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A resource for music therapists, music educators, and other professionals who work with individuals with intellectual disabilities, as well as their families and care providers.
I'm going to get really personal on this post.
This summer, I began to experience extreme insomnia, in which I appeared to go without sleep for days or even a week at a time. (My therapist declared that since I was not having hallucinations, I therefore must be sleeping for very short periods of time without knowing it. It sure didn't feel like it.) It was awful. I was exhausted and crabby, and I was having mood swings. I wanted to sleep so badly, but my body just would not cooperate.
My doctor was hesitant to put me on a prescription at the time and recommended a variety of alternatives, which I wholeheartedly agreed to.
~ I tried a weighted blanket, but it made me feel claustrophobic.
~ I tried meditating, but my mind kept wandering.
~ I tried listening to relaxing music, but it distracted me and I felt like I had to stay awake in order to turn off the music.
~ I tried listening to ASMR videos. They relaxed me but I would get so engrossed in the "tingles" that I would want to keep watching more instead of falling asleep.
~ I tried yoga, exercise, and cutting caffeine, but if I'm being honest, I wasn't committed to doing any of those things on a daily basis.
~ I tried taking melatonin, but it stopped working after a few nights so I tried the maximum dosage. It gave me strange dreams.
~ I tried journaling. I tried avoiding screentime, eating, or drinking before bed. I tried sleeping on the living room sofa. I tried sleeping at my parents' house. I tried over-the-counter sleeping pills. They had zero effect.
~ I tried going to therapy. My therapist didn't listen. Right off the bat, he insisted that my recent marriage was the source of my insomnia. He focused on this for the remainder of the session without any regard for any other possible stressor, be it work, medical scares, or traumatic life events. It felt like he was challenging me the entire time, as if I didn't know myself. He didn't acknowledge the possibility that I might have ongoing anxiety. He advised things that I'd already tried, with the additional suggestion of monitoring the temperature of my shower.
After the second useless session, I called to let him know that I wouldn't be returning, because by this time my doctor had prescribed escitalopram, and it was working.
Being on an antidepressant/SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) was life-changing for me. After a few weeks of a sore tummy, which my doctor had warned me about, and a disturbing feeling of numbness, I began to sleep normally again (or at least what is normal for me). The numbness was initially worrying, especially as a songwriter. However, it didn't prevent me from writing songs, and my lyrics began to be more positive. I realized that my feelings were still there, deep down, but it was as if they were muted, so I no longer experienced strong, exaggerated emotional responses to stressors. I wasn't overwhelmed by anger, or sadness, or fear.
When people ask how I'm doing, I am able to truthfully say "good" instead of "tired" or "stressed out." I have never felt so grounded as I do now. To this day I still don't know what I "have" because I didn't get a proper diagnosis, but I can live with that.
"Rock bottom isn't necessary...assuming you have to hit rock bottom before you start invites an unnecessary rock bottom into your life...maybe you can avoid the part where you bottom out if you get on [antidepressants] now."
Some people see antidepressants as an "easy way out." You do not have to make it harder on yourself. It does not have to get worse before it gets better.
I'm not here to promote antidepressants. Every person is different and has different needs. Antidepressants don't work for everyone, and may make things worse. Some people prefer alternatives. While they didn't work for me, they might work for you. Please talk to your doctor if you sense that something is off, because you know yourself better than anyone.
Know that you are not alone. It is okay to get help - to talk about your feelings - to find something that works for you.
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Kirstie Gallacher-Ang, MT-BC