One of our readers sent this story, concerning their doctor’s seemingly hasty prescriptions for sleep deprivation. What was really a deeply emotional issue all along was treated as a biological problem and prescribed accordingly. While there are certainly many caring physicians and psychiatrists, the side effects of drugs cannot ever be taken lightly. The themes in this true story are addressed in my book, Pills for the Soul? How Medication Falls Short of Christ’s Healing of the Emotions. Here is her story:
Over some months after learning about my husband’s addiction, while I thought I was “holding my own” even through the shock and intense pain that I felt, I had stopped sleeping through the night. By early October I was only sleeping two to four hours a night and it was taking its toll on me. I went to the doctor to get something to help me sleep and while she wanted me to go back on Lexapro, I said “no way”, so she prescribed Trazadone. Apparently in large doses of 300 mg it is used as an antidepressant, but in smaller doses (50 mg) it is a sleep aid. Since I was desperate, I decided to give it a try, and took half of the 50 mg tablet. I did okay for about four nights, but then one day my heart started racing, and I was pacing the floor — I got so nervous and hyper. It was AWFUL – and obviously the drug had the opposite effect on me from what was expected. I quit taking it and went back to the doctor, since now I wasn’t sleeping at all due to the effects of the drug. She put me on another drug that she said they give to patients with bipolar – but again, in large doses. The smaller dose is supposed to help with sleep. That drug is called Lamictal. I took 25 mg of that for three nights, and ended up in the emergency room with shortness of breath, tightness in my chest and a racing heart. It turned out not to be a heart attack, but was scary nonetheless – not to mention expensive, as it cost $1700 for six hours in the ER.
So why was I even willing to try the drugs? It seemed like the lesser of two evils, since I was not sleeping and felt myself slipping into depression from what I knew was simple sleep deprivation. While my doctor initially wanted to put me on Lexapro (or Welbutrin) I firmly resisted, saying that I just need to get back to sleeping and I knew I would be okay. So, after reliving the drug nightmare and deciding I could not take even the smallest doses recommended for sleeping, someone suggested that I try melatonin. You probably know about it — it’s a natural hormone. Bingo! It did the trick — I took 5 mg of that and was able to sleep through the night like a baby. I also began to feel like myself again.
Even with all I knew about healing prayer, the pain of the past few months was often so intense that I wondered at times if I would need medication again. There was a period of about two weeks that the physical manifestation was so strong, my arms felt like 50 pound weights. That was when I was at my lowest point, thinking that my marriage might be over. But I discovered that I just needed to spend more time in God’s presence, and when I did, I came away encouraged, and even transformed simply from that time alone with Him. Sometimes I would just sit in my special chair and wait for His healing presence to come over me. It has been truly amazing, and I believe in the power of healing prayer now more than ever. While I would not have chosen the pain that I have experienced in my marriage, I know God’s grace, mercy and true healing in an even deeper way, and my husband and I are experiencing it in our marriage as well. It is truly amazing!
This is yet one more testimony of how dangerous the drugs are, and also how quickly the doctors run to prescribe them. My doctor was frustrated with me for not wanting to go back on Lexapro, but I kept telling her that it made me feel numb and that all I needed was to sleep again. I think the stress in learning of my husband’s addiction, and our being separated just took a natural toll on my adrenal system, as I could feel it happening. It was awful to try and go on just a few hours of sleep day after day. I am so thankful for the melatonin, as it gives a very natural sleep, and I am finding that I didn’t even need that every night as my body was getting back into a natural rhythm.
Meanwhile, the Lord has graciously healed my marriage and I am closer to my husband than ever. Praise God! The final result is that I don’t even need the melatonin any more. I am back to sleeping very soundly through the night, and feel better than ever. I said to my son recently “Just imagine, I am feeling great, and had I listened to my doctor and not had the initial bad side effects, I would be ‘numbed out’ on a drug for bipolar disorder when I don’t need anything. Wow… it is scary how the doctors are so quick to prescribe drugs that alter our personalities and numb our souls.”