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Sleepless in the Sonoran - 05/25/2020

Updated: May 29, 2020

The last good night's sleep I had was on December 26, 2019. That was the night before I totaled my car in an accident, shortly after a late dinner at El Corral on River Road in Tucson. The other driver pulled out in front of me to attempt a left turn, and I T-boned his SUV. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, although the other driver and I both went off to the ER in ambulances. The X-rays and ultrasound showed I had no broken bones, but the force of the collision threw me into the steering column, and my seatbelt caused severe bruising across my chest. I spent the next month in so much pain that I couldn't lie down at night. I slept as best I could propped up on a couple of pillows. The ER doctor told me to take Aleve, which helped very little.

As I slowly recovered, I eased back into my two jobs, substitute teaching and caregiving for seniors, But I continued to suffer from anxiety; my doctor said I had PTSD from the accident and recommended both physical therapy and counseling. But before I could start either, I got a cold from one of my students, and I was sick for much of February. This worsened into something like bronchitis in March, and my cough was so bad that again, I couldn't sleep. Then, in April, when I started doing merchandising at Walmart, I developed symptoms of what seemed to be COVID-19. My doctor didn't recommend that I get tested, but advised me to stay isolated for 14 days and then only go out if I had no symptoms for 72 hours. The Walmart job was so hard on my body that not only did I apparently get The Virus (from a co-worker who did not wear a mash, I think), I was also painfully sore from lifting boxes and pushing carts full of merchandise, and the ruptured disc in my lower back was screaming in pain. I left the Walmart job, and when my isolation was up I was feeling much better and started driving for DoorDash. I only do this job 15 hours a week, but I think all the driving has made me motion sick. I'm dizzy all the time and dream about highways and bridges.

That's when I'm not dreaming about tidal waves and apocalyptic storms. Evidently I'm not alone. Many of my friends have been posting about sleeplessness on Facebook. It seems to be a symptom of our collective anxiety and fear of COVID. People across the US have reported having vivid dreams of catastrophic events. I wasn't conscious of being afraid about the virus until I started having the dreams. I don't have them every night, but the fear of not being able to get to sleep, or to stay asleep, keeps me awake. So every night I try to make myself sleep. I've tried every over-the-counter sleep aid, with little success. My doctor prescribed a muscle relaxer, but it made my joints hurt so I had to stop using it. I try playing Solitaire and Scrabble on my phone, but that just makes me want to stay up later; they're kind of addictive. I've read every book I own except for a few old novels that I got from Goodwill. Nothing seems to help. I end up falling asleep around four a.m. most nights.

Because I have a flexible schedule, I have been able to get seven or eight hours of sleep during a 24-hour period. Clara, my pug, gets me up at six a.m. or so, and we have breakfast and go out for a short walk, then it's back to bed at about seven and sleep until noon. But it's really interfering with my ability to lead a relatively normal life. Since I have Lupus and a few other chronic conditions, I need to get a good night's sleep, not just a few hours at a time, a couple of times a day. When I first was diagnosed 20 years ago, it was normal for me to sleep 12 hours at a stretch, and I frequently needed to sleep 16 hours in a day. Thankfully, I no longer require that much rest. But I'm still in pain from my accident, and my job makes me tired. I need to be able to recover from the hours on the road.

I'm seeing my doctor this week about my insomnia. I know there are medications we can try that will help with both sleeplessness and pain. But I really think I'm not going to get over my anxiety until the virus is contained and/or a vaccine is found. I'm still wearing a mask everywhere I go, because if I haven't had it, I don't want to get it, and if I did have it, I don't know if I can still pass it on to others. The uncertainty over when things will be back to "normal" is hard to live with. And although I know I'm not alone, and that many people are sleepless right now too, I do live alone, and not having a regular work environment to go into can feel very isolating. Hopefully I will get some relief soon, and be able to sleep again. Because five months is a long time to go without sleeping through a night.

#Insomnia #Dreams #Nightmares #ChronicPain #Anxiety #MaskUp

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