My Experience With Restless Legs Syndrome
If you have Restless Legs Syndrome, or RLS for short, you know what a debilitating disease it can be. Long nights without sleep, difficulty doing simple tasks such as walking up and down stairs, the endless uncomfortable sensation that worms are crawling in my legs… the name is cruelly misleading. Restless. That’s what I feel when the toddler on the bus seat next to me pokes me for the third time.
I’ve had RLS for approximately 11 years. The first few years it was mild and I didn’t think much of it. My father has it too, and he never seemed particularly bothered. However, my diagnosis now falls in the ‘severe’ category. I have symptoms 24/7. I’m only in my 30’s. Since RLS can worsen over time, the likelihood of me making it to 50 without further decline… well, that’s pretty unlikely.
I have tried a number of pharmaceutical drugs, over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies, and home remedies in the last decade. The most popular class of drugs for this disease, dopamine agonists, actually cause a worsening of symptoms over time. (This is called augmentation.) Yet they are prescribed by thousands of uneducated providers every day. Hot baths, melatonin, leg massages, iron tablets, epsom salts, you name it, I’ve tried it.
Then I moved to a state with medical marijuana. I contacted a doctor after reading someone’s story online where they swore this was the secret I had been looking for. The doctor told me he had a number of RLS patients and it did indeed help them. He wrote me the prescription and I got the medical card. (This costs a total of $250 since it is not covered by insurance.) I went to the dispensary where the helpful people told me what forms and strains would be best for my condition, after giving them a bit of insight into what RLS actually is and what causes it.
Prior to this, I had been running on 2 hours of sleep a night for so long I was truly losing my mind. I felt 5 seconds away from a psychotic break. I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life this way. I was starting to seriously wonder what it would be like if I chopped my legs off.
But then I slept. Longer and deeper than I had in years. I felt like a person again. With this medicine, I am able to consistently get at least 6–8 hours of quality sleep a night. This was a drastic improvement that allowed me to enjoy my life again.
#RestlessLegsSyndrome needs to be taken more seriously in the medical community. There is a reason that having this condition drastically increases your risk for depression. It is a special type of misery that only sufferers can understand. We also understand that treatment is not one size fits all. What works for me, might not work for someone else. That makes it all the more difficult to deal with.