Sleep. At last, real progress…
I don’t sleep – and not sleeping is dangerous. If, for whatever reason, you are suffering from insomnia or have been struggling with sleep issues for a while then please get professional help as soon as you possibly can. I can’t remember the last decent night’s sleep I had unaided.
The body needs sleep like it needs food and water. Being all macho about how many hours you can work and how many late nights you put in, acting all Alpha Male about how close you are to meltdown, is lame, counter-productive, and fucking stupid; and no-one is fooled. Some people seem able to work longer or harder than others. Ok. Fine. We’re not all the same. Pushing yourself beyond your limits because “that’s the culture here” or “lunch is for pussies” is fucking dumb and childish and no-one thinks you’re cool. If you’re working in an environment where that is the culture and you’re feeling pressured to work beyond your limits or made to feel like an impostor then please know that I’m with you, I know exactly how you feel, and there are people who can help you, probably confidentially. I’ll get together a list and post it soon.
Adequate rest and restorative sleep are fucking vital to your health and well-being. I know from experience as well as from the testimony of others that exhaustion, insomnia, chronic tiredness, ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome etc. – all are extremely debilitating and fuck with your ability to do anything: from getting out of bed to driving a car to brushing your teeth to hitting that deadline to buying the milk to arranging that wedding. If you don’t sleep then eventually everything, even squanching, is a bazillion times harder and don’t you let any flash fucker convince you otherwise.
So I went to the GP and was offered a choice between an appointment with my usual GP or an earlier appointment with an alternative. Desperate by this point, I accepted the earlier appointment and had my first contact with by far the best GP I’ve seen in my life since good old Dr. Williams or my amazing and sorely-missed Uncle Peter.
My experience of anxiety is this: physically, it feels like I’ve left my engine running and I’m about to be sick but I don’t actually feel nauseous yet, if that makes any sense? Physical whole-body shaking; can’t think, can’t concentrate, fighting panic; trying to breathe, what to do next? Feeling hot, hands shaking, restless, can’t focus, can’t hear right, or can’t focus on what I’m hearing; muscles aching, everywhere, craving fuel but can’t eat, indigestion, nauseous now…It’s fucking exhausting. If I’ve left my engine running then obviously I’ve been burning fuel all day without actually doing anything and usually without ever adding any more fuel.
If I’m lucky enough to get to sleep by whatever means necessary then the constant shaking from the anxiety means that I wake up first thing in the morning and I am physically exhausted. It’s not just muscle-tired – that ‘good ache’ you get when you’ve worked out – it’s a complete, bodily exhaustion. If you’ve never experienced it, imagine that you’ve had a really bad day, something terrible has happened involving physical strain and emotional pain and you’ve had to handle it alone all day in blazing hot sunshine. You get home and you are fucking wiped out, you want to sleep for eighteen hours before you even think about showering. Now, imagine feeling like that before you’re even out of bed in the morning. You get through the day, somehow, and finally, when you’re done for the day (and you will be as done as fuck) you’ll try to watch a movie or read a book but your eyes won’t stay open so you allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security. You go to bed, utterly exhausted and ready to sleep, and as soon as your head hits the pillow you’re wide awake and can’t keep you fucking eyes shut.
It’s like that. On meth.
So, a month ago my GP prescribed 15mg of Mirtazapine along with the 100mg of Sertraline I’m already on in order to get me to sleep after the limited amount of Temazepam she had prescribed me hadn’t worked (I took them all, before you ask). Felt nice, like slipping into a warm bath, but did nothing to help me sleep. Apparently, Mirtazapine is an anti-depressant as well as an anti-anxiety or ‘has sedative properties’ or something. It says not to drive if I feel ‘woo’, anyway.
By the way, please don’t take anything I say as in any way even remotely resembling professional medical advice. Please. My memory is shot to shit so I might be off by an inch on any given subject and this blog is just my mostly-remembered experiences I’m scribbling down in case I forget ’em completely and in the vain hope that they may help someone some day. This ain’t The Gospel According to Wes (although there’s an idea…).
