Ever since Iraq I have had terrible times with insomnia as well as very vivid dreams and nightmares. I have written about it in a previous article HD Dreams and Stranger Things: PTSD and Sleep.
Over the past four years or so I have been on various sleep medications, none of which has done much of anything to help my sleep. Most have left me drowsy on awakening the next day as if I was hung over, without the fulfillment of getting shit-faced the night before surrounded by friends. Believe me a good craft beer, or a lot of good craft beer does me a lot more good than various sleeping pills.
At the same time they have done strange things with my dreams. At times they are most vivid and terrifying and at other times for whatever reason they have been practically suppressed depending on the medication.
I found that because of the amount of the anxiety and insomnia that I had that my doctors prescribed high doses of the various medications used. Most had little effect, sleep was still at a premium and in the morning I would wake up groggy. That was my life the past for the past five years if you count the time before I started taking sleep medications.
In the past week that has changed. I mentioned in that previous article that I was beginning a course of therapy that would involve some different techniques to help me deal with the symptoms of my PTSD. That therapy was incredibly helpful and helped me to put my experiences into a perspective that before was not possible. Likewise my therapist dealt with my frequent sleep disruptions and made recommendations concerning how to manage my sleep.
We experimented. Since I was on a fairly heavy dose of Lunesta and still had to maintain a duty pager adjustments had to be made. On the nights when I had no duty I took no medication with the effect of getting no sleep at all and feeling like crap the next day. On days I took my medicine I would get some sleep, frequently interrupted and always with the consequence of a drug induced hang-over in the morning. Finally we tried a couple of more things. First was the use of a over the counter sleep aid used by many physicians that have to work odd on call hours called Insomitrol. It is a mix of Melatonin and Gaba extract. On the plus side I did not feel hung over in the morning. One the minus side my HD dreams went to 3D Luscasfilm HD and were the most memorable, surreal and occasionally frightening dreams I have ever experienced. We ended that experiment and went to over the counter Melatonin. It has worked well. My sleep is no worse, my dreams are quite fascinating and I do not feel hung over in the morning. I have discontinued the use of the Lunesta.
I still take an anti-anxiety medication to help bring me down at night and I will be obtaining either on my own or through the military a bio-feedback program to use on my computer before I go to sleep.
Since starting the Melatonin my sleep has gotten better. The HD dreams are still there and memorable enough that I can remember them and hope to find some meaning and interpretation in them, even the nightmares.
Those of us that deal with the aftereffects of PTSD and trauma have much to deal with. Sleep or the lack of it, dreams and nightmares, medications and the use of other drugs or alcohol are rampant among veterans with PTSD. There is no “silver bullet” or “cookie cutter” that works for all of us. But for me this seems to be a means of freedom and healing. I hope that my experience helps others and encourages them to work with their physicians, therapists and spiritual advisors on their journey to healing.
I don’t understand all the scientific aspects of sleep. I am beginning to learn about them though and as I learn it takes away some of the fear of closing my eyes, which for me opens a world more vivid, surreal and sometimes terrifying than keeping them open. But it is an unexplored world for me, one that I hope and pray helps me continue to integrate my life, faith and spirituality in ways that I never could have imagined before.
To me that is absolutely fascinating and something that I look forward to experiencing.