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One Year Anniversary Of Hypnic Twitches

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I didn’t want to have to write this post, I really didn’t, but what the hell here it is: this month marks the year anniversary of my hypnic twitches. They began on March 12th of 2013 and as of this date (March 22nd 2014) they are still with me. Maybe I should buy myself a cake and celebrate.
When they started I didn’t believe they would stay with me for over a week, a month tops I’d thought. I went five days without sleeping when I finally sought medical help at an urgent care facility. The doctor prescribed Trazadone and it did not work so I went back and she gave me twenty tablets of 2mg Lorazapam. That did work, but the one pill dose stopped working after four nights and then I had to combine one Lorazapam with one Trazadone, one Benadryl, and one 10mg melatonin. After four days on this regimen I was shitting liquid every thirty minutes and realized I needed to see my doctor.
In previous posts I’ve talked about that whole fiasco, my doctor not believing I had REAL symptoms and telling me I was bi-polar and then throwing all kinds of pills at me that didn’t work. In all I saw six doctors (one of them a psychiatrist) until I was able to see a neurologist who finally diagnosed me with exaggerated hypnic twitches. I did a sleep study to the tune of $4500, and when I tallied up all I spent on the whole thing it was well over $10,000 in doctors, pills and lost wages.
The twitches were really bad for the first six months, so strong my limbs would literally fly up of their own accord just as I was falling to sleep. My arm, my leg, my whole body; and once they happen you are wide awake, lying there and thinking ‘what the fuck?!?’ The days of exhaustion that followed were grueling.
Of course when I did the sleep study the twitches went into remission; one thing I’d discovered about this wonderful medical anomaly was that it would go away for varying periods of time. Sometimes for a week, sometimes a month. When I did the sleep study it was in remission so the doctor didn’t prescribe any medication. It came raging back a week later with a vengeance from the grave, seriously, stronger than it had ever been. Then after two weeks it went away again. And went like this over the course of the summer of 2013 until I begged the neurologist for a prescription of Clonazapam, which he granted.
Fortunately for me that worked, and I only took it when I absolutely had to. As of this writing the first bottle of sixty pills (.5 mg tablets) lasted me seven months thanks to the twitches going into remission for up to three weeks at a time at some points.
As of the last two months I have yet to see a remission period like that, in fact have to take it at least twice a week (and am at the point where I am regulating it as such because after the initial prescription and two refills I can’t get more without seeing the neurologist and I have since moved from that city). I have the pills counted out that I can make it almost a year from today (48 days shy of a year) if I take four tablets a week. If the condition persists I will have to see a doctor and try to get another prescription for it.
The silver lining? The twitches have subsided to small spasms of sorts; they are no longer so hardcore, with my legs or arms flying up wildly. They are now little spasms in my shoulders or whole body, leading me to believe that they can eventually go away. But, even though they are reduced in strength, they still keep me awake. Large or small they still cause me to toss and turn as I struggle for that elusive sleep. Another blessing is that I am able to get at least four hours of sleep before they start; generally they come on at the halfway point of the night where they used to start from initial sleep onset and carry on through the morning.
This goes out to anyone suffering from this type of sleeping disorder. May you find some relief from this baffling neurological condition and hopefully you won’t have to persuade some narrow minded doctor that the twitches are real, that they aren’t something that is in your head. Clonazapam is the only thing that has truly worked at keeping these twitches at bay and trust me, I’ve tried a LOT of different medications. Ambien, Lunesta, Lorazapam, Xanax, Remeron, Trazadone, liquid THC, melatonin, Doxylamine, ropinerole, Benadryl…all of those have brought me some relief but none of them truly worked. Sleep is extremely necessary and when you go without it makes for an arduous day.

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Sunday Trucker Mother F*cker

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This is a story inspired by a technical school class I am taking. The following is a true story and everyone involved is now dead. The name of the school is not revealed to protect the guilty.

