Tag Archives: ambien and depression

The Little Oblivion I Will Often Seek

WHOLE-2016-ambien

I have to admit I do appreciate a minor amount of intoxication. I don’t do it often, but when I do, I revel in the relaxation, the joy, the fun of cutting loose. But that’s a little different from oblivion. When we seek oblivion we are looking to escape something, to get away from the complexities of life or living or love or loss. I understand this. Sometimes, I’m board, I want to be entertained for an hour or so and then I just want to black out into sleep. Well, not black out, black out, but you get what I’m talking about. I think, at times we all want a little oblivion.

I joked with my therapist that I was managing my life between Ambien doses. That’s funny, but it wasn’t very far from the truth.

For me, when I was suffering from depression over the holidays that oblivion came in the form of a very comforting sleep medication. Ambien. No matter how rotten I was feeling, I could count on a good night’s sleep when I took my little pink generic. And at $15 for a month’s supply, what’s to stop me, right?

Turns out while I did need help sleeping for a few nights, when my love of the sleep became something I looked forward to each day, that was a different desire right there. I was no longer having trouble sleeping, I was looking for the warm fuzzy of sleep. The big black blanket of pharma-enhanced sleep, is what I was craving as an escape from the hard times.

I joked with my therapist that I was managing my life between Ambien doses. That’s funny, but it wasn’t very far from the truth. See, if you don’t go straight to sleep, Ambien can make you a bit euphoric. And when you are depressed, a tiny sliver of euphoria can go a long way towards making you hopeful about joy in your life once again.

Each morning I would wake up a little more depressed, as I started slipping into a dark period, rather than a minor set back. And each night I would gladly affirm to my fiance that I’d taken my “sleepy meds.”

But it was no longer about sleep. On month two it was about joy. It was about a moment of feeling good and then a long dark and dreamless sleep. And they say Ambien is non-habit forming. HA. Who are they trying to kid?

I’m certain this is what many people are trying to do with daily alcohol consumption. A little buzz and a good night’s sleep. But this form of self medication is no better than my Ambien habit, and probably more destructive to their health. And Ambien does give you restful sleep. Alcohol actually interrupts your REM cycles and gives you poor quality sleep. So if you’re drinking to help yourself get sleepy you might consult your doctor and try something else.

The Ambien was having some sort of suppressive effect on my hopefulness.

But I get it. And I was getting into my little oblivion moments even as my life felt like it was spinning into the pits of blackness. I was drawing ever darkening pictures of my future in my mind. And each night I would release those wicked pains for a few minutes before I drifted to sleep. I’m guessing this is not unlike an opium habit, though I’ve never done opium.

Something, however was not healthy about what I was doing. I wasn’t clear about it until my prescription ran out one day in December and I missed a dose and missed my little high before falling asleep. The next day I had a much more hopeful outlook. I noted my desire to have an outreach conversation with my manager at work. I said to myself, that afternoon, “Wow, that was pretty hopeful.”

The Ambien was having some sort of suppressive effect on my hopefulness. I had seen this a few years ago. I loved my Ambien sleeps, but I noted that I loved them a bit too much. And the couple nights I didn’t fall directly asleep… Well, I really enjoyed those moments.

I watched my mood the next day after I refilled the Ambien. While I didn’t notice a downer, I also didn’t notice the lift I had felt when not on Ambien. So I took a break. And you know what. My hope came back almost like clock work. I haven’t had an Ambien since. Now, I’m not saying Ambien is bad stuff. In fact, in talking with my meds doctor about my experience, he said, “It’s a useful tool when the sleep is the real risk for you. When you are getting enough sleep, it might be best for you to stop the medication.”

Easy for him to say.

I longed for that happy moment. I felt like I was having no happy moments. My little oblivion felt like a reward or a respite from the depression. And it was not the first time I contemplated daytime-Ambien use. (BAD IDEA. Google it, it’s a thing, but it’s a bad thing.)

It seemed to me if they could make an anti-depressant that worked a little bit like Ambien… But what Ambien does is release some of your natural inhibitions. In my case this gave me the feeling that I could accomplish something. It gave me momentary breaks from my hopelessness. I believed joy was returning to my life. But the dawn would often bring back the same panic and dread.

I still sort of want an Ambien at night. But you know what, it might just be the dreams that also bring back the brain’s hopefulness in me.

They say Ambien makes people do stuff they don’t remember doing. Like eating at night, driving their car somewhere, or sleep walking. I never had that experience, but I sure had some emails I wish I hadn’t sent. Emails where I gushed on about how I was feeling better and would get my shit in order right away… In fact, why don’t we meet up for coffee in the morning.

Oh the coffee never came. But I was clearly “drunk” on something.

If drinking is a little like Ambien, I do understand the draw towards daily drinking. It’s not for me either, never has been, but daily Ambien, I could see how I might enjoy that if not for the side effects that it kills my hopeful attitude the next day and has me making promises my actually emotional state won’t let me fulfill.

I still sort of want an Ambien at night. I’d love to get that kind of sleep naturally. But you know what, it might just be the dreams that also bring back the brain’s hopefulness in me. And the waking up in the middle of the night to snuggle closer to your loved one, that keeps me a bit more centered. I’m not heading to oblivion each night, but I’m not waking up in hopeless hell either.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Dating After Divorce

additional posts: