Posted on March 22, 2022
After the Temazepam didn’t make a dent in my insomnia, my GP prescribed melatonin and finally – FINALLY – I started getting some sleep again. And in the nighttime hours. I started out at 2mg but almost straight away, I found it almost impossible to wake up in the morning so we reduced it to 1mg with the blessing of my GP.
As is always the case with posts about medication, supplements, etc, this is just my experience. Please don’t start, change, or stop taking anything without the advice and support of a medical professional.
So it definitely helped me get to sleep more quickly. I went from lying awake for hours – for most of the night – to falling asleep in less than an hour. It wasn’t always quick but it was a lot quicker than it had been (part of that could have been due to a flare up of my chronic pain though).
Almost straight away, I was struggling to wake up in the mornings. I would wake up and fall asleep again over and over; I couldn’t seem to stay awake and that meant I wasn’t getting up until late morning or early afternoon. After a couple of days, I went from 2mg to 1mg but it didn’t seem to make any difference. I mean, I appreciated being able to sleep again but suddenly I was sleeping more than twelve hours, which was just problematic in a different way.
Again, almost right away, I was finding myself increasingly sleepy in the day. That was another reason to reduce the dosage but that didn’t seem to make any difference on this either. I was back to drinking Red Bull pretty much every day – not a habit that I want to return to but I was just too tired to come up with an alternate solution and just wanted to make it through the day. My eyes were always tired and I struggled through the day, trying to do things, trying not to fall asleep. And that was with the caffeine (I’m starting to wonder if caffeine has any effect on me at all at this point). It’s hard to know whether it’s the Moclobemide, melatonin, or just the accumulated lack of sleep but I really, really don’t want to spend my whole life feeling tired and sleepy because MAOIs are the only medications that work.
It was taking me a while to get to sleep – I couldn’t get comfortable (yay, chronic pain); I couldn’t relax; I couldn’t unwind – but it was still so much better than before I started taking the melatonin. I was still getting to sleep a lot quicker than I had been. I do keep going to bed too late, which is a habit that frustrates me, but I’m trying to be better about that.
I was sleeping restlessly, waking up a lot, which wasn’t super restful. Waking up was a struggle: I’d fall asleep, wake up, fall asleep, wake up… I just couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t open my eyes or make my hands work for such a long time; it was horrible. I don’t know if that’s the melatonin or the Moclobemide but, whatever it is, I don’t like it. Getting up took a lot of effort and I usually didn’t manage it until into the afternoon.
During the day, I was physically exhausted but also really sleepy; I couldn’t keep my eyes open (and they were just so tired). I was ready to go back to bed within a couple of hours of getting up. I started consistently drinking Red Bull again, something I haven’t done since I stopped taking the Phenelzine last September. It’s not a habit that I want to start again but I don’t really know what to do: I’m so tired that I can’t figure out what the right thing to do is so I’ve just been going with it to get through the day. But even with the Red Bull, I’m very drowsy and tired.
While I’m certainly drifting off faster than I was before I started the melatonin, it hasn’t been straightforward. It often took me quite a while to get to sleep, like I had to concentrate in order to sleep (which seems somewhat counterintuitive) but then I was restless and woke up over and over. However, there were also nights when I fell asleep quickly and slept well. So I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from that.
Generally, waking up was unpleasant. I’d wake up, fall asleep, wake up, fall asleep – over and over again. It was very frustrating. I found that eating something straight away did help me stay awake but I hate it: food is absolutely not what I want when I first wake up but it’s the only thing that seems to make waking easier. Over the week, I have noticed that I’m naturally waking up earlier and earlier, which I am grateful for.
I struggled during the day though, physically exhausted and just so sleepy; it was so hard to keep my eyes open. I don’t know if the Red Bull helped at all. Socialising, even when it was enjoyable, was exhausting and I fell asleep on the sofa multiple times. That, of course, just made it harder to get to sleep when evening rolled around.
Given how much I struggled to wake up and how sleepy I was during the day, I stopped taking the melatonin, an experiment to see if it was the cause of my drowsiness, if I could sleep without it.
My sleep was better than it had been before this experiment with melatonin but it still wasn’t great. It was still taking me a couple of hours to get to sleep but I wasn’t lying awake all night, which was an improvement. Most nights, I slept restlessly and kept finding myself stuck between asleep and awake or with busy, vivid dreams.
