I know that there are lots of people – and not just the bipolar ones – who don’t like taking medication and especially don’t like needing to take them. It’s a reminder of their illness, I guess, or a dependence on a chemical answer when we’ve been told for so long, “Just say no to drugs” and indoctrinated by DARE. The only thing they leave out is that some drugs are good for you – the prescribed ones that allow you to live and function.
I don’t mind my psychotropic medications. In fact, in many ways I love them. They are the things that keep me relatively stable, on a mostly even keel, and make sure that none of my mood swings lasts more than a couple of days. I loathe pill shaming and consider it just one more kind of stigma that attaches to mental illness (and other chronic illnesses).
But there is one medication I take every day that gives me pause. It is my sleeping pill. My psychiatrist prescribes them and I take one every night, along with my other nighttime pills. In about 20 minutes to an hour, I’m asleep, and I stay asleep usually until 8:00 a.m. or so. It means I get about eight or nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
I do need that sleep. I’m not one of those people who can function on four or five hours of sleep, the way tech geniuses and high-powered execs claim they can. If I don’t get my eight hours – and sometimes even if I do – I take naps during the day. Not just naps: mega-naps. My brain and body sneer at 20-minute catnaps. If I’m going to sleep, they say, it must be an hour at a minimum. Two is even better.
It’s not like I want to go back to the days before the sleeping pills, either. I do still remember the long nights of fear and sorrow, the fits of crying, the panicky sensation of not being able to breathe. The endless mental replay of every stupid thing I’ve ever done. The anticipation of the disasters the next day would bring. The hopelessness and the helplessness and the loneliness. The feeling that I was the only being awake, maybe in the world. If a single little pill can save me from all that, I should be glad to take it.
Why, then, does it bother me?
Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t feel necessary in the way my psychotropics do. They are prescribed for my bipolar condition and somehow make the difference in how my neurotransmitters operate. The sleeping pill feels like a different category of drugs.
Or perhaps it is because sleeping pills are often a drug of abuse and even suicide. My psychiatrist trusts me with them, though, and has for years. Plus, my anti-anxiety med is also often abused and I feel no guilt about taking that.
Maybe it’s because a sleeping pill feels in some way like a luxury. I don’t think it does anything specific for my bipolar disorder – except that sleepless nights are certainly associated with depression and my middle-of-the-night anxiety as well.
I hate to think it, but maybe the pill-shamers have gotten to me. I take such a cocktail of assorted psychotropics that it’s perhaps natural I should ask myself every now and then if I’m overmedicated (my doctor doesn’t seem to think so) and whether I could do without any of the drugs. The sleeping pill is the only one that might be in that category.
But no. I don’t want to go back to the nights of distress, despair, and devastation. I don’t want to wake my husband up as I gasp for breath and need him to stroke my hair until I fall asleep. And I surely don’t want to go through those bad feelings all alone in the night while he works the third shift.
All in all, I think the sleeping pill is a good thing for me and that I shouldn’t try to give it up. I just wish I didn’t feel so ambivalent about it.
Comments on: "The One Pill I’m Embarrassed About Taking" (7)
Totally understand this and I reckon there are plenty of us here who’d feel the same! … for what it’s worth however, I’d say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As in, if the sleeping pill is working and not doing you any harm, then if it was me, I’d keep on with it. That’s just my view!! Katie
Have you tried it without. A lot of times the other drugs you mentioned you are on are good enough to put you to sleep. I don’t take sleeping meds unless absolutely necessary. In no way am i condoning not taking meds and you should discuss with your doctor. You are lucky that you have not gotten immune to them because many people do.
Lack of sleep is a well known trigger for mood swings and anxiety. The sleeping pill is a necessary drug to help keep you stable. It is part of the cocktail that is working for you. There was a time when my cycling was really bad and we couldn’t find the right meds to gain control. During that time I also needed sleeping pills. They really helped. Sleepless nights only made me worse so I was glad I had the sleeping pills. Your description of your experience convinces me that they are necessary for your well being. Everyone’s experience with bipolar is unique to them so please don’t doubt yourself by comparing yourself with anyone else. Happy New Year and I wish you continued nights of sweet dreams 🙂
Thank you. I appreciate your insight.
Thank you so much for this post. I thought I was the only one who felt like this.
You’re welcome. And no, you’re not alone.
Sleep is necessary. If you aren’t abusing the anti-anxiety medication and you take the sleep med as prescribed, you are not abusing the meds.