Ambien, Insomnia, and Air Beds

“Insomnia is my greatest inspiration.”

Jon Stewart

Three AM again, in this age of being. The apartment is lit up like the Vegas strip on a hot summer night and weird music is playing in my headphones. Again, my evening was a twisting, writhing fight with sheets and pillows unable to find a comfortable position both physically and mentally. Listening to the soft noise of the irrigation system moistening the ground outside my window, I get lulled into a sort of trance. It’s not sleep, it’s not awake, it’s a sort of psychological break. Sleep wasn’t going to come anytime soon.

I turn onto my other side and break into a pouring sweat. A train whistle blows somewhere and my eyes pop open. It’s dark, I can see the soft parking lot light illuminating the parking lot full of shitty cars. I want to sleep, I really do. I love sleep, it’s the only place I feel safe most of the time, but it wasn’t going to happen, not tonight at least. I sit upright, reach over and turn on my tacky bedside lamp and shake my head. “Not again, really, not again.” I understand the mental health ramifications of sleep deprivation, if anybody does, it’s me.

“Do some research.”

Phillip LeCroy

In a phone conversation last night, I expressed being overwhelmed, absolutely against a wall in which I felt I had nowhere to turn. My depressive state had coupled with my friend the eating disorder and decided it was going to try and sabotage all of my attempts at climbing from the fear of being in a new place. If there’s anyone in the world that has put up with my fits of fear and loathing, it would be Phil. He’s seen me at my best, he’s seen me at damn well dead. Reaching for help, and selfishly thinking he could wave a magic wand and fix everything, he offered only the advice as to research. Figure out what’s making me tumble into a dark abyss of my own mind.

The internet can be a big scary place, and although it’s a wealth of information, it’s also something that can turn into a worm hole and suck you down tunnels you don’t know how to get out of. To a deep thinker, you never take the first article you come across, you never settle on the easy article with bullet points and pictures. I want context, I want big words that I probably can’t pronounce. I want to be able to look at four different websites and get a consensus on a hypothesis. What I came up with was a chicken and an egg. I’m not a fan of chicken and I hate eggs.

“Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine investigated emotional responses in the brains of people with insomnia and found dysfunctional activity in an area of the brain that regulates and processes emotions. Their findings may provide an explanation for the mechanism by which disrupted sleep influences depression and other psychiatric conditions.”

Psychology Today

So, pretty much what I’ve researched said that if I’m depressed, I’ll have insomnia and if I have insomnia it will feed other mental health issues, including depression. I’m not talking about being a little sad, no sir, I’m talking about pulling your car on the side of the road on the way to work and falling absolutely apart. The odd thing is that there isn’t really much that you can do once you feel yourself falling apart, you’re tired, that’s for certain, and you’re probably not exactly prepared to deal with trying to explain why your eyes are watery and red. The best case scenario your co-workers just think you’ve got allergies or are on drugs….drugs…

“Ambien helps me sleep more nights than I care to admit – although I’m uncertain about the quality of sleep.”

Chuck Palahunik

You might be thinking “N Weed, why don’t you just get some sleeping pills?”

My response, “No, thank you.”

Pharmaceuticals, as a tool, are great. You don’t use your damn hammer everyday if you’re an accountant and if you’re a carpenter you don’t need a sewing machine everyday, but every once in a while….every once in a while you need a tool. I’m guilty of this, I have painful bouts of shaking fits due to what some call neurological damage or others just call nervous energy. I grab my little orange bottle and get a little bit of alleviation from an aggravating condition that keeps me from writing like a normal human being and sometimes even walking without being afraid of falling. I’m okay with that tool, it mellows me out.

Sleep aids, however, terrify the living hell out of me. There was a time in my life that I was engaged to a guy who had a mom who felt like she could fix my flaws with medication and going to the doctor and beauty salon. Make her beautiful and numb. I went on Prozac and fell asleep behind the wheel. They supplemented that with Welbutrin and I stayed awake for almost 52 hours straight, where somewhere in there I drove to the South Carolina coast from Greenville, SC in record time. I remember glancing down and not understanding the instrument panel. It wasn’t where I wanted to be. I’ve never been a proponent of hard drugs, but I have to believe that I had a reaction to that stuff similar to what one would have the first time doing speed (which I’m not really sure what that is….)

With a brain that goes faster than a squirrel up a tree running from a cat, that combination didn’t work for me.

“Perscribe pills to offset the pills you know you should take.”

Panic at the Disco (okay, lame reference)

After getting back from the beach I walked back to my doctor and said “fix it.” The solution, Ambien. Okay, so you fall asleep while driving, you don’t sleep when you’re supposed to, so we’re going to give you this to make you a normal person that sleeps at night again. I tried to manage without, and it wasn’t working, I broke down and took the Ambien and fell asleep on an air mattress in a guest bedroom. I needed sleep, I craved it.

Then things got weird.

“Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion”

Hunter S. Thompson

Regretfully so, I’ve seen far too many psychedelic movies than I care to admit to, but those are safe. You can turn off the television and be back in a safe spot. I’ve probably have seen Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas upwards of 200 times, and it’s not because I’m a fan of the hallucinogenic properties or moral of that particular lifestyle, it’s just entertaining.

