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Inside the Mind of Someone With Nighttime Anxiety

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Sometimes my loved ones ask, “Why don’t you sleep?” or, “Why can’t you just drink some tea at night to help you sleep?”

But it’s not this easy for someone with anxiety.

I know for me it’s not. I try everything: hot tea, warm baths, essential oils, meditation. You name it, I’ve probably tried it, but my anxiety typically is the dictator in my mind. Anxiety exists for me all day, during social activities or daily stresses, trips to the store and to see friends. But at night, it’s a whole other story. The nighttime is the hardest. It’s almost as if my mind knows there’s nothing else for me to do when all I want is to sleep. My anxiety gets jealous that during the day, I am typically kept busy. So, at night, it decides to take the opportunity to finally get undivided attention. I have every intention of going to bed at a reasonable time and getting my full eight hours of sleep. I drink my tea, snuggle up in bed and read a book, but in the middle of the cup of tea or the book, I start to wonder what I should be doing.

“Should I be doing more laundry? Should I be doing more dishes? What if I can’t wake up on time to get to work or see my friends or make my appointment? Will I lose my job? Will my friends reject me? I haven’t heard from them in a while, do they hate me? What did I do wrong? I must have made them angry. Will my significant other leave me because they can’t take my anxiety anymore? If they leave me, then I’ll be alone again, then my friends leave and my family will blame me and I’ll lose my job and end up completely alone and worthless. I should be sleeping instead of reading a book, I shouldn’t drink so much tea. It can’t be good for me. What if it makes me sick? Does my stomach hurt? I bet I’m dying. I bet I am dying and I don’t even know it. I need to go to sleep. I’m going to meditate. Wait, I can’t meditate. I have too many other more important things to think about, like my job and my bills and what I am going to make for dinner. But if I eat something indulgent, I’ll just feel guilty because I should be eating healthy, that’s probably why I feel this way, this is my fault. I feel so bad because I don’t take care of myself. When did I take a shower last? Oh my gosh, did I even take a shower today? It’s 3 a.m., but I should take a shower. But if I do, then I won’t get any sleep and then I might be late for work and then I’ll lose my job.”

It’s not easy at night when my anxiety takes control. Some nights, I get no sleep at all and most nights, I just sleep because I am so exhausted from the few nights prior. It’s hard for those around to me to understand, so I usually say, “Oh, I’m fine. I just didn’t feel well,” or, “I was watching a show and lost track of time, I’ll be fine.”

These are my excuses because it’s hard to admit that my anxiety keeps me up at night. Anxiety isn’t just worrying about little things; it’s about going from “normal” thinking to thinking about the absolute worst thing that could happen in a very short amount of time. For me, it sometimes ends up in full panic attack. The sleep is never really caught up on due to daily responsibilities of life. Then, anxiety starts all over again the next night.

The best thing I can do is keep telling myself that I’ll be OK and I can talk to someone who understands. Or I can even confide in my pet by cuddling and thanking them for loving me just the way I am.

Unsplash via Annie Spratt

Originally published: September 8, 2018
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