“Doctors are men who prescribe medicine of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing”,Voltaire
Those of us with chronic conditions are constantly seeking relief from the myriad of symptoms that make our lives very challenging. Pain, fatigue, lack of physical abilities, sleep disturbances, depression, rashes, to name but a few of the minor to serious struggles with which we are faced lead us to desperately wanting relief in the form of medications. Living with any one of the daily distressing symptoms affects our quality of life and it is little wonder that we seek help in the form of chemicals to help us get through the day. Many, in fact, are essential to our conditions without which we could not survive. Others are prescribed from the sheer frustration of physicians who want to help but medical answers to many perplexing conditions are not yet available to them. Such is the case with fibromyalgia. What to do with a patient who has chronic pain but to prescribe a pain medication, that may or may not help? If the patient cannot sleep there is a solution: sleep medication. Depression and anxiety? Medications for altering moods.The list of medications for all sorts of conditions is limitless. Pharmaceutical companies are big booming businesses whose profits know no bounds.Physicians could not possibly remember the vast array of information that the drug reps tell them about their efficacy or that they learn about on line. More to the point ‘new’ diseases and conditions are constantly being ‘discovered’ for which new drugs must be invented. Read : The Medicalization of Everyday Life by Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist, whose work in mental illness was compulsory reading for me as a medical sociology student in graduate school, many years ago.
“Trauma is so arresting that traumatized people will focus on it compulsively”, Peter Levine
There are so many various kinds of sleep disturbances that it becomes somewhat of a check list to differentiate between them all. Some of us suffer from everyone of them. I began having night terrors when I first started school,age 5, and the nuns told us stories of being responsible for killing Christ because we were born with original sin on our souls. Of course this frightened us and made the entire class cry. We were warned about sin and hell from the first day. I would hyperventilate at night and lose my breath. I was afraid to go to sleep. This was a serious trauma in my childhood. I began sleep walking. It was the time of the polio scare and this was added to the fears. World War ll had not yet ended the year I began school in Montreal and we were afraid our fathers would be sent away and be killed. There was much to be anxious about. My parents were extremely fearful people; my father has recently been diagnosed as a ‘borderline personality disorder’ which added to my lifelong anxiety. And so began my lifetime of night terrors and nightmares. The trauma of my adult life is too lengthy to document here (nor is it necessary) but most of us have experienced traumas of one sort or another, whether major or minor. The women in my book tell stories about their own sleep disturbances based upon their life experiences, so I am not unique in this regard.