Saturday, November 30, 2013

Anxious Insomniac

I have this image of myself banging my head against a window, slapping my hand against the window at the same time, saying "Can't sleep, can't sleep, can't sleep". Which then gets me thinking about that old Mervyn's commercial with the women saying "Open, open, open." And the two have nothing to do with each other - so it's just more of my randomness.

I had somewhat of an anxiety attack today. I get them occasionally. Like the time at a quinceanera when I suddenly needed to get away. Or the time at a parade with no moral support around while dealing with a tough situation. Or the time I went to San Francisco to watch my date perform, my shoes made my feet bleed, I was super self-conscious and felt out of place (none of that really had to do with the other) and at dinner I suddenly had to leave, disappeared for most of dinner, and showed back up with slippers on. Or sometimes when I try to stay the night somewhere. Every now and then, it even happens at work.

Who me?
Photo from
It's like being that kid who swears to mom and dad that she can handle the sleepover, and then they get the call at 1 am that she's crying and hysterical and needs to go home RIGHT NOW.  She's afraid and the only thing that will calm her is to be home. She can't tell  you exactly what she's afraid of, she just knows she won't be okay until she's home or somewhere like home. The worst is when even once she's home she still feels it, and so she pleads to climb into bed with mom and dad. And snuggled between them she can finally fall asleep. Except now there's no mom and dad, so she has to find something else (writing, reading, a bath, a pill) to get enough comfort to finally let go and sleep. When she wakes, she's mortified at the way she acted. She can't explain it. She knows it was ridiculous and not grounded in any kind of reality. But in the midst of it, it felt like something terrible was surely going to happen.

It starts out with difficulty breathing. I have to remind myself to do what we normally do without thought. "Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out." If that doesn't help, then I start getting hot and itchy: the soles of my feet, my ankles, the back of my neck, my shoulders, my wrists. "Breathe, don't scratch, breathe, don't scratch." People start noticing I seem a little off. Am I just snobby? Am I not interested? I'm trying to stay with them, keep smiling and interacting. Or when it's happened trying to stay with someone over night, I try not to toss and turn, try not to wake them. Or if I'm not really interacting, I might be texting a friend who is trying to help me long distance to maintain my composure. Which makes me look even more disinterested and snobby.

Me, before the anxiety came riding in today.
If I still haven't managed to calm down, my stomach gets upset. "Breathe, don't scratch, you aren't going to throw up. Breathe, don't scratch, you aren't going to throw up." And if I'm STILL not calming down and getting control of myself, my eyes start to water and it's time to bail. Usually the other person has no idea what's gone on inside me up to that point. Maybe they were off talking to someone else, maybe they weren't paying close enough attention to notice the warning signs, maybe they were peacefully sleeping, when suddenly I'm leaving. Hopefully before the tears have started - because at this point if they've started there's NO controlling them.

Someone said to me once after a situation they knew beforehand would be stressful for me, "I'd hoped you'd be stronger." Um, yah, me too! I certainly didn't hope I'd spend my morning trying to keep myself under control and wind up unable to tamp down the anxiety, end up rushing off in tears, and sit in my car crying for an hour.

What I felt like starting around 10 pm. Photo from Flickr.
It's 1:30 in the morning, so how much sense does this post make? Probably not much. Just stuff going through my head when I can't sleep. Realizing that I kind of set myself up for today's attack by not taking any real time to myself in the last week. It's the holiday season - which always depresses me - so I try not to be alone, when that's likely what I most need. I officially broke up with the boyfriend who had pretty much ended it but wouldn't say it, went to the mall on Black Friday, followed by a trip to Six Flags with two teenage girls who feed off each other, and got a "we need to talk" text from someone I care about, which always means bad news. So, yah, sensory overload = anxiety. And I'm still awake at 2:00 in the morning with a full day ahead of me.


  1. It must be awful to go through that. I'm so sorry.