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Part 1: Mike T – How Overwhelming Work and Family Stress Caused Insomnia, Anxiety, and Addiction.

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Get to know a little about Mike.

So this will basically be just a conversation. There’s nothing special for us to say or do. I just want to get an opportunity for you to share your story in a way that other people can understand they’re not alone. They’re not the only ones going through this. Understand that there’s a way out. And maybe what the process was for you. So why don’t we start with just a little bit of background about you? You’ve got a family. You’re a business owner. Tell me a little bit about that.

I am. I own a business here in town that I started in 2003, the insurance agency here in town that I started from scratch. No clients. I’ve always been a worker. I’ve always worked ever since I was 15. I liked work and always worked. My wife and I, we met in 1996 and got married in 2001. In 2003 I decided to open up my own insurance agency. So you guys had only been married a couple of years at that point. She was okay with you taking that on? She was. She was pregnant with our first and I had worked for a company here in town for a couple of years while I was in school. They transferred us to Arizona so I lived in Arizona for a couple of years. The first year we were married I worked crazy shifts. I worked on 12 hour shifts. I would work like 6 AM to 6 PM six months of the year, and then I would work 6 PM to 6 AM six month of the year. So that was kind of crazy shit work that I did and so I was ready to come back to Colorado and just do something different. So I quit my job and came out here and she was working for the same company she worked for. So I just kind of had. I had to find something to do. So I thought well I’ll just sell insurance. That’s where it all started. Then I worked at night as a janitor because I needed to have some kind of income coming in while I was trying to build my business. So I worked all day selling insurance and then come home for dinner. See my wife and my newborn son and then go back to work until probably midnight or so. Wow, that’s a hard. It’s a hard schedule. I did that for probably from like 2003 to probably 2006 somewhere around there. for about three years I did that. Then I was able, my business was going well enough to where I could not have to work at night anymore. So in 2007 I hired some people. Started growing and doing things and then the market crashed in late ’08. So I had to pretty much lay off my entire staff. I had to roll up my sleeves and just get back to doing it all over again. Just me. That was in 2008. I think that’s probably when my my sleeping pattern probably started to change. Without me going to a doctor or anything. That is probably when I started to notice that I was waking up more frequently at night, not being able to go to sleep. Not being able to get my mind to shut off. It was probably around 2008. And then I battled that for a few years. Then I’d kind of be in a cycle where sometimes I would do okay and sometimes I would not do well.

Tell me about life with insomnia, before starting sleep medication. And you had…at that point, you had your first son in 2003 and then you’ve also got another son or daughter. I have a daughter that we had in ’06. So now you’ve built this business, you’ve got a couple of young children. So I was just kind of doing whatever I had to do. And I think my body just caught up or I don’t know what it was. But all of a sudden here, the amount of stress really took a toll. In 2013 things were going well. I was going through these acquisitions. Business revenue really jumped up quite a bit and so my wife left her job. She quit her job. She worked for the same company for 14 years and just was under huge amount of stress when she left. And I couldn’t handle it. I tried. I mean, financially, I knew we were okay. But I had, it was very challenging. Just from the mental standpoint. It’s hard to describe something unless you’ve gone through it. What it’s like when you’re used to, when you’re used to a dual house hold income. I mean, ever since we’ve always met, she’s always been independent, and had her own income. And so She quit her job in 2013 for about a year and it’s probably the longest year of my life. That’s how it felt. And not because she did anything wrong. It was just, I had so much pressure going on that I think that over all those years it just…wham! And you know, it is what it is. Do you think that was the tipping point for you as far as you’re sleep and stress went? You know, I think it was definitely a major, major factor in it and probably it could have been taken… [Inaudible] I lost, I lost a brother last, last fall, last august to cancer. But I was having these problems before he passed away. So, it didn’t get any better after he passed away. But it probably was if you go back to 2014, and I know it sounds crazy. It was just one of those things where, I don’t know if it was just because I was so used to the mindset of the shared financial responsibility or what it was. It was just whatever she quit, it was just this huge weight that was put on my shoulders. That’s how I felt. Even though on books everything was okay. I just could not handle it. I understand the idea of just the responsibility of it. Yeah. So I struggled sleeping, stress, the way I treat my cohort my staff, my family. It was just, it was tough. So you were you were starting to have trouble sleeping. This anxiety had crept in from the overwhelming stress. Tell me a little bit about what life was like during that time when you were sleeping poorly. You hadn’t yet started a medication. Right. When I got to a point where, I bought this program, some type of this, my wife had mentioned some program or something, a CD program or something. And I bought it. But I was so I’m like, you’re supposed to relax when you’re trying to do these things. And there was I was not in a mindset in my life to relax at all. I just couldn’t happen. So I was trying to lay on the bed relax and listen to this cd to talk about, you know, breathing and going through breathing and doing all these things that help relax and cognitive behavioral therapy stuff? I mean I just I couldn’t do it. I mean I tried and it was not something, I just couldn’t do it. So I think that’s kind of, I’ve always been a high, high wire guy just for years and years of doing stuff. But I couldn’t get anywhere. My body was just I think it was my body’s way and my mind’s way of just saying enough is enough. You’re getting worn out. You’re gettin’ worn out. You’re killing yourself. So so it wasn’t any medication.