I consistently struggled to wake up, although I discovered that eating something straight away did help. Otherwise I just kept drifting back into sleep. Waking and then getting up was just a battle, every single day. I was managing to get up earlier than I have been able to over the last few months but then I was generally sleepy within an hour of settling to whatever I was working on.
I was incredibly sleepy during the day, every day without fail. I was easily fatigued and it didn’t take much to leave me passed out on the sofa for a couple of hours. Everything just seems to take so much energy. The urge to nap was constant and my eyes kept closing; it took all of my energy just to stay awake. Even with a Redbull or two in my system, I was always drowsy. I wish I knew why the sleepiness kicks in during the day only to completely disappear at night; it’s really wearing me down. It seems clear that the MAOIs are at least the main cause of this sleepiness but if they’re the only way forward, then we need to find some way to counteract it. It just isn’t sustainable. I can’t do what I need to do like this.
Having come to the conclusion that the melatonin wasn’t the cause of my daytime sleepiness, I decided to try another experiment. Given that I still wasn’t sleeping particularly well, I thought I’d try the melatonin again, just to be sure. I started with the 1mg but that didn’t seem to be enough: I’d feel my body, particularly my legs, start going to sleep but then they’d twitch awake, horribly and painfully. That only made it harder to get to sleep, both the physical pain and the fear of it. So, thinking that that dose might not be enough, I returned to the originally prescribed dose of 2mg. It had mixed results. Some nights I slept quickly and well but some nights, I slept terribly, waking over and over and experiencing busy, stressful dreams. It’s better, I guess, than sleeping badly all of the time but it’s not as straightforward as I’d hoped it would be.
The drowsiness – and fatigue – is still a problem. I’ve got some ideas to pursue on that front but there isn’t the time to test any of them out before my trip to Nashville so, until I get back, I’m just going to have to muscle through and hope the adrenaline can plug the gaps. I’m anxious – I don’t want to miss out on anything – but I’ve also been living with this, to some extent, for years now. I’m well practiced at managing my energy, even though I don’t always listen to my experience and instincts.
So I’m not really sure how I feel about the melatonin. After five weeks, I’d hoped I’d know one way or the other whether it was helpful but I’m not sure that I do. It might have broken the sleepless loop I was in but it hasn’t proved to be reliably helpful and on the nights it isn’t helpful, it feels like it makes things worse. So I don’t know. I really don’t.
Category: adhd, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, heds, medication, mental health, sleep, treatment Tagged: antidepressants, chronic fatigue, drowsiness, exhaustion, fatigue, hormone, hormones, insomnia, maois, melatonin, moclobemide, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, red bull, redbull, sleep, sleep cycle, sleep-wake cycle, sleepiness, supplement, tired, tiredness
Posted on September 12, 2021
And that’s that. I’ve finished the final module of my Masters and therefore the Masters itself. I don’t know what my grade is for the module or for the whole course yet but frankly, I’ve got a lot to process before I can even really think about the grades and graduation.
Looking back at a similar post before the module started, I was excited about the project but nervous about my health, mental and physical, and whether it would prevent me from doing everything I needed to do, from being able to enjoy the process. And those were valid concerns so I thought, having written a post about how I was feeling before the module started, I’d write another now that it’s ended – like bookends.
A lot has happened since the beginning of May.
Over the last four months, I’ve spent almost every day working on my final project, researching, writing songs, and working on the production of an album. It’s been incredibly intense and now that it’s all done, I’m utterly exhausted, both mind and body. And while, for the most part, I loved it, it’s also a relief to be free of some of the anxiety around it (I’m still struggling with my anxiety around the grade). Having said that, I feel strangely lost and untethered now that I don’t have this big thing to focus on. I know that I need a break but I am looking forward to the next project, whatever that may be. I’m always happier when I’m doing things.
My mental health was pretty good for most of the module, surprisingly so. By my standards at least. I think that the constant creating and the creating of stuff I’m proud of really helped. I had one particularly bad episode of depression, plus a handful of smaller ones, and my anxiety was pretty constant but that’s normal for me. It got very bad in the last month, which was hard to manage – trying not to let it destabilise me was a bit of a battle in itself. It hasn’t quite faded yet. For various reasons, I didn’t have any access to my therapist, which was an unforeseen difficulty and that made things a lot harder than I’d expected them to be.
