Jose’s tells his story of sensitivity to a common health supplement (Coenzyme Q10) that turned into a months long struggle with insomnia, anxiety, and benzodiazepine dependence.
Speaker: Jose Ancer
Describe your sleep problem before coming to The Insomnia Clinic.
Jose Ancer: So I am someone who is or used to be at least into taking supplements. And it turns out that I have a hypersensitivity To a supplement called Coenzyme Q 10 that I wasn’t aware of at the time that I started taking it. and so around May of last year which was right around when the pandemic was starting to kind of start, I started taking Coenzyme Q 10. And within about a month I developed severe insomnia. I was sleeping maybe four or 5 hours a night at the beginning And couldn’t figure out why I was waking up at 2:00 AM, 3:00 AM exhausted. And I never made the connection between the supplement and the insomnia at the time. I attributed it to stress and anxiety and the pandemic and some family issues that were going on.
So I fast forward, you know, it started kind of in June when the problem started by august my insomnia had gone completely 10 times worse to where I would lie in bed exhausted, tired and literally could not fall asleep. And at that time when I realized that I started feeling like my entire ability to sleep was was deteriorating. I started developing severe anxiety around sleep.
My sister, I have a family member who had at the time was dealing with some severe psychological issues that appeared to be kind of psychosis or schizophrenia and in my mind, I started I started connecting the dots between my sleep issues and her psychosis, thinking, oh no, what kind of, you know, I’m developing the same problems except in my case I have three children, I have a wife that I support, I have a law firm that I run. I thought my life was collapsing. And so what started out as an issue of not being able to sleep developed into kind of like a anxiety, panic kind of situation.
Then it sort of developed the climax to where I would start, I would go to bed and I would start having panic attacks getting into bed, I would lie down and start shaking uncontrollably. And so you know it was a very scary time in my life and I think that was around the time that I reached out to The Insomnia Clinic and I had also reached out to an uncle of mine who was a psychiatrist and I started getting on to Benzodiazepines, which you know in hindsight was not the right thing to do, but at the time I didn’t realize what the core issue was which was the supplements. And so I needed a way to sort of force my mind to sleep because I had accumulated so much of this supplement that my mind literally would not sleep.
So I reached out to The Insomnia Clinic to get some ideas, I mean not knowing what the core issue was. Some techniques, some thoughts about sleep, and also knowing that I was going onto Benzos to make sure that I had someone experienced that I could talk to about eventually getting off of them because I was reading a lot about their addictive qualities and I knew that they were not something I wanted to rely on long-term. I viewed them sort of like as a fire extinguisher, you know, get the immediate fire out but develop better long-term techniques. And so it worked thankfully.
Describe your experience trying to fix your sleep problem before coming to the clinic.
Jose Ancer: I didn’t have, this was sort of like an acute situation that I was dealing with. I wouldn’t say I had a long period of time that I was trying to deal with this before reaching out to The Insomnia Clinic, but I think the most important sort of insight you know I’m very much a kind of do it yourself kind of guy, I’ve overcome a lot in life, I’m very self-sufficient and so I’ve always kind of had this idea of like there’s no problem that if you don’t try hard enough at you can solve it. And I think the problem with sleep is you know trying to sleep can actually make you not sleep in a way, it’s one of those few areas where sort of letting go it’s actually more of the key than trying harder.
And so I think by the time I got to The Insomnia Clinic for weeks I had just been you know trying different kinds of techniques of buying things like dimming the lights in my house, buying a special pillow, buying a special shirt that was thinner because I thought maybe it was the heat of the summer that was causing the problem buying other supplements. Tried dark cherry juice, thinking okay, maybe it’s a melatonin issue, right?
I think the biggest insight that I failed to develop on my own was realizing that these were all kind of reflections of an underlying anxiety that I kept sort of thinking, you know, just, I need to try harder, I could just try harder to sleep and put more effort into it, I will make myself sleep and by the time I got to the kind of the worst phase of my insomnia, I had failed so badly at this trying to sleep aspect that I’ve developed, you know, a probably you could call it performance anxiety, that I was afraid to sleep now, whereas before sleep was this, this kind of thing that happened naturally, I now viewed it as this one thing in my life that I could, no matter how hard I try, my body just won’t do it.
So I think the most important thing that I learned initially in talking to The Insomnia Clinic was the importance of getting past the performance anxiety and understanding sort of like how the sleep cycle actually works and how your brain works and how in many ways focusing on relaxation and reassurance and also I actually found the connection with spirituality that, you know, I think, you know, not, not that this is kind of a faith-based clinic or anything, but being able to sort of read books, not just sort of pure meditation techniques, but tying it to, you know, your own religious beliefs and dependence on bigger picture kind of issues, I found that very helpful as well, but yeah, I mean, I think the biggest failure, before arriving at the clinic was just thinking that there was something on amazon or some podcast or some book that I could read that would suddenly solve the problem. That was definitely not the case.
What was different about The Insomnia Clinic?
Jose Ancer: I was simultaneously working with The Insomnia Clinic and a kind of psychiatric nurse clinic or company or whatever. and there was a very stark contrast in the approaches, the psychiatric nurse was very much about. Let me find you a pill and also a general practitioner. So the medical field people, the psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, and the doctor were very much, well let’s try this pill, or let’s try this pill, or let’s try this pill. B
y the time I showed up to The Insomnia Clinic, I had just gotten my prescription for benzodiazepines. And I accepted that I needed them right? But at the same time, I was very much aware that there was a psychological component to this that went well beyond you know, purely what a pill could solve, Right?