Ross looked out the window of the truck and saw the remains of a squirrel, squashed flat as a pancake, and for a moment the life of that poor animal flashed through his mind; its desperate hunt for nuts as the days got colder, its incessant movements and struggle for survival as the nights grew longer and the days grew shorter, drawing nigh up to its last precious moments on this world as it stared wide-eyed into the oncoming lights of a car that barreled down the road at him, taking his life. A lone tear leaked from one eye and he massaged his temples lightly, trying to rub away the dizziness that overcame him nearly every morning for the last several weeks, his cold fingers trying to bring clarity to a mind that was becoming increasingly confused, muddled.
“Where do I turn next?” his partner, an obscenely fat man with an unusually high voice asked him, and he turned away from the window and met the other’s eyes. The fat man’s name was Richard, and for better or worse the instructors at the not-for-profit semi-truck driving school had coupled them up, no pun intended. While one of them drove the other navigated, and they went back and forth like this while they learned.
Ross glanced at the directions attached to his clipboard, a sentiment of ennui bristling through him like an arctic breeze. He’d been feeling more and more detached with every passing week, had felt the icy ache in his brain becoming a vast, empty hollow. He looked at the piece of paper without seeing it, then placed the clipboard on the floor of the truck.
“Take a left at Roehmer and head toward I-41,” he said flatly, an odd, vacant cadence to his otherwise usually animated voice.
“I don’t think this route takes the freeway.”
“Yes it does.”
The fat man looked at him questioningly but did as he was told, putting on his turn signal and moving over into the other lane when it was safe to do so. Cars whipped by at a frenzied pace as commuters went about their day, rushing from here to there. When they reached the sign for the on ramp Ross pointed toward one of them and said:
“Take 41 south.”
“I don’t think that is on our route-”
“Take it!”
“O-okay…” Richard answered hesitantly, creeping up toward the ramp, dropping into a lower gear. As he rolled around the corner he stole another glance at his partner and wasn’t sure what he saw there. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” Ross murmured thickly, avoiding the other’s eyes. “Just watch the road.”
Every night for the last several months Ross had been awakened after only a couple hours of sleep by his arm or leg or hand or foot or shoulder jerking, spasms that left him completely awake. After about an hours time and he was about to drift off to sleep again another twitch would awaken him, and it would go on like this for the rest of the night. His sleep was gradually whittled down to approximately one or two hours a night, until last week, when the jerks started as soon as he closed his eyes. In the past seven days he’d had no sleep; his eyes looked hollowed out, his cheeks sunken in. When he spoke there was no life to his voice.
“You don’t look so good.”
“Just drive.”
The exit for College Avenue passed, then the one for Prospect.
“Which exit is it?”
The routes they’d been given weren’t that complex. Normally they went a few miles down the highway, exited, and then turned around and went back to the school.
“We’re going to try a more advanced route.”
“I’ve only been signed off for routes A through D.”
“You’re a big boy, I think you can handle it.”
Richard looked at him, his large brow furrowed, a frown creasing the folds of his cherubic face.
“We’re going off-route.”
“I’ll tell you when to turn.”
Another exit passed, and then another. Soon the downtown area was behind them and they were hitting the open road.
“Ross-”
“Quiet,” he said softly, massaging his temples. “I know what I’m doing.”
