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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Awake and unmedicated

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions and commiserations regarding my insomniac ways. Several of you suggested pharmaceutical intervention, which reminded me of the one and only time I've ever taken drugs to help me sleep. It seemed like a good story to share here.

The year was 1999. Annie was a little over 2-1/2 years old. Charlie was a baby, about 2 months old. I had wicked and severe postpartum depression. Postpartum OCD, to be exact. It was, without exaggeration, the worst time of my life.

My ob-gyn had referred me to a post-partum depression counselor, a woman named Birdie to whom I will forever be indebted. Anyway, Birdie and the ob-gyn decided that I should see a psychiatrist who could prescribe me some medication. He turned out to be the worst psychiatrist ever to be given a license. I asked him what kind of experience he had working with postpartum depression. His answer? His wife had given birth to 4 kids. Jerk.

Then he tried to tell me that everything I was experiencing was just a fabrication because I'm a writer and so I was just concocting these scenarios in my head. A-hole. Fine. Whatever buddy, just give me the prescriptions and I'll be on my pitiful way.

He prescribed me an antidepressant and Ambien, a drug that would help me sleep. I had been barely surviving on about 1 to 2 hours of sleep each night (even though Charlie was sleeping in 5 or 6 hours stretches at that point) and he felt, and Birdie agreed, that getting more sleep would go a long way in helping my psyche.

That same day, we went to my in-laws for the weekend. We hadn't told them anything about the struggles I was having, but planned to let them know I wasn't feeling well and would be spending most of the weekend resting. That evening, I took out the bottle of Ambien. The instructions said "take one tablet one hour before bedtime." Perfect. I could take one, read Annie a story, say prayers and tuck her into bed and get in bed myself while I waited for the Ambien to kick in.

Well it would have been perfect. Except that within five minutes of taking the Ambien, I was slurring my words and stumbling in the hallway. Mike freaked out, thinking that I had overdosed. He called Birdie, convinced that I was trying to off myself with Ambien. Apparently -- because I don't remember anything after the hallway -- I got on the phone with Birdie and assured her that I had only taken one Ambien and I wasn't trying to kill myself.

And that, my friends, is the first and last time I've ever taken drugs to help me sleep.


Dale Carter said...

Back in 1982, after birth of twins and 2yo at home, I also had severe post-partum depression, although no one called it that back then. Sleep deprivation and fatigue were my constant companions! Finally was referred to a psychiatrist who declared all I had to do was return to work full-time and that would solve my problems.
Total jerk; I declared after that I would never see another psychiatrist in my life.
I found a support group, and 3 years later, when I was ready, returned to work!

CWMartin said...

Man, I saw the word "ambien" and thought, "Here comes one of those stories!" Ambien is known for the stuff you do on it that you don't remeber; Laurie's sister in law and her friend had a story that I cannot tell without knocking you off the family channel involving a razor (but, don't worry, no blood).

It might be just me (being a man) but I think if I was sent to a doc for PPD and opened the door to see a man, I'd just say, thank you no, I'll go find someone qualified.

kimybeee said...

ambien is truly one of the sleep aids that has the most horror stories. you have to remember that things have changed a lot since then too. jeff is not taking anything like that. his med just helps him relax, he doesn't have any side effects at all. he just wakes up feeling rested and doesn't dream stupid things or wake up every five minutes. you can try something as simple as benadryl before bed or even something like xanax to help you sleep. or you can change your sleep habits.

since you end up with a kid in your bed and mike doesn't sleep well either, try sleeping in a different room. no tv, no computer, no clock face staring at you. turn the clock around where you can't see it. if you do wake up, don't do anything but lay there in the dark with your eyes closed. even if you aren't sleeping, you aren't stimulating your body like you would be if you were on the computer or up folding laundry. you may not sleep as long, but at least your body would be at rest. if you don't want medical intervention, you will just have to experiment until you find what works!!

Jessica McCoy said...

My husband used to take Ambien. He said he would have to be flat in bed before he could take it because they worked so fast. Once he accidently took the wrong meds in the morning and one was an Ambien. He was halfway to work when it kicked in! He made it to work ok but was a zombie for the rest of the day!