Painsomnia, Psych Meds and Mental Health - Part 1

I have been experiencing worse insomnia than usual. Or, as many people in the chronic illness community refer to it, painsomnia, which is when a person has difficulty sleeping or staying asleep due to the presence of severe physical pain.

Most people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) deal with at least the occasional sleepless night. There are many people who are diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis who could probably count the number of times they felt like they got a restful night sleep on one hand since diagnosis.

Since I already delved into the topic of sleep related to inflammatory bowel disease in this article here I wanted to bring up something else that has been on my mind a lot which has to do with psychiatric medications. Just to be clear, I am not a medical professional, so all of the things written in this article are of my own experiences, research and personal thoughts ONLY.

I have been in therapy on and off since I was 17 or 18 years old because of my IBD.

I also tried numerous medications to help me cope with all of the surgeries, hospitalizations, procedures, chronic pain, feelings of guilt, etc including antidepressants, anti anxiety medication, and sleeping pills. I have had some success with anxiety medications and sleeping pills but because I have been going through physical trauma non-stop for so many years, I continue to need and rely on these medications to help me get through the day.

With certain medications used for anxiety and to induce sleep, the effects of the medication can slowly decrease over time making the medication ineffective after a while. The period which this occurs is different for everyone and also does not necessarily happen to every person but in general, I believe this to be the case. I have also tried a number of “off label” medications in order to help me mentally deal with all the turmoil that came alongside having ulcerative colitis.

By “off label,” I mean the medication is not FDA approved for the reason it is being prescribed but many physicians, researchers, and other people who work in the healthcare industry have seen great success with other patients.

For example, I was once given two sedating antidepressants to help me sleep. This was an off label use since both medications were intended for use in depression, not insomnia. However, given they were sedating antidepressants, over time physicians began to notice their patients had a difficult time taking the medication the way it was intended, so they started prescribing it for nighttime only. When patients began taking these medications before bed and it induced sleep, it showed people in the healthcare industry that perhaps these medications could be used to create a sedating/sleepiness effect in some patients.

I am going to be blunt right now.

I know I need help in many areas related to my mental health but I am afraid to really get started with someone new. I feel as though my situation is so complicated and runs so deep that most people cannot fathom what I am saying. I also have had situations where therapists have just felt bad for me and truly did not know what on earth to say (I couldn’t blame them and even thanked them for not putting a positive spin on things,) so the only purpose was to vent. And while I do enjoy getting things off of my chest to someone who is bound by law to keep everything I say confidential, I feel like I need more right now.

I always need and could use someone to talk to. After undergoing my 15th open abdominal operation because of my inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and the complications that came from it in June, I have really been having a difficult time mentally. Initially, it was emotionally hard for me because I felt so beat up but as I began to physically be able to do more and be less in “recovery mode,” I wanted to just continue on as though the surgery never happened.

And I did to some degree. I had my moments (many, many moments) but for the most part, I got right back to doing the things I was prior to the surgery. I pushed myself a tremendous amount because I felt awful lying on the couch while my boyfriend did everything. I always want to be an equal partner and watching him make me dinner, deal with the laundry, load and unload the dishwasher, take care of the dogs, go food shopping on his only day off, made me feel so guilty and lazy.

Rationally, I knew I was far from being lazy and I was simply doing what I should have been doing at that time- recovering and taking care of myself. But, internally, I just felt this drive to get back into life, put the past few years of searching for answers going to the ER weekly, being in and out of the hospital, undergoing countless tests and procedures, and going through another major abdominal surgery behind me and move forward.

I also had this crazy notion that if I didn’t talk about how I was feeling related to going through another {life altering} surgery, and just powered through like a soldier, that I wouldn’t have to deal with the emotions related to what I had gone through and continued to experience.

I was wrong.

Read Part 2 of this article. I didn’t want it to be a novel for you guys so I wanted to break it up a bit. The next part will focus on my feelings about re-starting therapy, my thoughts about trying new medications, and some other things thrown in there.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.