Monday, 12 March 2018

Can't Sleep

Can’t Sleep

Just before Christmas my anxious brain thought it would be hilarious if I could no longer sleep in the dark (or at all a lot of the time) and since then I have either been up all night or coasting by on very little sleep. In the 14 months before that I had finally managed to get into a pattern of falling asleep before midnight (or at least before 2am) and waking up at a reasonable time (for me this is before 10am) after over a decade of being unable to sleep before 4am (or not sleeping at all) and not being able to get out of bed before 3pm.
For those who are familiar with my late night tweets (you can follow me here) then you’ll know that, for me, being in the dark leads to panic attacks. It’s not that I’m afraid of the dark in the traditional sense( I’m very aware that monsters and demons do not live under my bed but rather in my head), it’s the fact that the darkness feels rather smothering and that in turns means that I – quite literally – cannot breathe. In cases like that I usually open my window up as wide as I can and breathe in and out for counts of 10. However, that is a lot easier said than done when it’s winter and the Beast from the East has taken over. I’ve had to resort to using distraction techniques instead to take my mind off of an attack.

*Trigger Warning – Don’t read the next line if associated words trigger you. If you want to know the triggers are then they listed next.*

*Triggers: panic attacks, nightmares, death*

Here is a breakdown of this time period and how I managed to feel even just slightly better about falling asleep and how I’ve managed to get at least a couple of hours sleep each night:

This first night started with a panic attack. As soon as it started to get dark outside (around 3pm) I could feel the panic is my constantly anxious body rising and I knew that I would be in for a night of broken sleep at best. I managed to stave off a panic attack until the time I got into bed at about 8pm. That may sound really early for some of you but, with my depression being worse due to the winter months and lack of sunlight, I’ve been finding it hard not to be in bed ready to wind down enough to sleep before 7:30pm. I managed to get through the panic attack but, like they always do, it left me feeling rather deflated, lethargic and unable to get my mind off of it. It might sound cheesy but putting on a Westlife tour DVD that night really helped me to at least not think of what my brain and body had just gone through. All until I wanted to go to sleep. I had managed to drift off just after 2am but was awoken by an anxiety nightmare (I have no idea why anyone calls them “anxiety dreams” as I certainly don’t consider one of my dreams to be discovering that my teeth are shattering and falling out) and a bit of a fever at 3. The nightmare had felt so real that even though I was checking with my tongue, I couldn’t feel my teeth for a good five minutes. It was like my tongue had gone numb or just that it just didn’t recognise what my teeth felt like and it made the aftermath all the worse. It took me a while to calm down (I recall looking at the clock and seeing that it was after 5 in the morning) with the help of deep breathing and putting on “Friends” quietly in the background. By having a focal point I managed to concentrate on breathing and very slowly all my senses came back to me. It no longer felt like I was underwater and I decided that I was brave enough to try to sleep again. I only slept for about 3 hours in total but it was so much better than not sleeping at all.

Since then I haven’t felt comfortable enough to fall asleep without a familiar comedy playing in the background and for the first few nights I purposely only watched Westlife tour DVDs before attempting to sleep as they are guaranteed to make me feel well enough to do so. Even though Westlife haven’t been together in about 6 years they still bring me immense amounts of joy and bring a sense of calmness over me. I owe a lot to them but I’ll leave that for another post.
After a couple of nights I felt well enough not to put on one of their shows and switched to watching at least one movie before changing over to “Friends” or another movie that I have previously seen because my anxious brain’s FOMO (fear of missing out) is apparently still prevalent even when I’m alone and I know can watch the movie again thanks to Netflix or even my DVD collection. Some nights I would just switch on “Friends” straight away and watch a couple of episodes before falling asleep and then watching the ones I had slept through the next day.
It’s been about twelve weeks since this cycle started and I am yet to feel like I can go to sleep without the TV being on. Aside from having frequent panic attacks, I also struggle with the intense feeling of panic that I am going to die if I close my eyes or that something bad will happen if I do. It has also been during this time that my phone, which is usually on silent because ringtones get on my nerves after a while and notification sounds trigger my misophonia (so they can do one), has been set to sound or, at the very least, vibrate as this fear that someone needs to get a hold of me late at night to tell me something has gone wrong/someone’s in hospital or has died has taken over my life. I should probably tell you that just before this period of not being able to sleep started that my brother had been taken into hospital and both my mother and I could not be reached at that time and I was also dealing with anxiety over pains and lumps I had found, so it (being unable to sleep) was bound to happen at some point. Hopefully I’ll be back to my new old self soon.

I hope this post made sense and I’m sorry if I jumped around a lot or if you feel like I missed anything out/glossed over anything. I wrote this a stream of consciousness but tried to stick to the topic of being unable to sleep and it’s subtopics of why I can’t sleep and what I’ve been doing to remedy it.

If you want to know more or want me to go into detail about something that I’ve mentioned then feel free to ask. If you want a list of what programmes/movies I’ve managed to sleep through (because they are familiar) then let me know and I’ll post it as a lighter take on this post. I know some of you like that more in depth look into other people’s brains and what they like/don’t like and I promise that I will not find it intrusive of you to ask for it.

Take care!


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