I also really struggled with my concentration. I’m still not getting any support for my ADHD (something that I hope will change soon but I’m still so frustrated that I couldn’t get any help with it during my Masters) so staying focussed on my project, on my research, took all of my energy. It was exhausting. I felt like my concentration was so, so fragile that a single moment of distraction would break it and then it would be impossible or would take days or even weeks to get back. So I couldn’t stop. Not for anything. That was very stressful and resulted in many, many long days. Sometimes I’d work all day without moving (not healthy, I know) and end up going to bed very late. And then, of course, I couldn’t sleep because my thoughts were racing. So it did a number on my sleep schedule too; I’m surprised I’m not nocturnal at this point.
That, plus the general fatigue I deal with day to day, meant I was tired all of the time. I’ve drunk an obscene amount of Red Bull (my antidepressants make me really drowsy, just to make things even more difficult, although I may be changing medications soon, which hopefully won’t have the same side effects) – I am beyond sick of the taste of it. But it got me through and I’m grateful for that. I will however be grateful to never drink it again (hopefully). And I’m really looking forward to getting both some proper sleep and some proper rest now that my work is done.
I also mentioned back in June that I’d been having migraines that seemed to be being caused by an abscess in one of my teeth. Since then, I’ve been on antibiotics twice, continued to have migraines, and am still waiting to have the tooth removed, a decision that was made at the appointment in June. Given how much disruption it was causing though, I did get extenuating circumstances which allowed me some extra time (although it wasn’t really extra since it was making up for time lost to a medical problem) to cope with those problems. It’s not bothering me presently which is a relief but I’m more than ready for them to take the tooth out, just so that they’re not even problems I have to think about.
While I managed to keep swimming twice a week – a routine I’ve been trying to maintain to create a solid foundation for my crappy joints – I was in almost constant pain throughout the module. At times, my right knee was so painful that I couldn’t walk on it and my back has been consistently painful; my Mum, who used to be a massage therapist, said it felt like trying to massage rocks and now that it’s all over and I’m trying to relax, the muscles feel like their made of concrete. Which is about as pleasant as it sounds. I’ve also had great trouble with my hands and wrists what with all the typing I’ve been doing. So, all in all, I’ve been a bit of a mess. I haven’t had any support for this – the hEDS – either; I’ve been waiting for physiotherapy and hydrotherapy since December 2020 officially and May 2020 unofficially. I’ve just had to try and get by on various painkillers, none of which have been all that effective.
Despite working practically non-stop, I got everything for my project done just in time for my final presentation. My assessors were positive, which I’m trying to hold on to in the wake of my anxiety around the final grade. I’ve been really trying not to attach my self worth to my grades (something I’ve always really struggled with), or at least, lessen the power my grades have over me but I can’t help the fact that I really want to do well. I’ve worked so hard – with so many obstacles – and the idea that that still wasn’t enough to get a Distinction would be upsetting. I’d get over it but it would still be upsetting. I never want someone thinking, “Oh, she mustn’t have worked hard enough.” Or worse: I never want to think, “Oh, I would’ve gotten a distinction if I wasn’t autistic or had ADHD or whatever” thoughts left over from my late diagnoses and the resulting difficulty I have in setting standards and goals for myself (more on that in another post). This anxiety isn’t helped by the fact that I keep thinking of things that I should’ve included in my presentation. My brain clearly hasn’t quite processed that the module is over.
And then, just when I thought I could relax, the world tipped under my feet. The next morning, my Mum told me that my Granny had died a few days earlier. She was ninety-three. Having barely started to process the end of my two year Masters and intense final project, this news was just too much for my brain. A few days on, I feel like I’m bouncing pretty erratically between two states, the first being this weird bubble where nothing can touch me and the second being, ‘if I stop thinking or talking or moving for even a second, I’m going to completely fall apart.’ It’s surreal and exhausting and sad. I’d like to write a piece about her at some point because she was such an incredible woman but I can’t really write more than this right now but it felt really important to at least acknowledge what’s happened because it’s so big and so important.
I don’t think there’s anything else to say right now. I’ve barely been able to wrap my head around this last week: my final presentation, the ending of the Masters, Granny, and everything that’s ahead given all of these things. It’s a lot to take in; I’m exhausted. I’m just taking it day by day.
