wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Nocturnal Anxiety – the attack from under the covers!

Second week of the new job and so far everything is going well. The people are nice, the role really interests me AND they have a HR department, (which after my last place of employment is VERY important). I don’t want to be overly enthusiastic at this stage…. Because I’m a wary person and deep down I think I’m still waiting for the ‘oh no’ moment – but as I say, so far so good and I’m happy.

As expected ‘my old friend’ flared up. Change is one of my biggest triggers (whether good or bad). An alarm in my brain seems to activate whenever something different happens. I imagine it’s something like, “Oh my God… this isn’t normal… danger alert! Do something to get her attention!”
I find the physical symptoms the most challenging. I can deal with the mental and emotional aspects, but the physical stuff really affects me. In particular the muscular discomfort is a bitch horrible. Imagine holding your stomach, chest and lower back tense 24/7 – sounds uncomfortable right? Well it bloody is! There’s no other way to describe it and during these episodes I experience a lot of pain. It doesn’t last forever though and in a few weeks everything will settle down. So if you’re in the same boat I really feel for you.

Here are a few things that can help:

  • Heat – ideally a bath. Warm water really helps to ease muscular tension. If you’re at work (and therefore don’t have access to a bath), hot water bottles, heat pads and heat rubs are good.
  • Lavender oil – sounds weird but I find that the scent not only relaxes the mind, but also the body. (Maybe try this one at home, as it can also make you feel sleepy).
  • Peppermint tea – really good for stomach pain. I don’t normally plug herbal teas, but this one actually works.
  • Buscopan – traditionally used for IBS, but it works really well for general stomach pain.
  • Tensing & releasing – deliberately tense the effected muscles for a good five seconds and then release. This provides a nice wave of comfort.
  • Massage – You can do this yourself, no need for any fancy oils! If you’re in a public place maybe find a toilet for privacy. Spend a few minutes giving the muscles a firm massage to get the blood flowing. It might not cure the pain, but it will lessen it and give the body some short term relief.

My anxiety has been trying a brand new tactic lately, I call it the nocturnal assault. Basically I’ve been waking up in a state of terror and gasping for air. My heart is beating so fast that it’s practically humming!
I’ve obviously been having panic attacks in my sleep, but it took me a few days to work that out. The sensation of panic whilst being half asleep delivers a serious clout to the senses. As I was desperately trying to regain my breath on Tuesday night all I could think was “oh my God this is it, I’m actually dying.” Not being able to breathe is one of the most terrifying experiences, (along with losing your phone and being trapped in a room with a spider). Fortunately after some research I discovered that it’s completely possible to have panic attacks in your sleep and that I probably wasn’t dying.

I’ll be honest, it’s one of the nastier assaults that I’ve had to deal with. But as with all things ‘anxiety’ it’s about learning how to work with them. Therefore I plan to respond to these nocturnal attacks in exactly the same way that I would a daytime one. After the initial five seconds of ‘why am I awake? Oh Christ I can’t breathe!” I’ll (hopefully) pause and accept the attack. I think I’ll get up for five minutes and let it wash over me, that way I can do some belly breathing in the living room without disturbing Dan.  Once it starts to dissipate I’ll crawl back into bed and listen to a documentary until I fall asleep again. (At the moment I’m very much into old Hollywood screen sirens…. So many scandals). If nothing else it’s a better plan than clutching my chest in the darkness and screaming “I can’t breathe” on loop in Dan’s face until he wakes up. Poor guy.

I’m learning that my anxiety takes on a new form every year, which I expect is quite normal. It’s a ‘trick’ after all and therefore needs to evolve constantly, to find new ways of getting the brain’s attention. Don’t be alarmed by new symptoms, it doesn’t mean that your anxiety is getting worse. If anything you should feel pleased that you spotted the new tactic and adapt your coping techniques accordingly.

Remember – it might be sneaky, but you’re stronger.

Categories: Anxiety

10 replies

  1. OH GOD THE MUSCLE PAIN. This is probably my most debilitating symptom long term – I’ve had so many problems with my entire back, ribs, hips…. it’s so hard to explain to people how painful it can be as well. Hot water bottles and regular sports massages are my best friends. Also exercise, although it hurts to start with, I feel better afterwards. I did used to have night time panic attacks when I first had my ‘breakdown’ – I would wake up every 2 hours with a jolt, it was so horrible, especially as I didn’t know at the time what was going on! So I feel your pain 🙂 it sounds like you have a plan and are doing the right thing though. Short term distractions like podcasts are really good.

  2. I ached for a year straight due to my GAD. All I could do was lay down in front of the fireplace and pray that this hellacious symptom of my anxiety/panic disorder would eventually ease up. And even after 34 years living with IT, new symptoms will rear their ugly head and send me right back to panic ground zero!

    • Anxiety is a crafty beast.. New symptoms are disarming – but I try to remember that they’re still part of the same thing. They can be dealt with. Thanks for your comment 🙂 wishing you all the best

  3. thanks claire, im on day 4 of a new job and my anxiety is playing all the tricks which is so hard when im trying to focus on the job in hand. agree about the muscle tension – will certainly try out your tips. wishing you well with job.

  4. First off: http://time.com/4042834/neuroscience-happy-rituals/ , this is a brilliant article, “4 rituals that can make you happy according to neuroscience ” . A friend of mine posted this on fb and it’s worth a read! ! Second: I couldn’t believe when I read this cause it’s almost one-to-one what I’m experiencing right now This post definitely is one of the most helpful ones of a time at exactly the time when I need it! ! Don’t know how you do it but keep doing it 🙂 (If you’re a magical fairy, I could use a lottery win though. …) As always I want to express my deepest respect and gratitude both to you and Dan for strong people like you make the world (especially our anxious filled world) a much better place to live in :).

  5. It’s 3am and I’ve just had an awful panic/ anxiety attack and stumbled across your blog and this post. I’m starting a new job on Monday and can completely relate to this. I’ve had such bad muscle ache lately and have noticed new symptoms too so I’m really glad that you’ve explained why that happens, I feel so much better for reading this ad to know I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing this and I hope everything goes well in your new job!

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