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When 2 A.M. Becomes My Panic Hour

It’s 2 a.m.

I went to bed at 8 p.m. because I was exhausted. Again. I’m always exhausted.

I slept for maybe two hours but was awake by midnight. I lay still. Listening to the sound of the wind blowing around the house. My husband is away again. My 7-year-old fills his space in the bed. I listen to him breathing.

Around 1 a.m. I switch on my phone. Check Facebook and Twitter. Then the worry sets in. Like a fog coming in from the ocean it creeps slowly over me. Firstly I worry about the wind. Will it blow down a tree? Then it’s about work. I glance across at my sleeping baby and realize he’s all grown up now. He’s pulling away from me. Won’t kiss me at school. Doesn’t need me nearly as much as he used to. I yearn for the babies we didn’t get to meet. I grieve again for the babies my infertility has taken from us.

By 2 a.m. my hands are sweating, my heart is racing and I can’t steady my breathing. I would cry if I had the energy. I recognize the panic attack, but I can do nothing to abate it. A million thoughts run through my head. Doubts and fears at first. Self-loathing next. Then a deep loneliness and sadness.

The dialog in my head is constant. Backwards and forwards I go, trying desperately to steady myself all the while falling further into the darkness.

“You need to go to sleep. You will be exhausted in the morning.” “What’s the point in sleeping now. It’s already nearly 3 a.m. Why don’t you get up and do some of the things you are worried about?” “What’s the point in working? You’re rubbish at everything.” And so it goes further and further down the pit of despair.

I pull my son into my arms, and finally the tears flow. He struggles free, and I can barely catch my breath. I would run away, but my body weighs a thousand tons. I feel detached from it. It’s not who I am. My head is dizzy, like it’s stuck on the Waltzer at the fair. Spinning out of control. Colors, pictures, sounds, memories rush by but nothing stays. Nothing sticks. My head is speeding, but my body can’t move. I lay in bed watching the minutes tick by. 3 a.m. 4 a.m. 5 a.m. Finally I drift off to sleep and wake to the sound of my alarm. Exhausted and puffy eyed.

I try to push away the memories of last night and busy myself with the daily chores. “Today I will be productive,” I tell myself. “Today I will get things done.” But my eyes are slightly glassier than they were yesterday, my body more sluggish, my mind is hazier. Everything is harder today. Everything takes longer than it should. My concentration dwindles. Trying desperately to reconnect my body and my brain.

Panic attacks at 2 a.m. are more common than I would like. The recovery seems to take longer and longer — 2 a.m. used to be mean night time feeds and sleep-deprived baby cuddles. Now 2 a.m. is my panic hour.

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Thinkstock photo by gpointstudio