And so I think what was most different about The Insomnia Clinic was recognizing the underlying anxiety, the real sort of issues that I was facing, that it was even though we were both not aware that, you know, sort of the start of this problem was this coenzyme Q 10 supplementation that took me even months later to realize that even after I had stopped seeing The Insomnia Clinic, it took me that long to realize it was actually the supplement that started it?
But the supplement issue fed into this anxiety about, you know, my life is going to fall apart and my getting sick, is there something wrong with my brain, the performance anxiety aspect that kind of snowballed into this crisis? Um You know the doctor and the psychiatric nurse didn’t touch those areas, it was just well you know let’s try this pill and then and then to get you off of Benzos, let’s try this other pill. Or should we might try antidepressants, You know?
And I’m just I’ve never been someone funny, you know, I’ve always been into supplements because they seem kind of natural, right, let’s go take vitamin C. And take vitamin D. And take this and that. But when it comes to pharmaceuticals, I’ve never been a big fan. And so I just knew that you know look I’m taking these Benzos right now but they’re super powerful. I need to get off them and that that was really what I was seeing The Insomnia Clinic for sort of helped me, you know, how do I get off of this stuff and address the bigger picture? Psychological thought processes were sort of throwing gasoline on the problem.
Take us to the moment you realized our program was working for you.
Jose Ancer: So really the hardest part of my whole ordeal with Benzos was the withdrawal period when I decided that I was getting off of them, I probably withdrew too quickly than I should have and there were periods of time where I was just sleeping nothing, or at least it felt like I was sleeping nothing. And it became this, there’s a term that they used in the Benzo world of sort of windows and waves I think you know, you get waves of symptoms and they kind of go away and when they go away you can develop this sort of optimism, oh it’s over and then they come back and it can be very depressing going through those windows and waves because you feel you keep feeling like, oh it’s finally over and it’s not, and I actually had a significantly longer withdrawal period than a lot of people.
So not only was I super sensitive to this supplement that caused the initial problem, but I was my mind was extremely sensitive to Benzos. Most people were surprised for the period of time that I took Benzos, the level of insomnia that they caused when I was withdrawing. I think, but I think what the point that I realized that The Insomnia Clinic was helping a lot was when I kind of sort of came to accept this level of acceptance of this is this is a process, right? And realizing that these windows and waves of symptoms can make you feel like you’re like you’re not getting anywhere, but if you sort of zoom out and look at it week to week or even two weeks to two weeks, you can see the improvement and sort of accepting that it’s just gonna be a long process and it may be much longer than you want it to be, but you can see yourself relaxing, you can see yourself focusing on the positives and even if you know, another wave is coming, accepting it and focusing your mind just sort of like going through a marathon or something, right? Like you’re going to get there eventually. And so I think that was a big part of the help of The Insomnia Clinic.
Again, the focus on mental sort of calmness and letting go and accepting the way things are going to happen as opposed to, you know, trying techniques or products or certain things that are going to help because by the time I got off the benzos it was just a matter of waiting, right? But during that waiting process, anxieties and worries, and all kinds of things can make it harder. and so the big technique that, you know, I learned from the clinic and from books that were recommended to me was the sort of, you know, the prayer of gratitude, right? And focusing on the good things in your life and realizing that, you know, if you got through eight weeks ago, it was a lot harder eight weeks ago than it is now and if you got through that you’re going to get through this, you know? and so yeah, so I wouldn’t say it was like a moment where I was like wow, this is working, but it just sort of like that ease and calmness and sense of security that you develop over time that helps you get through the tough periods. It’s sort of, it’s almost like a mental muscle that was super valuable for me.
Tell us what life looks like now that you’re sleeping and feeling better.
Jose Ancer: Yeah. I no longer take supplements and I and shockingly I no longer drink caffeine. I have gone completely caffeine-free which I haven’t done since I was a teenager, right? Which I’m not that old, but I mean let’s call it 20 years ago, right? and I can definitely say that I am a calmer, happier, better human being, better husband, better father. You know, things that you wouldn’t expect to get from an insomnia clinic. I mean, yes, I’m sleeping better. I actually still have some withdrawal symptoms of the benzos that interact with foods that I eat and so and so on. that I’m dealing with. And it’s and I’ve read that it takes it can take a year or two for very sensitive people to get a fully normal sleep architecture from a benzo withdrawal.
But even with those symptoms that still kind of come and go, sometimes I’m just happier. You know, I don’t feel the need to rely on stimulants. I don’t feel the need to and I have fully learned how trying to sleep is counterproductive. There’s no mental process. There’s no meditation you can do. There’s no book, you can read that’s going to make you sleep. It’s really just, you know, eat well, keep a good, keep a good bed routine, learn to deal with, identify and deal with your anxieties. Deal with them. Don’t suppress them, don’t ruminate on them. And so now my process for going to sleep is more about letting go and accepting that sleep is something that just if you’ll stop thinking about it, it will happen.
Um you know, one of the most important things for me was learning like of all the functions in our body, the one that probably is the strongest and is the hardest to break is your sleep, you know, systems in your brain. I mean very, very, very rarely does sleep go haywire in normal healthy people. and so realizing how strong sleep is, how very rare it is for your mind to actually not be able to sleep. you know that it’s all kind of a sense of security and calmness that I’ve gotten that, you know, has, I’ll carry on for a long time. But yeah, so it’s funny how you know, the issues that can be leading to your insomnia tied a much bigger picture issues about marriage and life and success and career. and so, you know, I probably, I probably could say that I got, I got a lot more out of the process and the interactions than just, you know, dealing with my sleep, which is great.