First Diagnosis, More Pills

I am posting this on my 70th birthday. It is hard to remember how terrible I felt four years ago when I was just coming out of a year of sleep problems. But I do think I am a much happier person as a result of all I experienced and learned during that difficult year. Last night I slept well and so far this has been a very happy day filled with love and joy. I am grateful. And now,, on to the story.

Diagnosis: November 19, 2015

I knew that I could not stay on the drugs indefinitely and was hoping the treatments with B would allow me to get off Trazodone. We awaited the results of my lab tests to find out what supplements I should take.

When the saliva test report arrived, B showed me the printout that charted my cortisol levels at four times over the day. They were supposed to be the highest in the morning, and then get lower during the day until bedtime. Instead, mine started low and then went to zero. Based on my test results, B thought I had something called adrenal fatigue. That was my first diagnosis. I had never heard of it, so I did some research.

I learned that adrenal fatigue consists of many nonspecific but debilitating symptoms. The onset of this condition is often slow and insidious. Sufferers are told that they are stressed and need to learn to relax more. Adrenal fatigue leads to lower levels of a number of hormones and neurotransmitters, changes that can affect every single part of your body. Every individual with adrenal fatigue tends to have a slightly different set of symptoms, although there are always common complaints.

The most common adrenal fatigue symptoms include:

  • Difficulty getting up in the morning

Insomnia, bingo! Also, I have always craved salt. But the rest of the symptoms did not seem to apply to me, except perhaps the mild depression caused by my sleep problems. B asked how I could get out of bed in the morning. Wasn’t I tired? Did I drink lots of coffee? I was confused. I had plenty of energy. I worked out every day. I did not drink coffee. Did I really have adrenal fatigue? I wasn’t feeling fatigued, as long as the pills I took at night kept working to allow me to sleep.

B prescribed five supplements for me to take in addition to the GABA, using a Muscle Testing process for each one to see if my body would accept each supplement. This involved putting each bottle of pills on my chest, over my clothes, and then holding up my arm (as I lay on the massage table) and tapping my hand. He only put one supplement back, DHEA, which he said my body rejected. For the others, he nodded his head and said “yes” to each one. I had heard about this Muscle Testing before from people who practiced alternative medicine, but it still seemed very strange to me. However, I was so anxious and stressed; I was willing to try anything that might possibly help me. I so wanted to be healed. However, I later became skeptical about whether or not I had Adrenal Fatigue, since the main symptom was fatigue, which I did not have.

The supplements I bought from B were: ADB5-Plus™ Tablets, Pregnendone CRT, Cytozyne PT/HPT, Chasteberry, and Insomnitol Chewables.

B had already suggested that I change my diet. My daughter Rebecca was lobbying for me to change my diet as well, and began making bone broth for me to drink, to see if it could help me heal whatever was wrong.

I started to take the supplements. B seemed confident that he could help me and that these pills would lead me back to health. I wanted to trust him and wanted to believe they would heal me. It was not clear to me if he thought I would need to take these temporarily to heal, or forever to compensate for things I was lacking. By now I was spending 80 dollars a visit to see B, had spent a few hundred dollars on the lab tests, and another few hundred dollars on the supplements. I was spending a lot of money, all in the hope that I would get better and no longer need the treatments and supplements.

Meanwhile, the results of the urine test had arrived, but there seemed to be an error. The test was to measure the production of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. However, none were detected, which was very strange. B called the lab and they said to redo the test. I did, and the results came back the same again. I took it a third time and once again, we waited for the results. A year later, when I had my DNA data analyzed and interpreted, I would finally learn why my results were so strange. But that is a story for later.

I now was curious about neurotransmitters and how they might affect my insomnia. According to Wikipedia, neurotransmitters are endogenous chemicals, a type of chemical messenger which transmits signals across a chemical synapse from one neuron (nerve cell) to another ‘target’ neuron, muscle cell, or gland cell.

Neurotransmitters are essential to the function of complex neural systems. The exact number of unique neurotransmitters in humans is unknown, but more than 200 have been identified. They include GABA, dopamine, and serotonin. I knew about dopamine and serotonin, which affect moods and feelings of well-being. I learned that serotonin in fact impacts every part of your body, from your emotions to your motor skills. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It is also the chemical that helps with sleeping.

This information suggested that if my neurotransmitter levels were low, especially serotonin, this could explain why I was not able to sleep. And if the new supplements helped replace or produce these chemicals, this could lead to recovery. However, after I started taking the supplements I did not notice any difference in my sleep.

I went to visit my sister, Ann, in Cleveland and from there we planned to go to Columbus, Ohio, for the night so I could meet her new grandchild. The first night I arrived and stayed at my sister’s house, I told her about all the supplements from B and must have expressed some unease about them. Ann looked up each on the Internet and found cause for concern for many of them. One article she found said to not take anything with Lamb’s Pancreas, which was in one of B’s supplements. As a result, I vowed to stop taking all these pills. I would stay on the Trazodone and GABA for the meantime.

While we were in Columbus, my brother Stan and his wife joined us for the day. We did not talk much on the visit, but after I returned home I called Stan and told him about my sleep problems. I told him about the doctors and practitioners I had seen, the drugs I was taking, and how helpless and sad I felt, especially now that I did not think B’s supplements would actually help me. We talked for an hour and a half and it felt great. At the end, Stan suggested we stay in touch and talk again regularly, rather than resuming our twice a year birthday calls, which tended to focus on more trivial topics. Stan and I had not been close for a long time and it felt good to be connected again. Some good things were coming out of my dark times. I began to keep a list of all the good things and lessons learned during this time.

Not wanting to be addicted to a sleeping pill, I decided to start trying to cut back on Trazodone. First, I cut back to one and one half pills for three nights. Then I cut down to one pill for three nights. I knew some of my friends took that dose and slept well every night. I became very hopeful that maybe I would get off the pills altogether, as Dr. U had suggested. But I stopped sleeping again. I started to feel frantic. More than anything, I longed to sleep at night, to get into bed without wondering and worrying, tossing and turning. Every night I did not sleep, I started trying to figure out what I had done wrong, or what I might try next. Sadly, the antihistamines were no longer effective either.

Then I remembered the few times I had taken a low dose of Ambien. It was prescribed to Michael and he had doled it out to me twice over two years. Each time I had taken Ambien, I had a miraculous full night’s sleep, not even waking once during the night. I longed for this kind of rest. I wanted Ambien. Michael’s bottle had not been refilled for quite a while, so I needed to get a prescription. Dr. R had not wanted me to take this drug, which is why she had prescribed Trazodone. Now I planned to beg her for a prescription of Ambien.

Next post: Please give me Ambien!

Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, author or editor of books on teaching and learning statistics, as well as cooking.