Panic Attacks and Sleepless Nights – (Part III – the day after the first panic attack)

So enough with the beautiful art of poetry…Back to the painful experience with nightly panic attacks.

The first night it happened, I was surprised.  The next day was dreadful.  A person with anxiety has enough issues managing the day.  But when tired, it is infinitely more difficult.  I wasn’t just tired, I was outright exhausted.  I tried to catch up on sleep in the middle of day in the student lounge or my car.  This wasn’t ideal, but that was the only recourse I had as I drudged about campus, zombie-like and energy-less.

My functioning in class – a source of anxiety in the first place – fell precipitously with the lack of sleep.  This, in turn, only heightened the anxiety I already felt.  At that time, however, I had no idea what was going on.  I hoped that the previous night’s panic attack was a one-off, a rogue wave in a sea that would hopefully right itself to relative tranquility.  I fought my way through my classes, under-performing and drained.  Upon my return home, there was really nothing left in the tank.

I thought surely my body would lay comatose for two days, if I had that time, let alone for the seven modest hours I hoped to sleep.  I passed out.  When I awoke with a startle, I cringed at what the clock may read.  To my dismay, it was 2:15.  I had slept a solid three-and-a-half hours.  Now my mind ruminated over this new development.  For f#$k’s sake! Would this be my new reality?  Would I now have a sleep/panic disorder on top of every day anxiety?  This only added to the rumblings in my mind, making the possibility of a return to slumber even more remote.

My mind raced wildly, as did my heart.  I sweated profusely.  My body radiated heat.  I twisted and turned, trying different positions in the hope that induce some Z’s.  No dice.  Maybe I’ll have a snack.  That sometimes grounds me and makes me sleepy.  Walking around just made me more awake.  Let’s try the couch.  At least that’s not drenched in sweat yet.  Equally unavailing.
As I sat in the darkness, it occurred to me that the tranquility of my room, which had always been so welcoming and warm, had been abruptly transformed.  Instead of a warm darkness, it was cold and harsh.  The bed that had been so comforting now felt like an improvised straight-jacket.  The refuge I always had in my back pocket to look forward to at the conclusion of a long, hard day – sleep, that close cousin to death – now seemed perilous.  Each night had the potential to be a nightmare. A nightmare, wide awake.

UP NEXT: Panic Attacks and Sleepless Nights (Part IV)



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