And he did all right, he most certainly did. It wasn’t an idea that had just come to him, no, it had formed over the course of the last week, all those restless nights while he couldn’t sleep, turning over and over in his mind like a giant, slimy worm, flopping around and around and around until he decided to do something about it.
Because, for the sake of the class, he wasn’t supposed to know, no one was. Finding out had been an accident, one of those things that just happened.
“You’re scaring me,” the fat man whined in a voice that was higher than usual.
“Okay,” Ross said at last. “Take the next exit.”
“Thank God,” Richard breathed and for a second Ross wondered why the man listened to him; surely he could have turned this thing around long ago if he was that worried, but he was such a spineless degenerate that he couldn’t do anything on his own…well, almost anything. He did manage one thing, a singular, compulsive act that was sickening and terrifying, something that made Ross’s guts churn.
The ramp lead to a rural road, a cornfield on one side, a soy field on the other.
“Take a right.”
“That doesn’t lead back to town-”
“Take a fucking right!”
“Fine!” Richard wheezed, his jowly chops shaking like gelatin, “but if anyone asks this wasn’t my idea!”
“I’ll take full responsibility,” Ross assured him, turning now to face him, “just like you have to do.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I’m afraid I don’t.” Richard squinted his eyes, looking at him perplexedly. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Never better,” Ross said. “Turn here.”
“I’m not even sure this is on a truck route-”
“Take a right turn now!”
“Okay!” And he turned the wheel hard, the semi wheels almost coming off the ground for a second as the awkward turn was executed at an unsafe speed. “Have you lost your mind?”
“No more than you.”
After he’d stumbled upon the old newspaper article his appetite was reduced to a shadow of his former self, that in tandem with the sleeping problem, which had come up entirely upon it’s own. But the two together…not only could he no longer bear to live, he knew this piece of shit beside him didn’t deserve to either. And he’d see to it, that was for sure. It all culminated to today.
“How could you do it?” he asked in a low voice, not really sure if he wanted to hear the answer.
“Do what?”
“She was only nine years old for Christ’s sake! You know you ruined her life, right?”
Richard’s massive head swung toward his, his eyes comically wide.
“How did you know that?”
“It ain’t exactly a secret buddy. Do the instructors know?”
“No one at the school knows…”
“Was it worth it?” Ross demanded, leaning closer and placing his foot over the others, pressing down on the fuel pedal.
“What are you doing?” The fat man’s voice was reedy, petulant. Fear showed in his eyes, emanated in waves from him like a foul odor, yet he clung to the wheel desperately.
“What the law didn’t, I suppose.”
“I did my time! I paid for what I did!”
“You can’t unfuck a child Richard!” Ross screamed in the other’s face, spittle flying from his lips. “You can’t take that kind of thing back!”
“Are you crazy? You’re going to get us both killed-”
And then it dawned on the fat man, clarity like a light bulb going on in a very dark room.
Good God, no…”
Over the hill down the road a piece was a stretch of the East River that was deeper and faster than the sedate portion that passed through town. The bridge that spanned it was old, the wood and cement a product of a bygone era, one that spoke of better times when men were men and women were women and little kids didn’t have to be afraid of their lecherous uncles, their unwanted advances, their sloppy, unwelcome drool that spilled over fat lips that looked like two slugs humping…
“Oh God, yes,” Ross confirmed, and by the time they hit the bridge and he spun the wheel the truck was doing better than seventy. As an airplane tore the sky above them to shreds and the miracle of life bloomed in every leaf, the sun burning hotly upon the trees with a fervor that was almost religious in it’s fanaticism he thought: here’s to the new day. And then the truck suddenly became airborne.