I had a feeling soon after stabilising that this combination of meds would work but I wasn’t prepared for the incredible difference they’ve mad in such a short space of time. I was just having a remote chinwag with Matt Price, my best friend in comedy (and one of my very best friends in any context) about life and shit, just chewing, when I realised that in the last two weeks I have:
- Seen Doug Stanhope at Cardiff Glee Club
- Partied with Steffan Evans
- Decided on a final title and narrative structure for the show
- Launched this blog
- Written far more posts than I’d expected by now
- Written some interesting bits and bobs to work through for the show
- Re-started planning work for the Valley Fabulous podcast
- Made progress on a side-business I’m planning
That’s the most I’ve managed to achieve in that space of time since my relapse in late August/early September last year. I’ve been going downhill since then but I’m one of the fortunate ones: I have good people around me. I have loving, supportive people who have given me the time and permission I need to rest – time and permission that was never withheld but also was never requested until now. I’ve been lucky enough to work with professionals – my GP, a great counsellor, and a hypnotherapist friend of mine – and I’ve taken the medication as indicated on the label and advised by the doc. The only thing I’ve not done is completely bought into the whole eating healthy/working out thing and I’ve piled the pounds back on but I also feel ready and able to tackle that too. Like everything else, it will not be rushed but allowed to unfold as it will. I believe that the meds and the support I’ve received have given me the leg-up I needed to get back on my feet, and get som proper rest, so that the other tools in my ‘throw everything at it (within reason)’ strategy have half a chance of being effective.
The first time I took Mirtazipine was back last year and my reaction to it was so strongly adverse that I swore off it immediately. Now that the GP and I are kind of starting from scratch, I thought I’d give it another try. This time, I knew what to expect and also had the luxury of not having a day job so I could allow them to settle in and do their work in their own time. My good friend Zoe advised me on what to expect and the timescales and I’m happy to report that within three days, I was pretty much side-effect free.
At first I would take one right before I went to bed along with the Sertraline. I’d sleep ok but would be wobbling all over the shop in the morning. Like a Weeble who won’t fall down. For those of you familiar with the ongoing saga of my weird back paws (Lee calls me The Human Pinball as I don’t actually walk anywhere, I just kinda bounce off shit until I get where I need to be) will know that a Wobbly Wes is like a recently bereaved, crack-addicted, foster-home-bull in a very expensive and fragile things shop. Changing this routine so that I take the Sertraline in the early evening (called ‘Tea Time’ ’round here) and the Mirtazapine an hour before I’m likely to hit the sack has resulted in consistent sleep anddreams, something I haven’t experienced for a long time. The interesting thing is that my dreams have all been about things that have happened in the last nine months or are currently ongoing as if my subconscious is suddenly free to sift through all the shit that’s built up over the last nine months. I don’t know. Whatever. Something is working…
So, if you’re not sleeping: please do something. Reach out, get some help, I know how hard that can be but please try. Things really will look better when you’re getting the rest that is adequate for you.
I’m a very lucky man: my partner is a scientist (and a psychopath, more of which later) and knows some incredibly smart people who work in the field of genetic research and mental health. At some point, I’ll try to get access to some legit science about this shit and upload it for y’all.
- Reach out
- Take your meds
- Try to get some sleep
Yeah, it sounds fucking patronising when it’s written out in bullet points, doesn’t it? For the ignorant or anyone who is lucky enough to have no experience of depression, that is what you sound like to us when you tell us to ‘get some sleep’ or ‘get some exercise’ or (please, don’t) ‘man up’. It sounds so simple that even a child could understand it so why can’t we? Right? Yeah, that’s what we ask ourselves all day, every day. It’s fucking miserable to not be able to answer that question and it feels worse to have it asked in the first place so, please, do us a favour and just don’t.