What happened when you talked to your doctor?
You’re gettin’ worn out. You’re killing yourself. So I wasn’t on any medication. So I went to my doctor, went to my primary care physician here in town and my blood pressure was through the roof. And he so he put me, he said you know Mike? He goes I’m gonna give you some medication that will kind of help get you, relaxed or whatever. And so I started off with clonazepam is what he issued at first. I did that for probably three months or so. And it was one of those things where it just knocks you out. That’s pretty much what it did. It just knocked me out. Made me feel groggy in the mornings. Things like that. Real moody. I’m still moody. You know? So so how were things, what were things like with your family and your business when you weren’t sleeping? You know, like what was it, what was it that led you to say, hey doc, I need help. You know, my wife would tell you that, and I’m probably still like that sometimes, but everything is about me. I think that that was probably the tipping thing. There was a time In 2012, 2011, my wife said to me one day, she said, she goes, why are you here? And I said, well what? It was a Saturday morning. So what do you mean? She was why are you here? Because when you’re here but you’re not here. She goes, she said you’re always, you’re here, but you’re working, your mind is off doing something else. And I’ve just been like that, I was like that for a long, long time. You know? So that’s kind of how how it was. When I was there I really wasn’t there. Not from a, you know, from a mental standpoint. Trying to contribute to the kids. I was always, my mind was always off thinking about business or something like that. And so you went to your Doc, he got you some clonazpam and that helped. You were sleeping well with that. I was sleeping well, but I felt depressed. I think when I look back now, I felt depressed almost. I felt like, like just a weird feeling for somebody like me. I’m in sales and so I’m always a high energy type guy. And so I just felt really depressed. So it was about three months I was on clonazepam. I went back and he said you know this is more of a temporary type medication. So he goes, I want you to see a therapist. Because I think you really need…so he changed me over to 100 mg of trazodone. And then he said I want you to see a therapist. I said okay. So last year in august I think. Last august, I went to…. It took me probably two weeks before I decided I need to go see a therapist. So I went, it took me about two weeks. I finally made the made the appointment. I went and it was it was an eye opening type of experience. It was nice to be able to talk about releasing these things. Years and years of just hard work and doing what I had to do. I’m just, you hold everything in and I think as a man or a person. So it was nice and it helped. Then about three months into the program or about two months later, Doc. The Doc. He changed me to that trazodone. It wasn’t working. So you were still not, you weren’t sleeping or you’re feeling anxious? Both. I was still up all night and my anxiety levels was really, really high. And then all of a sudden it had to have been around October or November timeframe of last year. I was in a meeting. I was in an early morning meeting on a Thursday morning and I felt like I was going to pass out and my mouth got really dry and everybody started to be dizzy and It was just this weird thing that was kind of happening. So, I left the meeting, went to the went to the memorial hospital here. I had an anxiety attack. That’s what it was. And so that was like the tipping point. So, I was trying, I was doing the therapy thing and I had that anxiety attack happen. So the doctor changed me from 100 mg trazodone to 200 mg of trazodone. He took me to 200 mg. I was doing that and doing cognitive behavioral therapy. And by around last January or so, a year ago January, I started to feel a little bit better. So you think that the therapy was helpful as far as the anxiety goes? I do. I think it helped. I mean it helped in a way of just looking at my business and looking at a little different and to be able to view things differently. But I still struggled for sleep. Even

Now you’re on medication and in therapy but still not sleeping…
things differently. Yeah. But I still struggled for sleep. Even though you’re on the 200 mg of trazodone? Right. I struggled. So the anxiety is getting better. The stress is maybe getting a little bit better. You’re on medications, but you’re still not sleeping that well? Right. So, I started taking my Fridays off. That was one of the things I learned in cognitive behavioral therapy. Was to work four days a week, not five days, do some things. So, I’ve been doing that and I love it. I think I’ll never go back to it now. It’s helped. But my therapist, I told him, I talked to him. He goes, you know Mike, I don’t…. It was probably, I’m trying to think, early November. So I want to say maybe around February, maybe somewhere around there. He said, you know, Mike, I don’t think you really need to come back anymore. February or March, he goes you know, you seem to have things in line, in order. And I’m like great, but what about my sleeping? He goes you know Mike, that’s not what I do. He goes, I don’t know what to tell you with that. I would encourage you to go back to your primary care physician and talk to him. So okay. So some time this year, at some point I went to my doctor and I said, I don’t want to be on medications anymore. This is not what I want because I felt depressed. Do you feel like that, that feeling of depression, did you feel that was connected to the medication in some way? I do. I felt that, and only because I’ve never been that, I’ve never been that. You’re not that kind of guy, that’s not kind of your deal. It’s just not my thing. That’s not who I am. And, I’m, I talk to people on a daily basis and I’m highly energetic. And I’m kind of like the cheerleader in my office. I have to be, so it’s different for me. And so I struggled with that. I believe it had a lot to do with medication. So, I went to my doctor. He recommended to go see a specialist, Dr. Ruff. I’m trying to think of the business. Are you talking about Pulmonary Associates? There you go, Pulmonary Associates. So, he said, you know, why don’t you talk to him and maybe there’s something over there that they can, do. So, okay. I set an appointment with Dr. Ruff and doctor Ruff indicated it’s the medications that are causing a lot of these effects.

Mike’s story continues in Part 2

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