 

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Busting my *ss to make a buck

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I started this blog ten months ago with the idea of writing funny stories about my pet sitting business, using it as a platform to promote my debut novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World. The stories were meant for entertainment purposes only; I wasn’t trying to impart any kind of message. And then, out of the blue, I came down with a neurological disorder and in the blink of an eye my pet sitting business was gone. Having no other recourse, I moved from lovely San Diego back to my home state of Wisconsin. Here I found work in another field entirely, back breaking labor that exhausts me every day, making me realize how easy my pet sitting business was. My point? This blog will either have to be about my pet sitting exploits of the past or I’ll have to think of something else entirely. No one (I think I can say this without dispute) will want to read a blog about the life and times of a landscaper. Oh, I am certain there are people out there that want tips about landscaping, but there are few who would want to listen to me prattle on and on about dumping and spreading wheelbarrows of mulch on primed beds, of mowing lawns at seventy degree angles and shoveling tons of gravel. But don’t get me wrong, I’m being paid very well for my hard work, it’s just that it gives me a lot of time to reflect on what I had. Like the dog walks, this kind of work gives you a lot of time to think. As I’m busting my ass it is easy to wax nostalgic about those carefree dog walks, those cushy pet sitting jobs. As a pet sitter I’d have my laptop set up at a table overlooking the various yards of the various homes, and inevitably I’d see the gardeners (Hispanic, mostly) toiling away in the yards. Sometimes they would see me and I’d feel a bit foolish, that they were out in the hot sun and I’m in the air-conditioned house with the dogs, sitting on my ass, writing. Of course in my mind what I was doing was very important; I was, after all, writing the novel that was ultimately going to save humanity from itself. But how could I explain that without looking like a douchebag? Instead I smiled politely and would occasionally ask them if they wanted something to drink.
In Wisconsin there are still white people that do gardening, so I must insist that I am not insinuating that I feel I am doing work that is beneath me. I am getting paid top dollar for my efforts (more than I’m getting paid as a writer, but a bit less than I was making as a pet sitter) it is just that it is hard work. The hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. But I still get to work outside, and my family lives in Madison, Wisconsin. And the neurological disorder, the sleep twitch that turned everything in my life upside down? Well, it is unfortunately still a part of my life, albeit a manageable part. Gone are the nights of no sleep while I twitched away like I was being electrocuted with a cattle prod. Now I have medications that keep the twitches at bay, and some nights I don’t have to take any medications at all. After doing a sleep study, involving a polysomnagraph (a sleeping EEG) the neurologist determined that the problem would go away eventually, but he couldn’t say when. For anybody interested in the subject of hypnic jerks there is a blog called ‘The Man Who Cannot Sleep’. Many people post messages there that have suffered or are suffering from this strange sleeping disorder. They offer advice as to what they do to alleviate their problem, also making suggestions as to possible causes. It is very interesting. I had a doctor in San Diego who had apparently never heard of it; because of his misdiagnosing, my problem got worse before it had a chance to get any better, hence my hasty departure from the wonderful sun soaked state of California and back to the unpredictable rain, snow, mosquitoes and humidity of Wisconsin.
So this blog has been intermittent at best, as I no longer have the generous amounts of time I used to have to write. But I have been hard at work on a new novel, getting up an hour early everyday before work so that I can get in a few thousand words. I suppose once I find my focus on what this blog is supposed to be about I’ll retool it and come back bigger and badder than ever. Maybe I’ll even find a subject that people will actually want to read about. Who knows, stranger things have happened!

 

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Welcome to Dairy Land or See Ya San Diego!

