The last few weeks have been tough. I’ve been fighting off a cold, I’m tired and it’s getting dangerously close to ‘my time of the month’ – oh what a wonderful combination!
I’ve also been noticing some troubling ‘tell-tale’ signs. I chose to ignore these last year and it was a huge mistake. In general they revolve around sleep and can be quite aggressive, here are some examples:
– Waking up gasping for breath (literally wheezing like I’ve been holding it)
– Waking up crying and not knowing why
– Waking up to be violently sick
– Waking up with stomach cramps and nausea
– Waking up clenching my fists so hard that my muscles are throbbing
This night time behaviour has naturally been freaking my boyfriend out. He must think I’m possessed! (I suppose the timing isn’t great… what with Halloween and all!) It hasn’t been pleasant and I’ve been reluctant to go to bed, no matter how tired I am.
This time last year I was terrified and constantly tried to pretend that it wasn’t happening. But it was happening and it is happening now.. and like many things, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Was I/am I scared? Of course, who wouldn’t be? I don’t ever want to go back to how I felt in January.
However, I needed to find a way to sail through this rocky patch or at least reduce it.
So how was I going to tackle it? Well, I thought about how I reacted this time last year and decided to do the complete opposite!
Last November as things got progressively worse I frantically tried to unearth the ‘root cause’ of the problem. What was wrong, why was I feeling this way, how could I cure it quickly? Let me tell you, when you’re extremely vulnerable like I was, then you’re not going to find the answer that you want. If anything you’re only going to make things worse (which I did.) There isn’t a quick fix. This might not be what you want to hear, but it’s the truth and not necessarily a negative one.
So if you too are having a rough time physically (e.g. The anxiety is giving you aggressive physical symptoms) then let me give you some advice; Stop trying to find the reason why it’s happening and just deal with the situation as it is. If we can’t fix the problem now, then we can at least find a way to make ourselves more comfortable while it passes. Think short term comfort rather than long term solution (it’s rare for me to say that, but in this situation I think it’s relevant.)
How do we do that? Well in this instance I’m going to use my own situation as an example, so apologies if this isn’t relevant to you. However, please use the ideas and adapt them to suit your own circumstance.
If I was going to make an educated guess then I’d say that I’m probably having panic attacks in my sleep and that’s what is waking me up. So in a nutshell it’s my Amygdala (oh how sensitive she is.) Sometimes I think of her as a manic little person in my head screaming; “oh my God wake up you stupid cow, there’s a monster in the room, you’re going to die!” Personally I think she needs a drink or two! Nevertheless, because of everything that happened last year, she must be hyper sensitive and constantly believes that I’m venturing into dangerous territory (which of course I’m not.)
Therefore, rather than fuelling her fears by responding in a dramatic way, I decided to react calmly and hoped that this would start to re-programme her settings. (Yes it’s really weird to refer to my own brain in the third person, but it helps me to articulate.)
So over the last week when I’ve woken up with a jolt, rather than getting angry and trying to force myself back to sleep I decided to get up. I accepted the fact that I was feeling distressed and needed some time to distract my mind and decompress. Instead of criticising, I comforted myself with calming thoughts such as; It’s ok, you know what this is. You’re completely safe and this will pass soon. Just make yourself comfy on the couch for a while…. and guess what? It’s starting to work! On Saturday I even put together an ‘emergency night time comfort kit’ which includes the following; a cosy blanket and pillow, lavender oil, warm milk and a documentary on The Medieval Kings & Queens of England (don’t judge me, I’m a geek a heart.) The lavender is good, I’m trying to encourage my brain to associate lavender with ‘calm’ so I burn the oil and let it fill the room. I snuggle into the couch, drink my warm milk and watch the documentary for a while (usually 45 minutes does the trick.) Don’t worry about what time it is.. 1am, 2am, 3am – who cares? Yes you might be a little tired in the morning, but at least your nervous system will have had a break (believe me that’s more important.)
Being kind and changing my routine is definitely starting to help and I’m hopeful that it will gradually reduce my symptoms. My only problem is.. what will I do when the documentary eventually runs out?!! I’ll need to choose a back-up this week.. maybe The Ancient Greeks? 😉