Restless Legs at Night: "I've Actually Fallen Out of Bed"
Donna, 51, experienced her first symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS) as a teenager. Living in silence for years, she convinced herself that she was crazy: She didn’t understand why she always had to move her legs, why she couldn't sleep at night, and why it was so hard to explain the feeling to other people. At times—running up and down the stairs or riding her exercise bike at 3 a.m.—she was close to suicidal.Donna was diagnosed in her 30s, and began the arduous process of finding a treatment that worked for her. She’s tried almost every class of prescription drugs available, along with home remedies such as avoiding caffeine, staying hydrated, and practicing meditation.After years being physically and emotionally exhausted, Donna quit her job and applied for disability benefits. In addition to RLS, she also suffers from migraines and fibromyalgia (both made worse by lack of sleep) and is the caretaker to her aging parents, which has become a full-time job. (Watch Donna discuss how RLS changed her life.)Today, Donna relies on opiates and non-opiate painkillers to keep her legs somewhat under control. On a good night, she gets a few hours of sleep at a time, and she finds encouragement through an online support group.“It makes me happy to be able to help people through the group, because I meet people that are as desperate as I used to be,” she says. “There are a lot of people who want help out there.”