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I haven’t updated this blog since June, might have been May, I’m not quite sure. What started as something I updated every week became more and more sporadic as a health problem took over my life, changed everything, and left me to pick up the pieces. The topic of the blog started to take a turn in late March/early February; what started as funny anecdotes about pet sitting became personal rants about various things. Then there were a few posts about my health issue, how a primary care physician mismanaged it and then nothing…tumbleweeds…less than nothing. My life as I knew it completely changed, forcing me to move from sunny San Diego back to rain-soaked Madison Wisconsin (a fine city in its own right but nonetheless very different from what I’d been accustomed to over the last decade) to live with my parents while I figured things out. Here I am, a man in his mid-forties, and a serious sleep disorder forced me to move back to Wisconsin from California to live in my parent’s basement. It’s almost like the set-up to a bad movie produced by Happy Gilmore Productions (no offence dudes). And the town they live in is cow pastureland, cornfields and dairy farms. I moved from the very edge of the Pacific Ocean and into the heart of cheese country.
There are many things I use to console me: 1) I can now watch the Packers play every week during football season 2) My entire family lives here and I do enjoy their company very much 3) Once I get my shit together I can get the f*ck out of here and go back to California. We’ll see how that works out.
I am writing this on the evening before seeing the neurologist to review the results of my polysomnagraph (a sleeping EEG). This was a test I’d begged my doctor in Encinitas for but he refused me, telling me it was ‘a pain in the ass’ and that he could figure out my problem without tests. Well, thanks to the neurologist here, we know what I am dealing with (preliminary results were phoned to me right after the test) and that it is nothing life threatening, but what a trial it has been! I’ve been hosting a seemingly endless stream of ‘exaggerated hypnic jerks’, sleep starts that every one has but, in my case, EXAGGERATED. Most people will have a few and then fall asleep. Mine go on all night, every night, nonstop. Just when I am on the verge of sleep: POW! A jerk that shakes my whole body (or just moves my hand, foot, arm, leg, neck, back etc.) waking me up. Shit, I’ve been through this a million times. I’m sort of sick of telling the story.
Irony, that lousy bitch, came in the form of my returning to this lovely manure tainted paradise and the problem seemingly going away. All of a sudden I could sleep without twitching, and I was able to reduce the medication I took nightly. I did the sleep study and it showed I was ‘normal’. Five days later and the twitches came back with a vengeance straight out of the bible. Seriously, they were like electric shocks being sent through me at regular intervals (possibly from a cow prod?). And worse yet, the medication was no longer working! Sleeping pills used to shut them down and now it was barely keeping them at bay. I was jittering and jiving the night away until I was forced to get up because sleep was impossible.
The worst part of the whole ordeal (besides leaving my sunny seaside town and my pet-sitting business and my independence) was having to try and get people to understand my problem. Somebody was forever giving me advice on what they did when they couldn’t sleep. I don’t know how many times I had to tell them: it isn’t that I can’t sleep, this isn’t insomnia! I am jerking more than a prepubescent boy who’s just discovered masturbation! This is a physical problem, not a mental one. Of course, the longer it went on, it became a mental problem; I nearly had a nervous breakdown from lack of sleep. Hence why I came to my parents house and am writing this in their basement, hence why I abandoned a successful business in one of the best cities in America to cut grass and weed flowerbeds.
So, this blog can still be about funny pet sitting stories, no problem there, but I am no longer a pet sitter. In fact, as I alluded in the previous paragraph, I’ve been working as a landscaper for my brother in law’s company. I work much harder now and get quite filthy. Inbred chicks at the BP won’t give me a second glance when I come in reeking of organic compost (read: manure) with circles of dirt lining my neck like jewelry. Writing, well, let’s just say I haven’t been doing a great deal of that. My latest novel is stagnating at around two hundred and five pages and promotional activities for my self-published novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World have screeched to a dead halt, with the exception of the video pitch I submitted to greenlightmymovie.com. I’m not sure if that $40 was well spent, but it was an interesting experience.
Tomorrow I find out what my neurologist (actually, not my neurologist after tomorrow; I had to switch health insurance and my new policy no longer covers him) thinks of this on again, off again problem. Maybe he will do me a favor and give me a lethal dose of barbiturates, like they use to euthanize animals. Put me out of my misery, as it were. Or maybe he’ll just shrug his shoulder and say: “Sucks to be you dude.” Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be worth the two hundred + bucks it costs for thirty minutes of his time, and that bit of advice you can take to the bank. Just don’t take it to mine; the check will bounce. Peace.

 

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Mis-diagnosis of a man already on the edge

