For a number of months (of course, I can’t remember the exact time period) I’ve been experiencing persistent nightmares. Horrid dreams which wake me up in a cold sweat, my heart pounding, and my mind replaying the fearful dream scenes again and again. Even as I try to recall the nightmares I can’t bring back the details…but the fright, fear, and anxiety are acute and stay with me—at least for a time. In the dark hours of the night I want to wake Keith and tell him about my nightmare, hoping the telling might help evaporate the troubling pictures that seem to want to stay stuck in my mind. But I rarely do so; Keith has a difficult time falling asleep, and I don’t want to disturb his sleep, too.
I’ve searched my day-to-day activities trying to find a possible source of my bad dreams: Perhaps I’ve been snacking too late at night. Maybe a show on TV, or watching TV itself, has upset me. Or was there something that happened during the day that caused me anxiety and could be the inspiration of my nightmares? None of these possibilities seem plausible to me, as they are neither consistent or repetitive activities I engage in.
I’m convinced the nightmares are a symptom of my MCI, that not only disrupts my sleep, but causes me distress, anxiety, increased heart rate, and often fear. Initially I assumed these were simply more symptoms that couldn’t be cured.
But as the nightmares continued to increase in frequency and severity, I hesitantly called my doc’s office and made an appointment. I told the scheduling nurse I was experiencing nightmares again. The doc I met with was new to me, but he assured me he had carefully looked over my past records, then listened attentively as I described my nightmares. He assured me that my brain scan was normal, so that was good. Then he went on to acknowledge he had read my chart and understood my susceptibility to medications. “So I’m ordering a prescription for the smallest dose of a med that should help relieve your nightmares. But given your sensitivity I want you to cut the pill in half. If that doesn’t work or you experience side effects, call me right away, and we’ll try something else—until we get it right.”
I can’t tell you how reassuring it was to feel heard by my doctor! And respected! The doc spoke directly to me, not my daughter who was sitting next to me. When I asked a couple of questions, he didn’t slow his speech pattern, and I never felt he was being condescending.
The purpose of this post is threefold:
- First, there are meds that can help stop nightmares, without the common reaction of feeling “drugged.” I know because I’m taking one. (A half a pill, indeed, was enough to make the nightmares go away—what a relief!)
- Second, there are doctors who understand MCI and appreciate the wide spectrum of behavior and capability that the diagnosis encompasses. Therefore, they respect that a person with MCI can be highly functional and can be, in most cases, capable of deciding for themselves to agree or decline procedures or treatments.
- And finally, these same docs are respectful and try their best to honor the wishes of the MCI patient.
Be assured, I acknowledge I need someone to accompany me to my doctor appointments, to keep me on track and to confirm my symptoms. I also need a reliable system of taking my meds as well as “management” in many other parts of my life, which I have surrendered to others.
This occasion also helped me recognize that the initial resentment of “no longer being able to…” is gone. I now feel pampered; a lady of leisure who can be lazy and veg out watching TV, embroider or not, read a book, walk around the block, ask a friend to come over and distance on the deck, tend my flower beds: or do none of the above and just relish the nature views and the Mississippi River winding past our land.
I recognize all of these activities can and will fade – in time. But right now, at this point in time, I have options, and variety, and time…until I don’t. And I expect that when that time comes I won’t really won’t care.