Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Remember how I don't sleep, and Ambien changed my life? The Ambien stopped working slowly over the last year. Around the same time, my anxiety went from constant but barely there to constant but much stronger, though not what I would call severe. 
No reason. Life is good, on all different kinds of levels. All of the major stressors that contribute to anxiety have either diminished in the last year or vanished completely. For instance, our house sold, and our kids are getting more likable and less needy. I can say with some confidence that this is probably the best part of my life that I can ever remember. But I am cranky, always on edge. The people I love most bear the brunt of it, of course. That's how these things go. So I don't sleep at night, and I'm always lashing out or keeping myself from lashing out, and there is no reason for it. 

I have never been much of a worrier. I have a constant sense of dread hanging over me, but it's not about anything specific. It's like the tense background music in a horror movie. That is the soundtrack of my brain. I don't lie awake at night worrying about things that actually worry me. It's weird things that keep me awake at night. Sometimes I become convinced that the kids are up and walking around. I often feel a child climbing into bed when there's no one there. I woke up one night and gaped at the wall for a long time because it was rippling like the surface of a lake. 

When worry does keep me awake, it's over stuff that doesn't bother the real me. Like, I will never finish this book before it's due at the library. Or, Grace didn't get a birthday party this year. When will she start killing small animals? Or even, Jeremy has a secret girlfriend. They're not latent worries that surface only at night (then I would lie awake worrying about that stupid thing I said yesterday, and now my best friend will hate me). They are lies my brain cooks up because it hates me and wants me to become crazy. I often imagine it as Krang.

I hate it when people tell me not to worry when I say that I'm a bit anxious. Worry is just one possible symptom. My biggest symptom used to be avoidance or procrastination. If I pretend a responsibility is not there, it doesn't exist. It was easy when we had no kids, and I could get away with writing papers the week or night before they were due. It's harder now to flee responsibility, make up for it in a furious burst of sleep deprivation and coffee, and then go about my regular day again. 

No, now I have to be kind to two souls who believe their wants and needs always trump mine. In college, I got far less sleep, but the bar for functioning was far lower. I could nap between classes, and the only people I had to interact with were my professors. They did not follow me home. I did not have to tenderly clean their faces minutes after they had thrown food on my clean floor. They were not necessarily less irritating or more empathetic, but they could give me Fs. My kids can't give me Fs. Well, they can, but they would be scrawled in Post-Its in three-inch letters and usually backwards, thereby lacking a certain gravity.

Avoidance worked for a long time, and then I had a tiny, helpless person, and that wasn't going to work anymore. I kind of got used to that after being a mom for a few years, but the insomnia got worse. Then the urge to snap at everyone started putting a damper on my hopes and dreams of my kids not becoming serial killers. So Ambien! Ambien to the rescue! I became a new person after a couple weeks of good sleep. Then in the last year it slowly stopped working, and I was back to square one.

I talked to my doctor. She went through all the standard questions with me (Do you exercise? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you have friends? Are you a worthless layabout looking for an easy solution when really your lifestyle is horrible, and you make bad chocies?) and suggested buspirone. I have never heard of it before. She said it was not a heavy hitter, but that people who do respond to it respond well. 

I came home from the pharmacy, took my first dose, and proceeded to be nice to my kids for the rest of the day. I looked it up and read that it's supposed to take 4-6 weeks to begin working. I was sure it was just a placebo effect, but then I continued to not be angry in stupid situations where only a jerk (like me) would be angry. There were also other things I didn't expect, like the ability to remember. My memory hasn't been this sharp since before I had kids. I can memorize piano music again, and I haven't lost my keys even once in the last month and a half. I am able to focus instead of slogging my way through a haze of distraction.

I slept well for a couple of weeks, but I'm not again. Not all the time. However, on days after I haven't slept well, I'm just tired. I don't want to hiss and growl at every little thing. I still enjoy life even when I'm tired. 

Also, part of the reason I don't sleep well is that our mattress is made of horrible, and Jeremy twitches around like a 190-pound rodent. I wonder if there's a drug for that.

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