psychiatrist again, he asked how many nights I can go in a row without sleep during Mania. The answer then and now has been: none. I probably could go all night, but I don’t. I briefly fall asleep sometime around 9–11 and sleep for 2 the 3 hours. Then I toss and turn until early morning when I may catch another 30 minutes to an hour.
So far, everything I’ve tried has worked for a day or two before my body overrides it.
Zzquil has been my greatest success. For about a week, I got 5–6 hours of sleep. Melatonin use to do it for me, but the whole idea is laughable now. Herbals like Calm’s Forte and Valerian Root don’t stand a chance.
My doctor is via a telehealth service called Teladoc and his hands are somewhat tied. There are, unfortunately, a lot of medications he isn’t allowed to prescribe. He’s offered Trazodone, which use to be an antidepressant. But it’s so sedating it isn’t really prescribed for that purpose anymore. Trazadone worked for the standard 2–3 days before my body revolted.
It felt as if I wasn’t even taking a drug anymore.
Next up was clonidine. For the first two nights, I felt like I’d struck gold here. Clonidine is typically used to lower blood pressure. But it can also be used for racing thoughts. Perfect.
The first two nights were wondrous. I slept like a rock. Then the third night the bug dreams started.
Now, granted, this was my first day without my favorite antipsychotic. Vraylar. My insurance company refuses to pay for it so I’ve moved onto Abilify. My first night on the Abilify, Lamictal, Clonidine combo was awful. I don’t know who to blame.
About 6 times that night, I woke up in a panic attack. I kept having dreams of ludicrous scenarios.
I’d be in some beautiful setting surrounded by people I love when I’d find myself close to some bug. A spider or Hercules beetle or something like that.
The following day I thought Bipolar Disorder was a superpower. I thought that I just needed support to pursue my passions. I felt that drugs were the modern-day lobotomy. I felt that I was the human embodiment of the sun, and she wouldn’t shine on me so if that wasn’t true. I was also sure that my therapist was sending the cops to pick me up and was pretty sure I’d heard them in the driveway.
That night, I didn’t both with the clonidine. I tried some old-fashioned Zzquil but found myself examining the corners of my closet for mouse poop. I was really confident I’d heard some mice in there.
I hoped maybe the bug night was a coincidence. I took another Clonidine and some Melatonin and slept for about 3 hours. Even those hours were fitful, at best.
But wait! That’s not all!
Unfortunately, mania comes with several other side effects, obviously.
This biggest indicator right now is, of course, I can’t slow down. It isn’t just that I’m not tired. My husband says I’m drawing from a supernatural well of energy. I say I’m maxing out an energetic credit card that is going to go into collections, and I can’t pay it back.
But I spend my days clawing around for an escape. My husband approves all of my madness. I spend my mornings begging.
Can I drive an hour away for some new bar stools?
Can I drive an hour and a half away for a MacBook and two iPhones?
Can I go buy a pool?
What about ducks?
Hey, can I drive two and a half hours away to get a dog?
He approves 2 of these, take a guess.
Other times, they’re small things that I chase without asking. Like an hour and a half drives for sim cards or 45-minute drives to the massive park nearby.
Either way, these daily races to keep my brain at bay are what’s keeping me functioning. Without some sort of outlet, my skin becomes too tight. I feel like a prisoner inside this own flesh suit and I just need to open it up a little.
But all of this running and racing and spending has racked up over $4000 in debt since late March.
I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I keep spending money. I want to have sex constantly. My self-esteem is through the roof and I’m witty as all get out.
But I know that the energetic credit card collectors are going to come calling. And I’m going to be deeply in the red.
I have hope for reprieve in 4 hours.
As I’ve said, my psychiatrist’s hands are tied. Teladoc hides it a bit but does admit that their doctors can’t prescribe many medications for Bipolar Disorder.
At least one medication my doctor can’t prescribe stands between me and the antipsychotic I like best. If he can’t prescribe Saphris, I can never afford Vraylar. Or at least not for several years.
So in the morning, I’m seeing my nurse practitioner. I’m going to beg her to prescribe the things that he can’t prescribe. Please, give me Saphris.
Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. Maybe she can give me a stronger, as-needed medication to knock me off this manic high horse. Sometimes mania feels hellish, sometimes it feels glorious. But I’m going to pay for all of this energy and spending in the end.
I’m also hoping she can give me something to really knock me out. I need it.
UPDATE: My doctor did end up giving me Ambien. And while it worked the first night, I’m back to obsessing over bugs and having nightmares in the middle of the night. I’m back on my Vraylar but haven’t really noticed much of a difference. I’m sleeping closer to 4–5 hours a night but it’s still absolutely horrendous.