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)