Category: adhd, anxiety, autism, covid-19 pandemic, death, depression, emotions, family, heds, medication, mental health, music, research, sleep, therapy, university, writing Tagged: actuallyadhd, actuallyautistic, adhd, adhd inattentive type, adhd support, album, antibiotics, antidepressants, anxiety, anxiety disorder, asd, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, autism spectrum disorder, autistic, autistic adult, autistic student, break, concentration, death, depressed, depression, drowsiness, drowsy, eds, ehlers danlos syndrome, exhaustion, extenuating circumstances, fatigue, final project, focus, generalised anxiety disorder, grades, grandmother, grandparent, granny, grief, heds, hypermobile ehlers danlos syndrome, hypermobility, identity, inattentive type, late diagnosis, loss, masters, masters degree, masters degree in songwriting, masters degree year two, masters part time, medication, mental health, mental health break, mental health update, mental illness, migraine, migraines, new album, new music, part time masters student, processing, recovery time, red bull, rest, self worth, side effects, singer, singersongwriter, singersongwriter life, sleep, sleepiness, sleepy, songwriter, songwriting, therapist, therapy, tired, tooth extraction, tooth pain, writing
Posted on May 9, 2021
Trigger Warning: This post contains mentions of self harm, but it’s simply a statement that it happened and there are no descriptions, graphic or otherwise. If this could upset or trigger you, please don’t read any further. Please always put your mental health and emotional state first.
So we’ve reached the last semester of the Master’s, with the big, final project that we’ve ultimately been working towards throughout this whole course. It’s a big deal, exciting and scary because – obviously – I want to do well and create a project that I’m proud of. But I am worried about my health, mental and physical, getting in the way and making it a difficult to both work hard and enjoy the process. So I thought, with all of this in mind, I’d write down where my head’s at and how I’m doing – I guess, so that I have a record of how I’m feeling right now, at the very beginning of the project.
At the moment, my biggest difficulties seem to be chronic fatigue and pain that are a result of my recently diagnosed Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I’m tired and sleepy all the time; some days, I can barely keep my eyes open during the day. While the physical tiredness is likely due to the hEDS, at least in part, we suspect the sleepiness is due to my antidepressant, Phenelzine. I want to switch to something else as soon as I can but mid-Master’s is not exactly a great time, given how long it generally takes for antidepressants to take effect and my track record of reacting badly to all but Phenelzine (so far, at least). So I’m having to just put up with that, with the dwindling help of Red Bull.
The pain has been really bad, particularly in my legs, arms, and back. For months, I’ve been taking painkillers daily but I feel like, over the last few weeks or so, it’s started to get slightly better. I’ve been doing the Occupational Therapy exercises for my wrists and hands and I’ve been able to start swimming again (yay!), both of which do cause pain of their own but it’s a very different pain and actually wears off pretty quickly while the hEDS pain tends to just get worse and worse unless I take painkillers. I’m getting better at figuring out where my limits are and stopping before I overdo it – most of the time. It’s hard but I do feel like I’m seeing progress.
My depression has been okay recently, much less of a problem than it has been in the past (she says while still on the ‘end’ of one, but I’ll get to that in a minute). I had one awful episode at the beginning of April, which did result in self harming. And then I had another episode last week, which I’m still feeling even if I’m not drowning in it anymore (it was kind of forced to the back burner by the worst migraine I’ve ever had). Both episodes were triggered by really upsetting news; they didn’t come out of nowhere like they sometimes do.
My anxiety has been a lot to deal with, but then there have been a lot of things to be anxious about: keeping up during the semester, the assessment and doing well in the module, all things COVID related (I’ve developed this weird house-separation-anxiety-like-thing whenever I’m out of the house too long, which is horrible), all of my health stuff, preparing for the new module and final project, trying to balance everything in my life, and so on. It’s exhausting and has a knock on effect; the rest of my mental health issues are all affected by my anxiety.
The two areas that are most tightly linked with my anxiety, I think, are my Trichotillomania and my OCD. My Trich hasn’t been too bad of late – not great but not unmanageable. But my OCD has been much more of a struggle lately than it sometimes is. I wrote about it in general here (so if you need a refresher on what my OCD is like, this is probably a useful read) but with everything going on recently, it seems to have kicked up a gear. I just can’t seem to do everything and then write all of it down; there aren’t enough hours in the day, which just leads me to getting more and more behind with everything, which just makes it worse and worse. Again, it’s just exhausting. I feel suffocated by it but I don’t know what to do about it; it feels like the walls are closing in around me and there’s nothing I can do to stop them.
