When Insomnia Becomes More Than Just Insomnia
On July 19th, 2017, I had my first seizure. My day started as every other workday had. On my lunch break, I drove the 10 minutes home to eat a quick lunch and walk my dog, Winston.
My husband had found him the previous November, abandoned and severely emaciated. He is a coonhound with a personality that draws you to him instantly. It was love at first sight when I saw those floppy ears and nervous face in the back seat of his truck.
He went back into his crate and I went back to work. This was my normal routine. Everything was normal until it wasn’t.
The last thing I remember
Sitting at my desk, I made a phone call that went to voicemail. Fumbling through the message, I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Working as a secretary, my ability to leave a simple voicemail is second nature.
Upon hanging up the phone, an indescribable wave of nausea hit me. Standing up to get water is the last thing I remember until waking up in a room full of firemen and paramedics.
Learning what happened to me
Returning to work the following week, my coworkers explained to me what happened. I stopped halfway to the kitchen and had what appeared to be an absence seizure for a few minutes until I dropped to the floor and had a tonic-clonic seizure (formerly called a grand-mal seizure) for roughly 15 minutes.
The emergency room physician, while taking it seriously, told me it was probably just from lack of sleep and stress. My husband had just started a new job as a travel nurse and was 8 hours away. He told me this was normal in a lot of adults, and I would be fine. I believed him but took his advice and followed up with a neurologist just in case.
An epilepsy diagnosis in my 30s
The official diagnosis of epilepsy came roughly a month later after an EEG. I had worked so hard to convince myself there was no chance of having epilepsy, I couldn’t respond.
I had very little knowledge of epilepsy, I thought you were born with it. Not something you could develop in your 30s.
The heightened importance of sleep
The neurologist could not emphasize enough the importance of getting my insomnia under control after taking a comprehensive medical history. I was bombarded with information on the importance of sleep and given several different sheets and booklets on possible treatments.
Ruminating on the diagnosis for a few days, it finally started to sink in what this diagnosis meant. My ability to sleep had never truly belonged to me. Having epilepsy meant my body no longer belonged to me either. I was at the mercy of 2 things I would never fully control. One put me at higher risk for the other. I started making several of the adjustments the doctor recommended to help me sleep.
New routine, same insomnia
On weekdays, I would rarely watch TV and once night fell, there was no electronic use at all. I worked hard to reduce my caffeine intake and started to eat a better diet. I followed every recommendation offered to me.
Unfortunately, the realization that no matter how long I stuck to the new routine I had created for myself to offset the insomnia, it was just not working led me into a deep depression. It also intensified my anxiety to the point I only left home to go to work.
The time had come to ask about prescription sleep aids. I was constantly moody, even though I am typically able to make it through a day after no sleep just fine. I withdrew from almost everyone in my life. My children and my husband seemed they were the only 3 who understood what I was really going through.
Upon reflection, I have learned to live my life with the mindset of not what could potentially hold me back, but with the many amazing things, I can still do. Learning to live a “new normal” is a journey, but I believe I am where I am meant to be. I’ve accepted this as just another facet of my life. Insomnia will be the ever-present boogeyman lurking in the shadows of my mind, reminding me after a few days of no sleep what it is actually capable of.
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