Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Night I Almost Stopped Breathing

One hot summer evening, a dozen plus moons ago, I suffered the horrible misfortune of a sleepless night. Now being a seasoned Fibromyalgia patient, insomnia is no stranger to me. But this was something all together different. I knew exactly why I could not sleep. I was on high-dose Prednisone to treat my strokes and spinning around like a crack-head. The only way I could sleep at all was by taking Xanax. But for whatever reason she was not doing her job that night and I laid there in bed, thoughts whirling, tapping my foot anxiously, totally wound up. And extremely jealous of my snoring husband lying next to me. I didn't want to take too much Xanax, for obvious reasons, but I had an important day ahead of me and needed to sleep. I prayed, counted sheep, actually got into the 50's going backwards from 100 before I realized that was only stimulating my brain even more.

So I broke out the Valerian Root. Well that didn't work either. A little more Xanax, a little more Valerian Root, the clock spinning its dials into the wee hours of the night. Frustration mounting like a lion ready to roar, I kept on this way until finally it hit me. All of it, all at once. I felt myself doze off and jump awake as I stopped breathing. Oh no, I panicked, I have taken too much! What on earth was I going to do now? The pull of slumber I had been desperately praying for was strong, but I was over-medicated and each time I dozed off would jump awake with a start, gasping at breath. I propped myself with pillows so I was sitting up, said a big fat prayer and went to sleep in a vertical position. Somehow this seemed a logical remedy at the time. I was a very grateful woman when I woke up the next morning.

A little Googling informed me I should NOT take Xanax and Valerian Root at the same time. They are contraindicated, meaning not to be taken together. My breathing had slowed because I had depressed my central nervous system by taking too many central nervous system depressing substance. And this here brings me to my point. Many of us rely on prescriptions, supplements and herbs to manage our Fibromyalgia symptoms. When a person has a lapse in health insurance, horrible side-effects from a medication or a hard time finding a doctor to treat Fibromyalgia, supplements may be all they have access to. But we have a major responsibility to ourselves to be educated and knowledgeable about what we are putting into our bodies. I know personally when I run out or skip my supplements I get sick. I need them. Doctors are starting to pay attention to key nutritional deficiencies in the body like calcium and vitamin D. But it is the way we take them, what we take them with and how often that makes all the difference. And in seeking out this knowledge we can often find other things to help, too. But please friends heed my advice. Whatever you do, don't take Xanax and Valerian Root at the same time!

Thanks for joining,


  1. thank goodness you are still with us Leah x
    Mixing meds with herbs can have catastrophic contraindications. I am a qualified herbalist and have fibromyalgia. It was my dependence upon synthetic meds that led me to my chosen career.
    Thank you so much for being brave enough to recognise a mistake and blog about it. I am always telling people that just because it's natural it doesn't make it harmless. After all Arsenic comes from almonds ;)
    a list of good herbs for relaxation and insomnia are, Valarian, oats, passion flower, chamommile, Lavender, lettuce. Milk also contains tryptophan so helps with rest. however tryptophan supplements are contraindicative with SSRI's.
    much love
    Nell x

  2. thanks i seriously hate when i cant sleep insomnia is just fregin terrible.. if i do not take anything to fall asleep - i will not sleep.

    what is Valerian Root?

  3. I have never taken Valerian Root, but I have forgotten and taken second and third doses. Very dangerous, and a very scary feeling.

  4. I'm to see an herbalist next week. My insurance won't cover my visit, but its worth a try! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Valarian root is the root of Valeriana officinalis, not to be confused with pink valarian, the common invasive weed. Here is a link to my bog post about Valarian

    much love and gentle hugs

    Nell x

  6. It's not only that many fibro sufferers do not have adequate insurance, but the simple fact that the doctors don't seem to listen, believe or even care about what you tell them. They just want to get the visit over with. My doctors office called me today. I just called for a refill for my Ambien and there were no refills left. They called to tell me that I wasn't supposed to take one every day that I should only take one no more than 4-5 times a week. She only prescribed this for me a few YEARS ago!! Why wasn't anything said until now? I don't get it. Like the poster above said, "if i do not take anything to fall asleep - i will not sleep." What's a girl to do? Not take it and lay around for a couple of hours each night trying to go to sleep and hardly function the next day at work? That's not an option for me --I have two young ones and a husband, and a doctor that just doesn't seem to understand what I go through-- I have to do the best I can with what I have. I try to explain this to them, but it falls upon deaf ears. I'm sorry to ramble, but this post hit close to home. There have been a few times that I would take something out of desperation and then wonder if it was a mistake. It's scary to have all these different aches, pains and exhaustion and not be able to do anything about it.
    Thanks Leah for this blog. You have helped pick me up several times when I didn't think there was an up. God bless you.
    Susie D.