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It has been several weeks (maybe a month) since I have posted a blog; for all practical purposes it seems I have fallen off the face of the earth. In fact, I have done just that. In March I posted a blog entitled ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’ in which I described a sleep disorder that had been plaguing me. The disorder, as I’d explained it, was right as I am about to fall sleep one of my hands, feet, arms, legs, elbow, neck, whole body, etc. twitches, awakening me. This goes on all night. Seriously, when I try to go to sleep, the moment my body relaxes, I twitch and am fully awakened. To say ‘this sucks’ is truly an understatement, but what’s worse is/was the treatment I received from my primary care physician, a doctor I’d seen only twice previously for an unrelated matter. This self-important asshole didn’t listen to me; I told him what I was experiencing and he concluded (after a brief, basic neurological assessment) that I was bi-polar. This was all in my head, he told me. Possibly I needed a medication called Seroquel, something to even me out. I probably ran around like a maniac for several days, he postulated, excited and hyper, and then I’d crash and become slow and unresponsive for the next few days. No, I told him, that was not the case. Sure it is, he said, ignoring me.
Now, I’d already been prescribed trazadone and lorazapam from an urgent care facility, meds I was taking for sleep at the time of that visit. I’d gone to them, desperate, after four nights without sleeping, and they were kind enough to listen and give me something. I took the meds, slept, and made the appointment for a week later with my doctor (the soonest I could get in). The disappointment I felt when he told me it was psychological was profound, but by that point the efficacy of the two drugs were vastly reduced so I wasn’t thinking as clearly as I should have. In other words, I believed him. Two days later, after having not slept at all, I decided I needed some tests. I called an MRI center and made an appointment. I couldn’t get in without my doctors referral, of course, so I then called his office and asked to be referred. I admit I was doing things backward, but what the hell, I didn’t know the procedure. I’ve been gifted with having good health the majority of my life. There was a definite learning curve going on. After waiting all day, a game of cat and mouse (me chasing after them, they answering my questions elusively, implying that it was all right, that they would fax over my info but not doing so) I called the clinic and they told me to come in, that my doctor’s office promised to send the records. I was on the table when the doctor’s office called and said they refused to refer me. Crestfallen I left, and his male nurse called me. He told me that we all get twitches right before sleep and I just had to learn how to relax. He recommended I do deepbreathing excercises, acupuncture treatments and take medical marijuana. I was so distressed and muddled that I took him up on all three. I made an appointment for acupuncture (not knowing if my health insurance would cover it or not-they don’t, it turns out) and went there the next day and got my medical marijuana card to the tune of $50. I then purchased $180 worth of liquid THC, edibles and a smokable that was supposed to knock you out cold. After one application I discovered smoking was out of the question; it made the twitches 100 times worse. The liquid THC was no better; it made me drowsy but couldn’t get me past the twitches like a prescription sleep aid. At my own best judgment I decided not to eat the brownie. Disappointed anew, I found another doctor online and made an appointment to get a second opinion. I picked a doctor based on how quickly he could see me, not on his credentials, and for this I paid dearly. It turned out he was an even bigger ass. Without anything other than a brief physical assessment he decided I was suffering from depression. The twitches were all in my head, he told me, and I should seek the care of a psychiatrist. I left his office with mixed feelings; I’d been doing everything the doctors told me to do: I’d done the MMJ, I’d had the acupuncture (only one treatment, all together I;d do two) but still nothing worked. I still had the trazadone (I’d stopped taking the lorazapam when I got down to ten pills because I didn’t want to get addicted and then run out, having read that even two weeks use could cause dependency. Whether that’s right or not is irrelevant; my doctor and the other doctor made it clear they wouldn’t prescribe it to me again, in fact most likely thought I was there seeking more of that particular drug) but it was only working sporadically. I mixed it with benadryl, liquid THC and melatonin, and some nights it still didn’t work. So I went home, got online again, and found a psychiatrist nearby that had availability within the week. Meanwhile, my primary care physician offered a service to his patients that was quite convenient, an email service through his website. Utilizing it, I contacted him and told him I’d gotten a second opinion and that the other doctor didn’t think I was bi-polar, that he thought I was depressed, and I’d made an appointment to see a psychiatrist. In the meantime, I ventured, was there anything he could prescribe for me to help me sleep because the trazadone was wreaking havoc on my system, giving me monstrous diarrhea. He got back to me, said he wasn’t surprised about the other diagnosis, said there was no need to see the psychiatrist, that he could handle my psyche meds himself, and proceeded to prescribed mirtzapine, another anti-depressant in the same class as trazadone but much easier on the digestive tract. I looked up the drug, read all the information about what a wonderful aid it was to sleeping, and was briefly excited…until I tried it. He prescribed a 30mg dose, one I’d find was quite heavy for what I needed. Throughout the entire ordeal I’d researched every diagnosis, every drug. Mirtzapine, I found, was more active for insomnia at lower doses, a quarter of what he recommended. At