It started in 2017 after my endocrinologist retired, and my general practitioner had me convinced she could adequately monitor and manage my thyroid levels. During the first visit, she increased my dose of Synthroid, a thyroid hormone replacement medication. I have been on Synthroid since 2012 when I had a complete thyroidectomy due to a two-inch non-cancerous tumor on my thyroid, so regular blood tests and thyroid medication 'tweaks' were not uncommon. In the months that followed I began to experience troubling symptoms like anxiety, weight loss, high blood pressure, tremor, and night sweats. I went back to my doctor, and she prescribed blood pressure medication and Xanex.
My symptoms continued to get worse, and then the most severe symptom hit without warning, crippling insomnia. One night I was sleeping seven hours straight, and the next I woke up in the middle of the night because it felt like someone was zapping my insides with a taser gun. I did not sleep for one minute for the next several days. I went to the hospital emergency room because I thought I was going to die. The ER doctor admitted me because my resting heart rate was off the charts, and nothing would bring it down. They ran blood tests and quickly discovered that my thyroid levels and symptoms indicated doctor-induced thyrotoxicosis or severe hyperthyroidism caused by a doctor prescribed overdose of Synthroid. I was 98 pounds (because of the weight loss), and on a Synthroid dose the hospital endocrinologist said was meant for someone twice my weight. The feeling like someone was continuously zapping my insides, he said, was actually back to back panic attacks triggered by the hyperthyroidism. He halved my dose, said it would take six weeks for the symptoms to get better, and gave me a prescription for Ambien. He also made me promise to drop my general practitioner and find a new endocrinologist, which I did immediately.
While my thyroid levels and most of my symptoms eventually stabilized on the correct Synthroid dose, my insomnia and sleep-related anxiety remained. It was so severe I developed a deep-rooted fear of sleeping that led to a dependence on sleeping medication. During that time, 3 hours of sleep was a 'good' night. I tried every sleep medication and sleep product on the market. Nothing worked for long, and eventually, I ended up in the office of Dr. Jaclyn Lewis-Croswell, a Psychologist specializing in the treatment of insomnia. That was the Fall of 2017, and I have been seeing her regularly ever since. While it took every bit of the past three years to get back to sleeping well, no part of my sleeping routine would be considered normal. When you have chronic insomnia, you will do anything to get some sleep. Dr. C, as I call her, identified simple solutions to behaviors that were contributing to my insomnia, like meditation, regular exercise, establishing a bedtime routine, cutting out caffeine, and wearing blue-light glasses at night.
While those changes helped, there were bigger issues I had to address, like undiagnosed PTSD from my three months in the hospital surrounding the premature birth of my son Hill. Dr. C's method of treatment for insomnia was Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Insomnia (CBTI) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for PTSD. She also helped me to taper off all sleep medication (total nightmare, pun intended!) I have worked harder on my health over the past three years than the 38 years before that combined. However, no matter how hard I worked with Dr. C and on my own, I only made marginal improvements in my sleep. Or I would have a stretch of a month or two of pretty good sleep, then my insomnia would come back full-force. She was the only doctor who tried to help me get to the bottom of what was really going on in my body and mind.