Friday, July 29, 2011

A Decision I Never Dreamed I Would Make

As part of my effort to make sense of what had happened, to regain some control of my life, and move on after Eddie's death, I continued to see the counselor and the pastor on a regular basis.  While they helped me with many things, there was one area they couldn't help me with - sleep.  After two months I was still sleeping only two to three hours a night, and it was really starting to take a toll on me.  My family doctor gave me a couple of different things to take that were supposed to help me sleep but neither of them worked ... one made me sick and the other made me feel like I was in a daze all of the time.  I knew sleep was important and that lack of sleep could have negative effects, but I never knew just how much until I experienced it myself.

While some people sleep as a way to escape the reality of what has happened in their life, others find they can't sleep at all.  I was one of those people - my mind and emotions wouldn't turn off when I went to bed at night.  The darkness seemed to make the fear, doubt, sadness, dread, and loneliness worse.  My worries were magnified at night, and my stress level increased as the night went on.  I did some reading on sleep deprivation and found the following information: 1) Sleep is needed to regenerate the body, especially the brain; 2) A lack of sleep visibly affects a person's behavior; 3) Verbal language is affected, resulting in slurred, monotone, slow speech; 4) Sleep deprived people have difficulty forming new ideas and often repeat their words and actions; 5) Reflexes are slowed, judgment is impaired, and the ability to control impulses is reduced; 6) Lack of sleep affects the ability to focus and make decisions; 7) The immune system is weakened without sleep; and 8) In extreme cases hallucinations occur and can even lead to temporary insanity.  I realized I was experiencing most if not all of these symptoms (I truly felt like I was going crazy), so I made a decision I never dreamed I would make in my life - I decided to see a psychiatrist.

My counselor was the one who initially suggested this, and she even made the referral and appointment for me.  Of course I had no idea what seeing a psychiatrist would be like.  My only ideas were based on things I had seen on TV - Bob Newhart meeting with a group of patients who had weird fears and habits or Frasier Crane giving advice to callers on the radio.  I pictured myself going into an office, lying on a couch with a box of kleenex beside me, while the doctor sat in a chair, notepad and pen in hand, writing and saying things like "I see" and "How did that make you feel".  I couldn't believe I was going to go through with it, but by this point I was willing to try anything.  I knew psychiatrists usually prescribed medication, but I was very wary of taking anything after seeing what addiction had done to Eddie.  The night before my appointment I searched for medications on the internet.  I typed in all of my requirements - mild, non-addictive, few if any side effects, sleep aid, anxiety relief.  No matter where I searched, one particular medication kept coming up at the top of every list.  I wrote the name on a slip of paper and put it in my purse to take with me to my appointment the next day.

The psychiatrist's office was located on the second floor of a medical building downtown.  On the drive there I kept coming up with all kinds of reasons to call and cancel the appointment.  Once I got there, I sat in the car in the parking lot working up the courage to go inside.  On the elevator I rode past the floor because I was afraid to get off.  When I got to the office door I looked around to make sure no one saw me go inside.  When I finally made it into the office, I was pleasantly surprised.  I don't know what I was expecting, but I was relieved to see that it looked like any other doctor's office.  It was small, nicely decorated, comfortable, almost cozy feeling.  After a short wait I was called back to see the doctor.  I didn't think I would be in there very long because I assumed the main thing she would do would be to write me a prescription.  Again I was pleasantly surprised.  The doctor listened and talked to me for almost an hour.  She didn't bring up medication until the end.  When she did she said that based on everything I had told her there was one thing she wanted me to try.  Before I had a chance to get my slip of paper out of my purse she said the name of the same medication I had written down the night before.  I took this as a sign that I was meant to give this a try.  The doctor had me make an appointment for two weeks later so she could see how I was doing on the medication and also told me to call her if I had any problems or negative side effects at all.  This eased my mind and made me feel much more comfortable about taking something.

I filled the prescription as soon as I left her office but didn't take it until I was ready to go to bed that night.  I lay down to read, expecting to be awake off and on most of the night as I had been every night for the past two months.  As I turned off the light that night I looked at the clock - it was exactly 12:00 PM.  The next time I opened my eyes I looked at the clock again - it was 8:00 AM.  I couldn't believe it.  I thought the clock must be wrong so I got up and looked at my watch.  There was no mistake - I had slept soundly for 8 solid hours without waking up once!  The medication wasn't a miracle drug - it didn't take away the sadness or the loneliness, it didn't speed up the grieving process, it didn't bring Eddie back.  But it did allow me to start sleeping again which in turn made it possible for me to focus on dealing with the loss and getting my life back together.  I know some people don't agree with or approve of taking medication, but this proved to be a major step on my road to recovery.

"God is aware of your circumstances and moves among them.  God is aware of your pain and monitors every second of it.  God is aware of your emptiness and seeks to fill it in a manner beyond your dreams.  God is aware of your wounds and scars and knows how to draw forth a healing deeper than you can imagine.  Even when your situation seems out of control.  Even when you feel alone and afraid.  God works the night shift."  Ron Mehl, God Works the Night Shift

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