Recently my nephew’s wife sent me a cartoon from the April 20, 2020 issue of the New Yorker. The picture shows a woman sitting on her bed staring ahead. A man is seated next to her, presumably offering this advice:
Caption: “You can’t sleep? Have you tried meditating, then reading for an hour, then going to the couch, then back to bed, then counting backward from ten million, then taking a sleeping pill?”
I could definitely relate, reminiscent as it was of my year of sleep problems! I had tried many methods to combat insomnia, including sleeping pills. But so far, nothing had helped very much.
Treatment 7: Ionic Foot Bath
As suggested by S, I was willing to try an ionic foot bath. The foot bath had been so helpful for S’s sleep that she now used the method on a regular basis and owned her own machine. S provided some names of practitioners who offered this service and I made an appointment with a chiropractor in Golden Valley, Dr. F.
According to Healthline, an ionic foot detox is advertised as a safe and relaxing way to clear out the body. The process is said to give the hydrogen in the water a positive charge, which supposedly pulls the toxins out of your body through your feet.
We made an appointment and showed up wondering what to expect. Dr. F was alone in her clinic on the second floor of an office building. She was a kind and friendly woman. She began by asking me a series of questions about my health and current issue (insomnia); she took us into a small private room where Michael and I took seats in big, comfortable chairs. She filled a small plastic tub with warm water and some chemicals, and then I sat in the recliner with my feet submerged for 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes Dr. F returned and showed me that the water had turned brown, just like in the picture above. Supposedly the color revealed all the impurities removed from my body. She dried my feet and we chatted for a few minutes. She suggested that a chiropractic treatment might help me. I kept that in mind, and later saw Dr. C, a chiropractor who my daughter used and highly recommended. Although the foot bath did not appear to affect my sleep at all, it did lead me to Dr. C, who suggested I have my DNA tested. And that information, a year later, put the final pieces of my sleep puzzle together. But that comes later in the story. Now, back to my dark December.
One night when I was having a very rough time, my daughter Rebecca came over, as she often did when I felt I could not cope anymore. This often coincided with a night that Michael was at a basketball game. I remember Rebecca would come over after putting her one-year-old daughter, Addie, to bed. She would bring homeopathic remedies for me to try, herbal teas to brew and drink, homemade bone broth, and anything else that might help. She would talk to me in her loving and soothing voice, encourage me to take a nice warm bath with essential oils, listen to calming music, and do other activities that might increase my changes of falling asleep.
We discussed the basic questions that tormented me: What was causing my sleep problems, and what could I try next? Who could I go to? Where could I get help? I tried her homeopathic remedies, drank her broth, took her herbal supplements. I even sprayed magnesium on my skin. But nothing changed.
One day things were so bad that I decided to go back to Dr. R and tell her how much trouble I was having. I could not get into see her that day, but I could get in to a different doctor at the same clinic, a Dr. K. So I made an appointment for that afternoon.
Treatment 8: Double the dose, double the pills
Michael came with me to my first appointment with Dr. K. We arrived at the clinic and waited in side by side chairs in the familiar waiting room. I rested my head in my hands, slumped in my seat, let out deep sighs, and felt anxious. When Dr. K’s nurse called my name, we followed her back to a little room where Dr. K met with his patients. The nurse took my vitals: blood pressure and pulse. Then she asked me what I was there to discuss and get help with. As I started to tell her about my sleep problems, I began sobbing. The nurse was kind and reassuring, telling me that they would find a medication that would help me sleep, that I just had not yet found the right one. Dr. K came in the room, a gentle older man. He greeted me warmly. He listened to my story with compassion, as again I sobbed. Then he suggested I try a different version of Ambien.
Dr. K decided to give me a higher dose of Ambien, 12.5 mg that was also a time-release pill. He reassured me that this dose should help me sleep through the night. I was more than ready. I felt hopeful again. We stopped at the pharmacy to fill the prescription and took it home. I could hardly wait to try it that night. Michael had decided that he needed to be the official keeper of my pills. He was worried that I might take more pills than prescribed in my desperation to sleep, or I might forget whether or not I had taken a pill. Each night he gave me whatever pills I was taking each night at bedtime. That night I took one of the new pills and miraculously, fell asleep. However, four hours later I woke up and could not fall back to sleep. I woke up Michael and crying hysterically, begged him for a Valium. I felt I needed something else to help me sleep or I would go crazy. We argued, as he was afraid I was taking too much medicine and also concerned with interactions of the two medications. Then he relented and gave me a pill. I took a Valium, slept two additional hours, then took another Valium. And fell back asleep.
The next day I felt more rested but was terrified. I had taken a high dose of Ambien and two Valium. Was I turning into a drug addict? And was it dangerous to take both Ambien and Valium in the same night? I needed to go back and talk to Dr. K. I was able to make an appointment that afternoon, and returned to the clinic. Dr. K again greeted me warmly and listened to me with kind attention. He reassured me that if I only took these two drugs (sequentially) for a month, I would be OK. He was glad I had an appointment lined up with Dr. D, the sleep doctor, in two months. He felt that Dr. D could then help me get off the drugs and return to sleeping normally. He also asked me to check back in a week or two and tell him how it was going. Dr. K always took time with me, usually running well over the 20 minute HMO-designated time allotment. He also asked me at the end of the appointment if I had any more questions. His kindness and patience were calming and greatly appreciated. I always left his office feeling hopeful.
It was now late December. The problem that had begun in September and that I thought would have cleared up in a month was still there, and had become even worse. I was now taking two drugs at night. I was getting some relief, but it was not steady, and I was worried about becoming dependent on the drugs. Rebecca asked her acupuncture doctor, Chris, if he might be able to help me with insomnia and he said he would be willing to give it a try. I had given up on Dr. L, my first acupuncturist. But this was a different practitioner. He had been very helpful to Rebecca when she was trying to get pregnant, and she trusted him. I still felt that something was fundamentally wrong with me and needed healing, and believed acupuncture could help people heal. In any case, I was willing to give it a try. Chris fit me into his busy schedule on a Sunday morning at 7:30 AM.
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