Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The First Ambien

The first job I have in putting together a collection of columns is to group them together in some semblance of order. Certain topics instantly emerge as warranting a whole chapter (or more) -- and the first one out of the pack this go-round is: Ambien. I'll have a sketch of these pulled together by the time I go to tomorrow morning's meeting at the Press with the Production people. I have a feeling they'll be alarmed.

In the first book, Ambien didn't exist (or if it did, I didn't know about it). It took some research, but I finally found the first example of the very first time I took it. It was March 15, 2001 (and I know that it came after several years of insomnia. What did surprise me, was that it apparently didn't work at all the first time I tried it. (I should also point out that it doesn't "technically" work now, but it buys me three or four hours that I wouldn't get any other way, and I'll take it).

Here's a little clip from March 2001:
Commonly taken for granted, I've come to view sleep  as the material of idle fantasy - probably the way other people think about porn (i.e., an apparently accessible, yet too-elusive goal).
I have both kinds of Insomnia, in that 1. I can't fall asleep, and 2. if I manage to drift off, I can't STAY asleep for more than an hour. (And during those rare naps, I have really odd dreams - the most recent of which involved both my dogs flying a plane. Which is absurd. Because they can't even drive. And last night, I dreamed I was whitewater rafting... through Fayette Mall.)
I've had to renew all my West Coast friendships, just so I always have someone to talk to at 4 am.
Before you even ask, YES, I have exhausted every homeopathic remedy I can think of. Warm baths. Tea. Exercise. (Last weekend, I took the dogs out to the country - where they pretty much lounged in the truck and watched me chase their toys around for quite some time -their general attitude being, "Fuck it. You threw it. You fetch it." And there I'm just quoting, because that Martha has a filthy mouth on her.)
Once I hit the end of the rope (as Steve Earle would say), as my repose dwindled down to two to three hours a night - I finally had to seek medical intervention (a last resort that usually has to involve a severed limb.)
And I got a prescription for something called Ambien.
It came with all manner of warnings, along the lines of: don't drink, don't drive, don't go in the water, don't run with scissors, don't take it while standing in an upright position.
The disclaimers were so vast and the warnings so lengthy, that I actually called for reinforcements - and I had some friends come over to WATCH me take it. (I SAW 'Requiem for a Dream' and I do NOT want to turn into Ellen Burstyn.)
I had this idea that maybe I would just be felled like a big tree and they ought to be around to make sure I didn't hit my head on any sharp objects when I went down.
Not to worry.
We all gathered in my bedroom (we were going to be in there anyway, to watch the Sopranos). I instructed them to help themselves to the contents of the fridge (not wanting to be remiss in my hostess duties should I spontaneously lapse into a coma), handed over the remote (a big step for me), and instructed them on how they should lock up behind them when they left (taking care not to wake me from the pharmaceutical stupor I was eagerly anticipating).
I took my prescribed dosage and asked my friend Pru to keep an eye on his watch (since his knowledge of pharmacology is vast, albeit amateur) and monitor any effects.
(I figured he's DEFINITELY the guy I wanted around because he's probably the one person in my social circle I could count on to rip open my blouse, mark on my boob with a Sharpie, and pound a syringe full of adrenaline straight into my heart... IF the occasion called for it... And not necessarily because he saw it on Pulp Fiction.)
Seven minutes? Nothing.
Twelve minutes... I think I blinked.
Twenty three minutes ... a yawn.
At 48 minutes, I showed no visible signs of drowsiness.
Pru (always an endless font of information in any situation involving chemical dependency) helpfully volunteered that I reminded him of some big rhinocerous on Wild Kingdom who just refused to go down, as they kept shooting her with tranquilizer dart after dart. Or, as our art director offered, like the opening scene in Jurassic Park where they're loading the dinosaur (who manages to eviscerate one of the handlers), and all you hear is "Shoooot hahhhh; shooooot hahhhh" in an Australian accent.
Unlike the rhino, however, I wasn't even staggering. I was traipsing back and forth to the kitchen and bringing back plates of cappacola, mortadella, and sopresata for everyone to enjoy.
This incident has prompted the staff to begin planning for what they insist is the inevitable eventuality of my inchoate overdose.
Frankly, I think they're having FAR too much fun.
They're running around assigning hair and makeup duties - who's going to do my nails?  who's going to wax my legs? (so far: no takers.) Hop Sing's taken to keeping a spare Clinique raspberry glacé lip pencil in his pocket, just in case.
I just hope Prada makes a bodybag for the cadaver who has everything."
If I must be honest, I guess it never really did start to work. (I've heard reports that people on Ambien only get 20 minutes or so more sleep than people not on it.) Three or four hours of sleep would not be considered a success by most any doc.... I think I've just started to enjoy the side effects. (For example, I no longer have to rely on my west coast friends, I can just facebook chat with fellow insomniacs, anywhere in the world. I never remember what we talk about, but I'm sure that's just as well.)

I sure did miss them the last few nights when the pharmacy and the doctor's office couldn't seem to communicate about how to renew the next six months. I didn't come down with the shakes or anything, but I also wasn't happy.

When I picked them up last night, I resolved to finally read the patient information leaflet (which I never do, because if I did, I would suddenly and spontaneously come down with every possible contraindication ever conceived -- that's how I ended up with an enlarged prostate from that one antibiotic, that one time?).

I read through and decided I'd just pick and choose -- cherrypick -- the side effects I'd like to get, versus the ones I wouldn't.

They fully disclose, for example, "People have sleepwalked, prepared/eaten food, made phone calls, or had sex while not fully awake. Often these people do not remember these events." You don't say.

While I have never experienced the duly-referenced "hallucinations" of which they speak, as for the "frequent memory loss," I say "yes please."

Aggression? Anxiety? As opposed to what? (How would I notice?) Chest pains? No. Thanks.

I'm sure there's more, but I have to send the Interns back into the physical archives with their little pink haz-mat suits. I'm experimenting with putting black plastic over the windows and turning the lights off and on to see if it increases their productivity any.

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