lower doses it wasn’t an anti-depressant, it was an antihistamine. But the drug was hit or miss; one night it would work, the next it wouldn’t. And the way it made me feel the next day made it entirely worthless. I felt washed out, dizzy, depressed. After four days I contacted him via the website again and told him it didn’t work, that I needed something to fight my symptoms (the twitches), not the side-effect (sleep loss) and he pulled Restless Leg Syndrome out of the hat this time. Gone was the bi-polar, out with the depression, now I had RLS! Ordering no tests to confirm, telling me we could do a sleep study but it would be a terrible inconvenience, he prescribed ropinerole, a medication used for Parkinson’s and RLS. Desperate for anything to work, I decided I’d give it a shot. This decision was made on a Friday, and I couldn’t get the medication until Monday, so I had the weekend to research it. Long story short, by the end of the weekend I was convinced that this was not the right medication, not only because I had none of the symptoms of RLS, but that the side-effects (it would take a week to start working, I couldn’t take any other sleep aids with it, Omeprazole contradicted its efficacy, and it could potentially cause ‘sudden sleep onset’) weren’t worth it. I drive over forty miles a day for my job; the last thing I needed was to fall asleep behind the wheel while doing seventy on the freeway. As it turned out, getting this medication and seeing the psychiatrist fell on the same day, and for that I am entirely grateful. She did a psychiatric evaluation, to which I answered the questions as honestly as I could; I left out how utterly depressed I was simply because the reason for it was the sleep loss and the mis-management of my care. By the end of all her questions she determined I definitely was not bi-polar and that I was not merely suffering from depression. She actually did what the other doctors didn’t: she Googled my symptoms and found links for ‘hypnic jerks’, ‘sleep starts’ and ‘myoclonic twitches’. Reading some of the posts that described in detail what I was telling her, she decided that she would prescribe Lunesta. To say that I was thrilled is being trite; I was nothing short of ecstatic. Finally, a REAL sleeping pill, not a fucking anti-depressant with somnolent properties. I almost kissed her. She gave me some samples and it worked like a charm. At the risk of this blog post being waaaayyyy too long, that unfortunately is not the end of my story. Turns out my health insurance wouldn’t cover Lunesta because it wasn’t available as a generic so I had to get Ambien. For some reason she’d prescribed Lunesta in a 3mg dose (the highest) but Ambien in a 5mg dose (the lowest). The Ambien didn’t work for sour apples. I needed to take four Ambiens, two benadryls, two droppers of liquid THC, and two melatonin to get about four hours of sleep, and sometimes I even added a trazadone. By this time I was truly at the end of my rope. I was suicidal (don’t tell the shrink, she’d have me committed). I was faced with a very tough question: call my parents and ask for their help or kill myself. In the end the choice wasn’t that hard; I called my folks. Anyone who has read this blog knows I am a pet-sitter/dog walker. I’d been carrying on throughout this whole ordeal and none of my clients were aware of the difficulties I was going through, yet meanwhile I was growing more and more despondent. When I was overnight pet-sitting I felt as if I was drowning, trapped. I was anxious, panicked, unable to think what I was going to do next. One morning I was walking a dog I’d been pet-sitting over the course of the week and I found myself plotting my suicide, my method, the note, the day…and that was when I started making phone calls. First I cancelled all of my up coming overnight pet-sitting jobs, then I cancelled all the up-coming visits, and next I cancelled with all of my regulars. I then looked up my health insurance, checked on my out of state coverage, then called my Mom and Dad. Within two hours they had a flight home for me (California to Wisconsin) for the following week. My clients were bummed, but understood that it was for my health, for my own good. Before I left I saw the psychiatrist and she was kind enough to prescribe Ambien CR (12.5mg strength) and a client of mine gave me two weeks of 3mg Lunesta. Between the two I figured I could hold on for a while longer.
As I am writing this I’ve seen a doctor in Madison, Wisconsin, and he was quite surprised at what my primary care physician had done (diagnosing me via emails with no tests, as well as the dose of the ropinerole: 2mg’s when the drug starts at .25mg’s). With his help I have an appointment with a neurologist that specializes in sleep movement disorders and will hopefully be recommended for a sleep study in which they will do a polysomnagraph (a sleep EEG). Via this test it will prove conclusively that the twitches are real, that this hasn’t all been in my head. Hopefully from there they will offer a solution, a treatment that won’t just mask the symptoms. Throughout all of this I’ve realized that the sleep medication suppresses my central nervous system, stopping the twitches. When the medication wears off, they come back. At first I thought the medication was just knocking me out, getting me past them. I’ve had this for so long I’ve been able to study it, to see how it works, and what works on it.
This has been a long ordeal, and presently I am losing money (in more ways than one: I have to pay out of pocket for the acupuncture, probably for some of the tests, I am not working, I’m paying rent for my place and I’m not there etc. etc. etc.) but at last I finally have some hope. My family has been very supportive and with their help I’ve been doing much better as I while away the time until my appointment in three weeks (yes, the neurologist can’t see me until May 20th). I’ve also been doing nothing to promote my novel The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World and I haven’t posted a blog in a month. So, if anyone reads this, please buy my book. I really need the freakin’ dough! Peace!

