Sleep is medicine

I was dating a guy over the summer who came to meet me at a concert downtown, near where he lived in the East Village.  He didn’t know I had bipolar disorder (we’d been dating for about a month; it wasn’t serious; I hadn’t told him), and after the concert–this was a Sunday night–he said, “come stay at my place.”
 The thing was, I had forgotten my medication. Even after ten plus years of living with bipolar disorder, I don’t just carry pills in my bag unless I know I’m sleeping somewhere else.

So, I hesitated for a moment and said, “I would, but I can’t… I forgot pills I have to take.”  He looked at me with this scrunched up face, as if I’d just told him I needed to go snort some coke in the bathroom. “Pills?!”  I felt terrible, watching how he reacted to what I said. So instead of just owning it, I backtracked and told him I was fine, sure I would come over. And then, at his house, in his bed, with no Seroquel or Lunesta or anything, I ended up getting two hours sleep–maybe three.  It threw me off for the entire week, and I couldn’t believe I’d skipped out on medications (something I almost never do) because an idiot had embarrassed me.

This is a long anecdote to make a very simple point:

If you have been living with bipolar disorder for long enough, you learn that sleep is as important as medicine.  Sleep–yes, sometimes medication-induced, but sleep nonetheless–is what keeps you from spiking into a manic episode or at least provides escape from the dark, daytime, awake realities of depression.

But there is a notion in this society that pills are ‘weird’ and unnatural (at least some Irish men living in the East Village think as much.) There is also a notion that too much sleep equals laziness.  As Americans, we feel proud to ‘only need five hours.’

As someone who takes Seroquel every night and as someone who has bipolar disorder, I really need nine hours of sleep to be rested.  I can sleep as many as eleven hours, and fewer than eight hours and I wake up the next day feeling overly hyped-up, ready to guzzle down too much caffeine and then suffer from insomnia the next night, a cycle that can throw me off for days.

So I am happy that some people, like Ariana Huffington, are acknowledging the importance of sleep.  Still, I have to work at not resenting my sleep needs. Sometimes I do want to be careless. To just collapse in someone else’s bed and not worry about my pills.  But then, I realize … I’m lucky that these little pills exist. That I have something that let’s me get a healthy night’s sleep so I can get through the week.

One thought on “Sleep is medicine

  1. Pingback: Need to Nap? Don’t Feel Guilty « your bipolar girl

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