I have never slept well, that much is true but to wake from by bed screaming, shouting, heart racing or drenched in sweat is a new phenomenon for me. I understand there is a link between mental health and sleep disturbances as is the case with anti-depressants and sleep disturbances however I cannot but wonder how such vivid and seemingly real dreams construct themselves to be so frightening that the panic and anxiety lingers on throughout the days.
As a child I used to sleepwalk, I have no memory of it. I had terrible trouble falling asleep and when I did I experienced a reoccurring dream where I walked along a familiar road then slipped and fell onto train tracks awakening at the moment of landing. I remember only one actual nightmare where my entire family was killed off one by one by gruesome deaths; violent, bloody, bone crushing deaths.
Later in my youth I loved my dreams as they were always bright and dramatic. I dreamt every night. I flew away to different cities, countries, centuries. I loved to talk about my dreams as I had an extremely vivid imagination, I was well read and possessed a full lexicon of description to keep my audience entertained! In my early twenties my sleep pattern was erratic and I began to suffer from the stresses of my daily routine and environment. I worked extremely hard during this period and as I dreamt my fabulous dreams less and I had confusing mixed message dreams more. At the time of my breakdown I rarely dreamt and began suffering from insomnia where daydream like imaginings took over, these short ‘imaginings’ were usually sad and feelings of frustration was a common theme.
I began to suffer with hallucinations whenever I took too much codeine for my pains. After my first surgery I felt paranoid and scared due to the of the lack of sleep I was having and I continually clock watched through the night with my anxiety levels creeping up. I was given my first anti-depressant in January 2013 and immediately felt worse than I ever had before. I began to shout out in my dreams, wake up crying or startled. As my body got used to Fluoxitine the insomnia returned. I did not sleep much through 2013-2014 so these night terrors where rare and bizarre. I remember one morning hearing my parents calling me, it was about 6am, fed up and over-tired I ran down to their bedroom and screamed at them as to why they were calling me when they knew I suffered from insomnia and needed to sleep! They had not been. It was an auditory hallucination. My parents were terrified by my outburst. Soon after this episode I was given Duloxitine which for a couple of months made my symptoms worse and then once again as my body got used to the medication insomnia and anxiety returned.
As I have written before much of the severity of my ailments were due to my lack of sleep and rising anxiety levels.
October 2014 I was med-free by choice as I was suffering from symptoms in a noted cyclical pattern. Anti-depressants were not ‘working’ and I felt they elevated my thoughts of suicide and sadness each month when I ‘menstruated’ and this is when I began pushing for a diagnosis of PMDD as I was perfectly fine and normal for several days of the month and would then become a depressive, pained, anxious wreck for the remaining three-ish weeks.
I still was not sleeping. Having accepted that my period (or lack of) was the physical root of my problems, I began to work on my mental problems. I began to listen to meditation music and pray decades of the rosary. In this state I was calm and rested and noticed an improvement in my mood. I began to put less gravitas on sleep as my body functioned well on little sleep. I began to go outside more but still was unable to return to work.
Mr. K moved in with me in December and I slept continuously for the first time in years for just over a week. He made no issue over the little sleep I had each night and gave me his full support. Recently my GP prescribed Amitriptyline to help me sleep and to help with my pain. The first week went well for a few days and then the night terrors began. This week has been awful. I experienced the second most scariest dream of my life and woke up screaming and shouting. It took a few minutes to establish that I was back in the real world and not in a dream world but the extreme terror I felt stayed with me for several hours afterwards. The next morning I woke up shouting, heart racing and terrified but I did not remember what had caused me to shout out. As I was unable to return to sleep I missed my CBT appointment and feel exhausted and shaken. Today I woke in the early morning and was terrified to return to sleep. I dreamt I hung myself and then … well just more of the same suicidal stuff.
I am now over-tired and scared. On one hand I have experienced my least painful period of recent times, on the other, a couple of months of suicidal dreams and night terrors could affect my mental health. I have no idea what to do. I feel very low and feel I have moved backwards. I was so happy to finally sleep through the night but the truth is it is at a cost.
Should I stop the medication? I do not know.