Last night was bad. Among other things, I did not sleep at all. Why, you ask? Because when I turned out the light and went to lay down, I felt my heart pounding in my chest, harder and faster than I was comfortable with. And this triggered the first of two anxiety attacks that I fought overnight.
**TRIGGER ALERT** for those who get distressed over descriptions of anxiety attacks.
I haven’t had an anxiety attack since I got off Prilosec back in January. Have I had anxiety? Yes, I have. But not to a point of what happened last night. The kind of anxiety I’ve been dealing with has been low-level, during the day, and mostly related to pain. And I’ve been able to handle those issues consistently, and with less time and focus as the months have gone on. Last night was reminiscent of past anxiety attacks, when I was back on Prilosec. It was not as bad because I tried very hard to use the tools I’ve learned since then, but it was worse than it has been in over eleven months. And it’s frustrating. Even ignoring the fact that I slept roughly half an hour’s worth–all of which was taken up by nightmares that started a new slide into an attack–it left me feeling defeated. And sad. And angry. And upset.
So I went to go to bed last night, doing the same routine I normally do. Lights out, ceiling fan on, radio on, blanket off my legs to keep me cool. I tried to make myself comfortable, and I went through my thankfulness list, which is how I turn my brain off at night. Or at least, how I attempt to turn my head off. But last night, after I went through my list of why I’m thankful, I realized that my heart was beating really loudly. And that lead me to realizing that it felt like it was beating fast. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn’t get comfortable. I sat up, I rolled over, I changed positions over and over. I couldn’t get the heavy, hard, beating in my chest to go away. I felt the anxiety roiling up over me, and I knew what was happening. But I remembered what happened to my husband with his too-fast heartbeat, and the anxiety increased. I put my finger to my pulse in my neck, even though I knew it was a mistake, and felt how fast my heart was beating. I tried to do diaphragmatic breathing, I tried to relax my pelvic floor, but neither wasn’t helping. Kind of as a last resort, I tried EFT tapping, even though I was making up the words as I went along. I used the correct meridian points, but I was just talking to myself about how I was feeling the anxiety, but nothing was hurting me. It seemed to work somewhat, even though it took several rounds of it. I think I drifted off a while later, only to have a nightmare within 30 minutes of falling asleep.
I woke again, with the pounding heart, loud and fast, and the anxiety. I felt warm–was I sweating? was it my heart? was I dizzy? nauseous?–and I forced myself to get up and go to the bathroom, to clear my system and put cold water on my hands and face. Back in bed, I felt the racing, pounding, loudly beating heartbeat again. And it started all over. I breathed, I relaxed, I tapped. And I tapped. And I tapped. And I think I dozed again. When I woke up at that point, it was 7:30, the sun was up, and Hub got up to take care of the dogs. And I lay in bed for about 2 1/2 more hours. And I talked to myself about what had happened. A lot of the things I’m saying here. I realized my heart felt okay, even though I still wonder if it’s beating faster than normal. The issue is, when I feel normal, I never touch my pulse to see how it feels. Under other circumstances, I know that my heartbeat is fine, because I’ve been tested over and over again in the past. But when I’m anxious, it feels fast–hella fast–which is so scary to me.
Upon the light of day, post sleeplessness, I didn’t want to get out of bed. Even though I felt–once again–betrayed by sleep, I wanted to stay in bed and wallow in what had, and what almost, happened. But I roused myself and got into the shower, pushing myself to go forward with what I planned for the day. And as I showered, I try to remind myself that sometimes these things are because of body-memory. History of what has happened to you, physically, is embedded into your brain. And I am trying to be hopeful that this was a result of body memory…in that my unconscious reaction to the hard-pounding, fast heartbeat was to become anxious about it. It’s the only way I know how to react, I guess.
When I went downstairs after my shower, I told my husband what had occurred overnight. He immediately hugged me, then reminded me that I should have awakened him so he could help me. And truthfully, I did think about it when I first started feeling my heartbeat, but I felt ashamed. I felt like I needed to handle things on my own to prove to myself that I could. I don’t know that having him awake with me would have helped, because his ability to stay awake in the middle of the night is, to be nice, sucky. And then I would have felt more alone because I would feel like he’d purposefully abandoned me when I needed him. This morning, when he got up to go let the dogs out and feed them, I almost asked him to come back to bed afterward to stay with me, but I didn’t want to feel that weakness.
So on a positive note, I guess the fact that I didn’t go into a full-blown attack either time is good. The fact that I was able to use the tools I’ve gained to stay in control is good. The fact that I was able to handle things was good.
The fact that it happened at all SUCKS.
(**bonus note, I had no anxiety the following night when trying to go to sleep, so that’s good)