Monday, August 29, 2011

Lamictal, Sleep, and the Marriage Bed

I've been writing a lot lately about my relationship problems.  In a nutshell: the living situation that my husband said was working, wasn't.  The money situation that my husband said was working, wasn't.  Also, it turned out, my husband resents the fact that I don't get out of bed until 10 at the earliest.  Of course, I can't really control this, and he knows that, which means that he feels bad about resenting it -- but he still resents it.  So now, in addition to having physical difficulty sleeping, I feel guilty about it too.

Learning that he'd been hiding all of this from me really hurt.  That being said, I can also understand it.  He was trying (albiet in a wrong-headed way) to protect me and give me a bit more time to get stable.  What hurts much more, and is far less understandable to me, was to learn (during the course of our first couples therapist visit) that he's been so frustrated for so long that he basically can't remember what he ever saw in me in the first place.

Now, I thought we were doing OK until a week ago.  The only indication that something was wrong had to do with the way my husband slept -- when I got into bed, he would roll away from me, shifting until he was on the far edge of the bed.  I even asked him if he was mad at me.  No, I'm not mad at you.  Why do you ask?  he said.  I told him that he was rolling away from me, avoiding me, from the minute I got into bed.  I can't help that, he said, I'm doing that in my sleep.  It has nothing to do with you. 

Yeah.  About that ...

For the past couple weeks, my husband has complained about waking up on the edge of the bed without blankets.  It's kept him from sleeping well.  He had been blaming our cats; one of them in particular is uncannily good at shoving me over into my husband's half of the bed.  We wake up with our 9 lb tabby in the exact center of the bed, and 333 total lbs of homo sapiens crammed into the other half.

After our counseling session, I asked my him about our sleeping arrangements.  For the past few days I had been getting into bed and crying for hours.  I wasn't sleeping well anyway, and this didn't help.
My husband hadn't been sleeping well either; he was over there on the edge of the bed, expressing what seemed to be an unconscious need -- in the most literal sense of the word --  to get away from me.  We're going to need all of our resources to get through this crisis, I told him, and that means we both need to sleep as well as possible.

I proposed moving to the couch to allow both of us to get some space.  If I slept in the living room, I could stay up until I felt tired.  I wouldn't disturb him when I got into bed, and he wouldn't wake up on the very edge of the bed shivering.  His counterproposal was interesting: since we have two couches, we could each sleep on one of them; this would allow each of us to sleep better, without one of us "leaving" our shared bed, and all the emotional baggage that implies.

We've tried this arrangement for four nights, and for the most part I think I'm sleeping better (and my husband says he is too).  Since there's no equivalent of a bedside reading lamp in the living room, the only way I can distract myself is by playing with the iPad.  While this is supposed to emit blue light that makes it harder to fall asleep, I've found that I don't stay awake as long as I do when reading.  Maybe the iPad isn't bright enough.  Or something.

I wrote this whole long story because I think that lamictal can screw with your partner's sleep as well as your own.  If you're going to bed late, or sleeping restlessly because of insomnia, you're probably disrupting your partner's sleep -- even if your partner isn't aware of it.  Bipolar disorder and depression take enough of a toll on relationships without both parties dealing with insomnia too.  If you and your partner are snarking at each other more than you used to, or your partner seems tired or short-tempered, it's worth figuring out if sleep disruption is the culprit.

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