Last October during a regularly scheduled checkup with my doctor, we had a discussion about taking medication for my PTSD-related nightmares and flashbacks. I hate taking medications, but she noticed a continued increase of nightmares and flashbacks. I wanted to think about it. I’ve said I wanted to think about it every three months during my checkups.
Last Friday, I made an appointment for the following Monday to discuss the issue. I’ve had nightmares and flashbacks most of my life. They wax and wane depending on the time of year. The weeks leading up to September see an increase before tapering off by the end of January. I never tried to manage them. I just try to survive to the next day. When my life took a nosedive in November 2017, my doctor began actively monitoring me. My therapist has also done so. She has also suggested a couple of times that meds are okay and I didn’t need to take them forever, but they might be helpful until I can fully use my coping skills to manage them effectively.
Last Thursday, my therapist and I had a discussion about the next few months. Since shit happens in life, we didn’t get a plan in place like we had wanted in 2019 and it was easily the worst few months I’ve experienced in a long time. Nightmares and flashbacks were a daily occurrence. I could barely function, but somehow managed to make it through another year. I wrote a lot of depressing stuff to help get me through it. I probably shouldn’t have published it on my blog, but, whatever. I did.
My therapist and I have been working for about a month now to prepare for the next few months, especially September and October. One thing we have discussed is the importance of sleep in helping me cope with what is coming. I didn’t sleep last year. I haven’t slept well for many years. I spent the next 24 hours thinking about everything we discussed. She was right. I’m already starting to experience an increase. I got little sleep the weekend of August 15-16 and had to rely on 5-Hour Tea to make it through my shifts at work. If the plans my therapist and I are working on don’t include sleep, it’s going to be difficult to manage this year and learn how to manage every Fall for the rest of my life.
In my doctor’s office, we discussed several options to help me sleep. I keep a sleep log as part of my therapy, so my doctor and I looked over the past year, how often I sleep, what happens when I sleep, how many nightmares I get, how many flashbacks I get, etc. We have already spent most of 2020 discussing the low blood sugars I get when sleeping and whether the flashbacks trigger the low blood sugars or the low blood sugars trigger the flashbacks and how to combat it.
I had four options, two of which we both agreed were not the right option. Melatonin is for people who have trouble falling asleep. While this occasionally happens to me, 95 percent of the time, I can’t stay asleep because of nightmares and flashbacks. I have worked on techniques to wake myself up when these occur instead of cycling through them – and trust me, cycling several times in a row fucking sucks. After a year of work, I’m finally starting to be successful. I also know the nightmares and flashbacks will soon happen almost every night.
I didn’t want to take anything potentially addicting. Given my personal history, I didn’t want traditional sleep medication and they aren’t a good fit for my situation anyway. My final options were an anxiety medication or Prazosin. My doctor and I discussed the pros and cons.
I don’t feel anxiety medication is a right fit at the moment. I don’t have a diagnosis of anxiety although I do get anxious sometimes about the nightmares and flashbacks.
I’ve been reading about Prazosin since December 2019. I’ve read medical studies, medical papers, medical journal articles, and news articles. In way-too-simple terms, Prazosin helps to prevent nightmares. This was not a decision I came to lightly. I am well aware of benefits and drawbacks of the medication, but I am not sure how many more “Octobers” I can endure. I need sleep, especially now, and this is a reasonable option to try.
I took my first Prazosin on August 20. I’ll monitor my reaction to the medication and notify my doctor of how it is working, or not working, so she can adjust dosage, if needed. I’ll see her again on October 9. I should know well before then if the Prazosin is working.
As the next two months arrive, I need to be aware of negative aspects in my life and reduce or eliminate them. Having left social media 23 days ago has already had a profoundly positive effect on my mental health and I think it’s important to continue my “no social media” policy until at least Christmas.
I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I’m not there to miss out on the stuff I’m missing out on. So far, I have read a book a week, been drawing a little more, and I’m writing more frequently.
I have decided not to put a lot of my writing online right now. I may do so in the future, but some of it is a little too raw, a little too personal and I’d like to keep it to myself for now. I find by not being on the internet so much in general has brought me a newfound peace and calm where I can think and breathe and focus on what I need and where I want to go from here.
I am happy with where I am at right now. I’m starting to figure out me and what I want to do. I’ve been telling people no and not worrying about their reaction. I’ve been trying not to overwhelm myself with personal and professional engagements.
Today, I’m going to write, drink some tea, and play with my cats until bedtime. Tonight at work, I’ll write a little more, read, start thinking about the things I know I’ll be working on in therapy next week.
Mostly, I’m going to breathe and soak up the tranquil sights and sounds of the world around me as I relax and know that doctor’s visit and saying yes to drugs is the best decision for me to keep getting better.