“It’s like taking a trip and never leaving the farm.”

Dan Bowman, the song Wildwood Weed

I felt my body melt into the air filled rubber sack and sort of assimilated my flesh to some sort of molten lava flowing down into ravines of a vast landscape. My pillow felt like some sort of cloud full of razor blades and I kept moving my face around, trying to escape the ethereal sensation of pain but pleasure. The air bed felt like it wanted to wrestle, I wanted to sleep. The medication had set in and I was in the throws of a bad, bad sleeping pill induced trip. Terrified, never having such sensations before I pulled the sheets over my head, but not after throwing that wretched pillow against the wall to make it as far away from me as possible. It was trying to kill me. I knew it.

I hid under my sheet, on that air mattress in Anderson, SC, and prayed for morning. Sleep wasn’t coming, I was wide awake in terror with no way of making it stop, the little pill I took to try to alleviate my insomnia was making it exponentially worse.

“When I was taking pharmacy classes, I would remember Ambien by its generic name Zolpidem because I would associate the word Zolpidem with ZZZ which equals sleep”

-anonymous classmate of mine while studying pharmacy

The piles of the carpet erupted from the floor and became sort of a scary kelp forest environment. There was no telling how long I laid there in a catatonic stupor with fears of razor blade pillows and a carpet of kelp. The next morning I got up and sat at the kitchen table, tired physically and mentally, alone and confused. What happened. Why wasn’t this working. The ZZZ’s never came. I was tormented all night, something that is far worse than any insomnia that I’ve ever endured. It was six in the morning, before everyone else was up. I went into the cabinet and poured myself a glass of Bushmills Black. My soon-to-be-never-was-Mother-in-law came out to find me a puddle of mess.

She wasn’t pleased, only because she was addicted to helping, and she made it worse.

We sat there over the breakfast bar and I explained the visual torment I went through the past night. She poured herself a glass and I realized, people just want to help. Never in her life did she ever think that what the doctor recommended would cause an entire night of physically intangible visual illusions that would keep you from sleeping even more. I felt bad, not only had I not had sleep, I had been terrorized all night from windmills I could never conquer.

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Cuixote

Luckily for me, I didn’t let my brain dry up. The Ambien wasn’t for me, and honestly, the experience was as terrifying as any car crash, near death experience, or tax audit I’ve even been through. I’ve been through some pretty terrible self inflicted situations before. 72 pounds on life support at 27, hitting a tree going 40 mph (at least), picking up a hitchhicker in Nebraska and toting him all the way to Oregon only for him to call the Police on me. I can handle all of that, however, the thought of needing to take something that will make me see carpet piles turning into the sea isn’t acceptable. I’ll embrace my insomnia.

“The ability to accurately judge emotion in human faces is compromised by sleep deprivation.”

Same Psychology Today article

“A wink is as good to a blind horse”

The Faces (an album, which is killer)

I love this reference on so many levels. For one, the primary speaks of faces, and the second is from The Faces. Nerd. Yes. Sorry.

It’s no big secret that moving to Oregon has caused quite a few changes in lifestyle for me, and although I’d like to say it was supposed to be a physical change that was supposed to lead to mental improvement, I know better. Anybody that knows me well enough knows that my favorite magazine in Psychology Today and I really only like to have conversations that challenge my intellect. Sometimes I think my brain is wired to a different voltage, one that my breaker can’t handle. It’s almost as if I lay down to sleep and by breaker flips. Somehow I thought I’d find peace in Oregon, a place to start over. A fake wink is as good to a middle finger to a taxi driver.

My sleep deprivation hasn’t been by choice, that’s for damn sure. There have been times that I thought about just treating myself to a some over the counter remedy that “alleviates symptoms of insomnia”, but that’s scarier than a snake in my toilet. The biggest difference right now is that I have no reason for insomnia except depression. Again, it’s cyclical, A+B causes C, C=+D-E, math.

Does my roommate think I might be insane? Perhaps.

I don’t know when I flipped off my taxi driver, I don’t know when I went chasing windmills.

Wait, maybe I do.

Instead of reading the stereotypical books that hit the newsstand I read obscure classics.

Instead of staying where it was safe an familiar, I took off, more times than once, and I think that’s why I’m tired and I can’t sleep. All of that vagabond nature has caught up to me and I’m feeling a certain sort of consequence. With every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Opposite. Does that mean that the fish you intend to catch are in the end going to catch you? Does that mean that the fuel you put in your tank actually fuels you? Does that mean that the shit you pull out of your carpet with your vacuum actually sucks the shit from your soul? Physics has always been one of my strong points, but when it comes down to drawing parallels between the two, gag.

My sleep patterns, well, although I’m lacking in quality sleep, I’m not as dysfunctional as to where I was when I tried a sleep “aid”.




One thought on “Ambien, Insomnia, and Air Beds

  1. “A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse”….just sayin. Sleep deprivation/insomnia is an awful curse. I feel for you, kiddo. Praying for you!


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