Functionality, Survival And Stress: Not Doing Well While Looking Like You Are
What's The Alternative?
I took Effexor for around six and a half years. For those who don't know what it is, it's a drug designed to help provide something of a buffer zone for those experiencing anxiety or depression, and it did wonders for me.
Notice I used "took," and not "have taken".
On the advice of a nurse practitioner that I saw, I began a process of weaning off the meds. Why? It was believed that Effexor had effectively robbed me of sleep for most of the last three or four years, to the point where I was averaging around three to 5 hours of sleep nightly. That was along with working at a job I love, raising two girls, and trying to keep life spinning on its usual course, let alone trying to carve some time out for myself to stay healthy.
I weaned off the drug over the course of about a month, which in retrospect was probably far too fast for the length of time I was on it. Why did I wean off instead of just stopping cold turkey? Effexor falls under a category of drugs that affects how your brain works, and as a result, unless you enjoy feeling nauseous, like your brain is being electrocuted or having stomach upset (yes, even though it's your brain that's involved, you may find your stomach is sore a lot of the time too), you'd best wean off the medicine - never mind the emotional affects of stopping cold turkey.
So. Here we are, a month later, and I'm talking to a friend of mine who also struggles with sleep, and she asks the question, "how do you function?"
It's not the first time I was asked that, and the answer is a little complicated, although more so than I likely need or want it to be.
Caffeine Helps, But There's More
Evenings are particularly stressful for me lately, and I suspect that may be simply because I know sleep is going to be elusive, and that I can feel something like a "black dog" hanging over my shoulder.
I've found since coming off the anti-anxiety meds, I've become very grouchy in the evening. Some days are better than others, as life tends to be in general, but the closer it gets to 9 pm, the crustier I get.
The kids start dragging their heels about bedtime and I get snarly.
It gets noisier than I need/want/like it to be during bedtime routine (I've noticed I've had sensory issues as well with coming off the meds) - I get snarly.
I'm told to just go to sleep and it's game over...the stress of getting everyone to bed including myself after a long day finally snaps and sleep becomes even more elusive and I become angry because no one wants to SLEEP, damn it, ever.
And then I have to get up the next morning and make things happen all over again.
Yes, I'm short tempered of late. Absolutely. I've owned that, time and again with my family.
But who wouldn't be after 3-4 years of averaging 4 hours of sleep a night? I'm trying SO hard to bounce back, but I'm learning, sometimes the hard way, that pretending as though I'm some sort of hyper-caffeinated Superwoman has its drawbacks. I snap at the damnedest things, and while some things I lose it at are justified, I own it when it's not - and even then, we talk about when I am justified in feeling how I do and why.
It's part of functioning on such little sleep. You have to figure it out. You've got to try and understand why you're behaving as you are.
DON'T OVERTHINK, though! That's sometimes just as bad.
You have to be able to figure it out and move on. Hanging on to it will only kill your usefulness, and I can't afford that.
You keep moving on.
Things could be falling apart but you keep doing it.
There's no choice, no "easy" button - though I really wish some days that Staples would get on that.
You keep going because you have to.
And sometimes "fake it til you make it" could be enough to pull you out of the insomnia, the anxiety or the depression so you're in high gear.