As for autistic meltdowns, I haven’t had many of late. I think that’s because, despite my anxiety, I’ve had a really good few months. As I said in my previous post, this last university module and all the writing that came part and parcel with it was really good for me and I felt really good in myself so, in general, things didn’t build up to the point of meltdown. There were a number of occasions where something took me by surprise (for example, an unexpectedly triggering advert – I hadn’t even known that it was something that would trigger me so that was unfortunate for everyone) and I had a meltdown but as things go, it’s been better than it has been.
I’m not entirely sure how my ADHD manifests yet, having only received the diagnosis recently. If only it were as simple as getting the diagnosis and everything making sense… So I still have work to do in that regard. But I’m fairly certain – as certain as I can be at this point – that my issues concentrating and the feeling of my brain working against me are part of this picture. For the moment though, I’m in the dark about all of this. I’m in an impossible position medication-wise (I’m going to write about this in more detail at some point – it’s just that I’m still processing it all) so I’m stuck and unsure how to manage these problems. It’s frustrating and tiring and I wish there was an easy answer. Or even an easier one than I’m currently faced with. But there doesn’t seem to be. So I’m not sure where to go from here.
And the newest problem – because I really needed more problems… – are these migraines that I’ve been having over the last month. In the past, I’d have a migraine every few months or so but recently they’ve been different. They’ve been completely debilitating, painful to the point that I’ve ended up in A&E and had to have an ambulance called to the house because they’ve been so bad. They’ve also gone on for days when previously I could sleep them off and they’d be gone in twenty four hours. I’ve yet to find pain relief that does a decent job and I find that very scary. Calling 111 and them sending an ambulance because I was in so much pain but so light sensitive that even a darkened room felt too bright is a big deal and I’m scared of what’s next, of how it could get worse. I don’t know what’s causing them and no one else seems to either.
And finally… I’ve been the most consistent with therapy I’ve been since the pandemic began, even if I still find it hard and less productive when doing it over Zoom. But it’s looking like we’ll be back to face-to-face soon, which is exciting if scary – as I said, I’m finding it quite stressful to be out of my house. But hopefully, therapy will go back to being as helpful as it was pre-COVID, when it was face-to-face all the time. I don’t know exactly why it doesn’t feel the same over Zoom – maybe I find it harder to connect and talk about the hard stuff when I’m not in the same room as my therapist – but it just doesn’t, so I’m looking forward to getting back to the room.
So that’s it, I guess. This is my mental health (and I suppose, physical health update) before I start the final module of my Master’s, The Major Repertoire Project. Everything feels very messy and complicated right now, which isn’t exactly reassuring. I want to do well in the module, of course, but I also want to really enjoy it and really get the best out of it. The module doesn’t officially start until tomorrow but I’ve already started working on my project. I’m so excited. I just hope I can manage it with all of this other stuff going on.
Category: about me, adhd, anxiety, autism, covid-19 pandemic, depression, diagnosis, heds, medication, meltdowns, mental health, music, ocd, self harm, therapy, treatment, trichotillomania, university Tagged: adhd, adhd diagnosis, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, autism spectrum disorder, autistic, autistic adult, autistic meltdown, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, coronavirus, covid-19, depression, diagnosis, drowsiness, ehlers danlos syndrome, fatigue, generalised anxiety disorder, heds, hypermobile ehlers danlos syndrome, hypermobility, major repertoire project, masters degree, masters degree in songwriting, masters degree year two, masters part time, medication, meltdown, mental health, mental health update, migraine, obsessive compulsive disorder, occupational therapy, ocd, online therapy, pain relief, pandemic, pandemic 2020, pandemic anxiety, self harm, sleepiness, swimming, therapy, trichotillomania, trigger, trigger warning, tw, university
Hi! I’m Lauren Alex Hooper. Welcome to my little blog! I write about living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD (Inattentive Type), and Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), as well as several mental health issues.
I’m a singer-songwriter (it’s my biggest special interest and I have both a BA and MA in songwriting) so I’ll probably write a bit about that too.
My first single, ‘Invisible,’ is on all platforms, with all proceeds going to Young Minds.
My debut EP, Honest, is available on all platforms, with a limited physical run at Resident Music in Brighton.
I’m currently working on an album about my experiences as an autistic woman.