When I little by little crawled up out of the pitch-black darkness I found myself in during the first two months on SSRI medication (sertraline), fall was already changing into winter. Then, ironically enough (seen in hindsight), I entered a period of tough physical exercising.
Together with a friend of mine, I had spontaneously shaken hands agreeing upon participating in Vasaloppet in March, 2001. (‘Vasaloppet’ is a 55-mile cross-country ski marathon taking place on the first Sunday of March each year, with up to 15.000 participants.) Stubborn by nature I gave it all i had, despite the fact that my cross-country skiing experience the year before had been my first in 15 years.
It was an odd half year. My father became acutely ill with a life-threatening disease (from which, thank God, he recovered) in January, 2001, and I remember the car ride to Tampere University Hospital. In addition to all the thoughts circling around in my head, the surroundings were spinning, too. My positional vertigo was quite severe already at that time, even if it was nothing as troublesome as it would become through the years.
The training for Vasaloppet went surprisingly well, given that I had lyme spirochetes in my body. My guess is that the bacteria still hadn’t had the time to drill into ligaments, joints, organs and the bone structure, and that my exercising raised the oxygen level in the blood and raised my body temperature, resulting in the bacteria dying, reproducing, dying, reproducing – that there was a battle of dominion of my body, without me myself knowing it.
My heart rate went down to around 35 beats per minute during this period, and the skipped heartbeats were very mentally exhausting. Still, I could cope with them better than my next symptom – spasms and cramps during body rest.
Most of us have at some occasion felt a reflex, an uncontrolled body movement – a sudden leg kick is very common – falling asleep. The reason for this phenomenon is not fully understood, but is assumed to be a result of our brains not giving up complete control over the muscles at the moment when the muscles starts to become paralyzed (the state they should be in during sleep). The brain still kicks in – gives commands – a bit into the transition phase.
I’d had these so called hypnic jerks earlier in life, but now they became violent and different. It wasn’t just leg twitches anymore. Sometimes it felt like an electric shock throughout my body, other times like a hard blow to my head. In both cases, immediate tinnitus set in.
Worse than that was still when my whole body cramped slowly and persistently. It felt (and still feels) the way a cramp under the sole does, but in the whole body – with the torso being “the center of the sole”. A terrifying feeling, as if the torso was a vacuum pulling the rest of the body in.
“The solution” was to start taking sleeping pills; Imovane (with the active ingredient zopiclone) so that I could pass through the REM-phase quickly, entering deeper sleep. I have used sleeping pills practically every night since then. It’s also a waste of time and effort for me to try taking power naps during daytime, since that time consists almost entirely of cramps and results in me feeling more exhausted, not refreshed.
Later on, I started to get those cramps when I was awake as well, when I’d been sitting too long passively in a static position. I still have them as of today. Zopiclone hardly even make me yawn anymore, as a sleeping pill it’s quite useless for me – my tolerance is too high.
On the other hand, this medicine is actually the only one I’ve found that eases the cramps I experience when I’m awake, so I still use it almost daily. To my knowledge, there’s no research explaining why this particular medicine eases the cramps, but it probably has to do with its sedative effects upon the central nervous system.
Heavy cramps during rest is a common symptom of untreated Lyme disease, I just didn’t know that back then.