Sunday, September 30, 2012

To Sleep. . . Perchance to dream.

One of the greatest struggles for me since getting out of the Army, is simply put, sleep.  It's very difficult for me to get to sleep, to stay asleep, and to feel in any way rested when I wake up.  It is pretty often to wake up with my sheets all over the place thrown all over the bed in my various tossing and turning.  That is so say nothing of the dreams, or perhaps the better word would be nightmares, that accost me in the night.  Every night I must battle my own fears and doubts, sure in the knowlege that I will wake up exhausted from the struggle. 

How many times have I looked at the clock, knowing I would have to get up for work or school in only a few, hours, knowing that I would get less and less sleep.  You can calculate through the night.  8 hours, 7 ,  6.  Often times I'll let that clock tick down to just three hours, and bemoan the impossibility of getting up when the alarm finally goes off.  I want so much to just pass out into blissful sleep, but that state always seems denied from me.  As I sit there looking at the clock, knowing that this is going to cost me tomorrow, but also knowing I literally can not sleep till I'm exhausted or its daylight out. 

Then there are the nightmares.  It is not just what actually happened, those moments can be a horror all of their own.  Seeing young men, in the prime of their lives literally torn apart and being able to do little more than bandage their wounds.  Medics do not heal, they keep you alive.  Healing comes later.  In the meantime you do everything you can to keep their heart and brain going, and sometime those things hurt like hell.  But then there are the times I failed.  Then there are those scenarios that my mind creates for me.  Every horror amplified.  Did I kill someone?  What if, while returning fire my bullets went too low and tore apart a family?  What if my friend was still alive when he started to burn?  What if the insurgents had captured me?  What if I grew to like killing?  These thoughts made into vivid surreal movies for me to watch night after night.  Is it any wonder I toss and turn so much?

I wish there were a solution.  Many times I've been asked if there is a pill I could take.  Yes there are several.  But they all have side effects.  Ranging from unpleasant to unacceptable.  The major problem is that a minor sleep aid like say melatonin, which I can get over the counter, doen't work unless I take about 6-8 times the recommended dose.  Lunesta, leave a godawful taste in my mouth, and sadly doesn't do anything more.  Ambien, does actually work. . . if I take enough, but I also sleepwalk, and that has potential for disaster.  I've already found out the hard way that it does  happen.  On top of all that if I take anything stronger, it needs to be strong enough to literally drop me, because that's the only way I'm getting to sleep.  Those drugs are even more distasteful because they not only have serious side effects, but they're also addictive, leading me into the ultimate catch 22.  In order to get a good nights sleep I need to take drugs, but if I do, I'll get addicted to them and can't ever really stop taking them. 

I won't lie, there are times I really envy the people that can sleep soundly.  What dreams do you have?  Are they of great and wonderful things?  Loves you may yet have?   Adventures?  When I see people fast asleep in a state of peace that I never seem to know or feel, I can not help but think that perhaps the price I pay for having served my country is actually worth it.  I may never know peace.  I may never again know a good night's rest, but when I see others that are able to, free from the burden of care and worry that I bare, I think that perhaps if I can not have peace, then I can have satisfaction.  


Anonymous said...

Will be praying that you get some sleep. Some good healing peaceful sleep. If anyone deserves some rest, you do, Doc. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am a medic also, I been there done that, don't think I need to say more. I kinda wonder if you are just simply trying to hard. Sounds like you have not been able to sleep so much that it has taken control of your life and you end up focusing all of your energy on trying to sleep. I wonder if some self hypnosis might help you. You need to relax bro. If there is one thing that I have learned, You cannot change the past, so just let it go.

Katie said...

As I started reading your blog today, my heart started to beat faster because I know exactly how you feel. Night is often the enemy, I am jealous of my husband sleeping peacefully next to me and I am unable to take sleeping pills. As an ER/Trauma RN, I worked swing shifts for a decade and have learned that sleep is like money, you only notice how important it is if you don't have any!
I am very sorry for your insomnia and as you toss and turn and eat and read while watching tv most of the night, remember there are many of us and every now and again, a few minute nap during the day makes a noticeable difference in feeling rested.
Thank you for your service.

Anonymous said...

I hear you. The sleep disruptions make all the daytime symptoms worse, too. I take Trazadone which works for me but half the time I'm too scared to take it (too afraid that I will miss a dangerous event while I'm knocked out by it). Every night is another battle to try to get enough sleep that I can function at work the next day.