OK, so here is what I have wanted to write about for a few days but haven’t been able to get out. Call it writers block or fear of “outing myself” (although you’d think I would have gotten over that by now). Here it goes:
Bedtimes have never been easy for me. My Mom always says that since childhood I have “always had a hard time letting the day go”. I was a really creative, energetic kid. I loved making art projects, building things, reading books and playing imaginary games. There was always so much stuff I wanted to do. I never wanted to go to bed. If there was more of the day left I wanted to keep experiencing it. Also, I was a bit afraid of sleep. What scared me most was the idea that I was losing control of my body, that it was slipping into the unknown, an unconscious state. I blame part of this fear on Catholicism. “If I should die before I wake”–although my family wasn’t really religious, that prayer always scared the crap out of me. A lot of nights I would lie awake in bed fearing that moment of letting go. I’d figure out a million reasons to get up out of bed: another glass of water, another 5 trips to the bathroom, did I remember to brush my teeth? These behaviors just increased my anxiety. I’d start to worry that I hadn’t fallen asleep yet and that I’d be tired for school in the morning. Because of my nocturnal activities I’d often wake up with puffiness and little dark circles under my eyes. I was deeply ashamed of my puffy eyes (which seemed way worse to me as a 7 or 8 year old than they probably ever were) because I felt like all the other kids could read on my face that there was something wrong with me, that I wasn’t normal, that I didn’t get as much sleep as a kid my age should. Worst of all I felt like my behavior was out of my control.
As an adult I still sometimes have problems setting down at night or as my Mom says “letting the day go”. It doesn’t help that I actually really enjoy night time–especially living in a big city, things are quiet and peaceful at night. This is the time of the day I love to read and write in my journal. I have learned to control my behavior to a certain extent so that I can sleep better. I usually read before bed until my eyes are starting to close. Unless I’m extremely stressed about something or have had an excessive amount of caffeine that day, once I’m in bed I tend to stay in bed.
With that said, something changed about 2 years ago. My bedtime anxiety seems to be much less frequent but, when I do have anxiety it is MUCH MUCH WORSE. Instead of just getting up a few times before settling down to sleep, I’ll lie there wide awake, unable to sleep at all. My heart will start beating loudly and quickly. And if things get really bad, my whole body will get this horrible shaky feeling, like my nervous system has gone into overdrive and every nerve is firing at the same time. If I actually manage to get any sleep, I wake up feeling pretty horrible. But, still I’ll force myself to get up and do whatever I need to do, large espresso beverage in hand.
The worst part: this ONLY happens when I have something important to do the next day (an interview, an early flight for a business trip, starting a new job). My anxiety only happens on these specific occasions and only before bedtime.
During the day time I never get anxiety attacks. I pretty much take things as they come and go about my day. I don’t get nervous about going to social events, meeting new people or public speaking. People often tell me that I’m “laid back” (I guess I’m a better actress than I thought). I don’t want people to think there is something wrong with me so I keep my experiences with anxiety to myself.
I wish I could be one of those people who just rolled over, turned off the light and went to sleep. I always thought that that type of person would be the best kind of person to be. It has rarely been this simple for me. When I hear stories of people like Michael, taking extreme measures to fall asleep (ie having a doctor inject you with an anesthetic), I GET THAT. I’ve been there. Sometimes I just want someone to KNOCK ME OUT.
I’ve tried to pinpoint WHY things changed 2 years ago. Around this time I started working in my last position that I had with my former company. It was very stressful and it made me very unhappy. I know that work definitely contributed to my anxiety levels but, I can’t say it CAUSED it. The only other thing I can think of is that back in 2007 I started taking hydromorphone (after a dental surgery that resulted in bad complications). I took it again following a serious back injury in 2008. I’ve read that because Opiates give you an intense release of endorphins, when you stop taking them one of the side effects is increased anxiety. However, I never abused the drug and was only on it for about 1-2 months in both cases (and haven’t taken it since). Therefore, I think its unlikely that I’m still having side effects.
Its only recently that I have started telling a few people about my issues with anxiety. And, its only recently that I’ve admitted to myself that this is a real problem. At first I tried to ignore it, but now its obvious that its effecting my life in a negative way. On Monday morning I woke up for my important job interview (for a job I really, really want) after a restless night of feeling like a Monster Truck was driving through my nervous system. I had to face reality: THIS ISN’T WORKING AND I DON’T WANT THIS ANYMORE.
I WANT THIS TO CHANGE. This has to change.
This is my latest edition, (a very important one) to my “Before 30 List”: Find out why I am anxious and find a way to deal with it. Because I don’t want to live the rest of my life feeling like this. Its holding me back.
I haven’t figured out how I am going to approach this. Counselling? Self Help? Medication? Yoga? A combination of all of the above? I’m hesitant to go the medication route because I no longer like the idea of putting extra stuff in my body. However, I am open minded. Point blank, I just want to overcome this. I’m tired.
I also want to stop feeling like I am the only person in the world who feels like this. That’s why I’m admitting this to you guys today. The girl with the dark circles under her eyes needs to come out of hiding.
Last confession of the day: I feel way more NAKED after writing THIS entry than after revealing all kinds of details about my sex life on here. Funny isn’t it?
So, in my question today is: Is there anyone else out there? Have you experienced the same thing? Does anyone have any advice on how to approach dealing with this?