 

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To Sleep, Perchance To Dream (I Need Some F’in Sleep!)

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Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream…
That is a very famous quote by the illustrious (and quite venerable) William Shakespeare. And that dude knew what he was talking about, I’ll tell you what. Now, I’m only using that quote as a great opening line. All similarities end there. This post isn’t about him or any relation to that quote. Anyway…
You never know just how great sleep is until that day when, for some reason, you simply can’t get it. Some people suffer from insomnia, others from pain that keeps them from sleeping, but there is another condition that can rob you of sleep, one that really sucks because if it didn’t exist exhaustion would simply carry you away.
I’m talking about ‘Hypnic Jerks’, and when they become severe enough they are known as ‘Myoclonic Jerks’. The first is a seemingly innocuous series of muscle spasms that happen as you are about to fall asleep. Just as you are crossing the threshold into slumber land one of your body parts twitches, awakening you. This happens to a lot of people, maybe a couple times a night before they finally fall asleep. The second is a serious disorder that can cause real problems. Treatment involves tranquilizers or anticonvulsants. Bummer? Yeah.
Two weeks ago I developed these symptoms. One night (after a weekend of heavy partying-please, don’t ask. I’m not very proud of myself) I was kept awake all night long because of these Hypnic jerks. When I got out of bed the next day I realized I’d slept maybe an hour tops. This went on for three more nights until I sought medical help. I simply had to. With each passing night and no sleep I felt as if I was having an out of body experience. I didn’t trust myself to drive (yet I did, I had to) and I thought about Christian Bale’s character from the Machinist, about how he claimed to have not slept for a year. If I had to go a year without sleep I’d be dead fifty-one weeks prior to that, no f-in’ shite. It really sucked the big one. You know it’s bad when, at around three in the morning, you are thinking about what you might take the next night to get to sleep. Since the Benadryl didn’t work that night, I’d think, tomorrow I’ll try Nightquil.
The doctor at urgent care was kind enough to prescribe some strong tranquilizers, and at last I’ve been able to sleep, but here it is 14 days later and the Hypnic jerks haven’t gone away. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I went to my regular doctor today and he said to stay on the med’s I’d been prescribed and in two weeks we’d reevaluate. The next step, if they don’t go away, is to get an MRI. Then we can see what is going haywire in my brain. Oh yeah, and I’m sure my health care provider is going to deny me coverage for the test; last year it was recommended that I get a CAT scan and my doctor’s office had to practically put a gun to their head to okay it. If I need an MRI, I’ll probably have to pay for it myself.
What, you ask yourself, does this have to do with pet sitting or promoting my novel? Well, I was pet sitting through the whole thing, so one of the houses I was staying at (the week I didn’t sleep for four nights) became a house of horrors to me. Each night I sat and listened to the same sounds; the rustle of the blinds from the ceiling fan, the breathing of the dogs, the newspapers slapping the pavement when they arrived around four a.m…Jesus, it was awful. I kept it together pretty well though, I have to say; I don’t think the dogs noticed anything unusual about me (except that I paced around and talked to myself a lot).
I am now at the point where I’ve had sleep almost every night for about a week (I say ‘almost’ because one night I tried to cut the medication dosage; didn’t work, I didn’t sleep), and I am feeling back to ‘normal’. Unfortunately, the sleep is ‘drug sleep’ so I feel sort of spacey throughout the day. I guess I am writing this because it just helps to write, to concentrate. I haven’t worked on my new novel in three weeks (since before this started) and I’ve only recently continued my promotional efforts.
To sleep, perchance to dream…I have another great quote, but the source isn’t as well-regarded as the first: ‘You don’t know what you got until it’s gone…gone…gone…
(Yeah, I still have a sense of humor buried in here somewhere. It’s stuck between the folds of a brain I am trying to call out of early retirement.) Peace.

 

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