I’m not quite sure what set the Anxiety Train in motion last night, but it was a doozy of a trip.
I woke shortly after midnight. My eyes flew open, but I couldn’t see anything. Absolutely nothing. It was pitch black. It’s always dark in our room because the bedroom window is blacked out, sometimes My Sweet sleeps during the day because of his shift work. We always keep the door open though because I don’t like it that dark. If I’m being honest with you, sometimes I use a nightlight when hubby works night shift.
Even with the door open there didn’t seem to be any light coming in and I felt my heart in my throat, sharp stabs of panic rising. I was trapped in some kind of box with no light, no air, and no escape.
Did you know there’s another response to the fight or flight instinct? It’s actually fight, flight, or freeze. That’s me – I’m just like a stupid grouse – don’t move and don’t make a sound and you might just avoid death. I know. I won’t fare very well if the zombie apocalypse ever happens.
Just as I began to feel the claustrophobic panic taking hold, I lifted my head, and my eyes suddenly focused. I could feel my pulse pounding, thumping in my chest, blood rushing in my ears; awareness dawning that I was in my own bed, safe.
I lay back down and took a slow, deep breaths until I began to feel myself settle. It was terrifying.
It’s not the first time it’s happened, waking with the feeling of not being able to get a breath. The claustrophobia, the feeling of being trapped in a lightless, inescapable box – that was new.
It took an hour and a half of deep breathing and getting control of my thoughts before I was able to get back to sleep.
I’m just grand during the daylight hours. I go about my day and for the most part, I am worry and anxiety free. Mostly. Sort of – except for this one thing…
Have you ever seen the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Walter’s just a boring, ordinary guy who wishes he was braver, outgoing, and more adventurous. He lives his boring, ordinary life, but he has ‘visions’, little moments of life in an alternate reality where he imagines himself behaving in the way he wishes he could in his real life.
That’s me. Not having parallel adventures – that would be fine, but I have moments where in the middle of whatever normal, boring activity I’m doing (usually driving – that’s bad I know) I envision what would happen if…
What would happen if I swerved to avoid hitting a moose and I roll my car? What would happen if I hit a patch of ice just before the bridge and I go over the edge? What would happen if…and I imagine a worst-case scenario that is plausible but pretty unlikely.
That’s my daytime anxiety. And that look on your face right now? That’s the reason I don’t tell people about it.
Nighttime is the worst though. It’s when my worries engage fully because what better time is there to grind away on a problem I can usually do NOTHING about? Really…what else am I going to use that time for? Sleep? Pfft. Sleep is overrated.
Here’s one more secret part of my soul to expose – I also regularly suffer from sleep paralysis
Never heard of it?
Sleep paralysis is when you wake up suddely from the deepest part of your sleep cycle with an overwhelming sense of dread and you see a dark, shadowy figure standing or floating in your room. You are literally paralyzed and cannot move. All you can do is lay there and watch that terrifying person moving closer and be afraid. (This is the real reason I use a nightlight when I’m alone. I think My Sweet thought it was just me having nightmares because when we talked about it before I published this post, he said, “Huh. So that’s a ‘thing’?” “Yup. That’s a ‘thing’.”
No surprise that it is related to anxiety.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, “… one in four Canadians (25%) will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime”.
Statistics say that one in four Canadians will experience some form of anxiety disorder in their lifetime. One in four! But when I think of all the people I know, I can only count three who have openly shared their own mental health challenges. Three! Four if I count myself after making this little public confession and at this point, I’m wondering if all I’ve accomplished is to convince you that I’m nuts, but what I want you to know is that I’m normal. I’m not really that different from you. My life is…normal. I have a good job, I have a husband I love and children and grandchildren that I’m proud of, I have hobbies, I volunteer, I get to travel, I should exercise more – ha! I should exercise period. I have a good life, and yes, sometimes I struggle with anxiety.
We don’t have any problem talking about heart disease or diabetes or cancer, but we sure clam up when the topic of mental illness comes up. We need to understand that those electrical currents and chemical reactions that happen in our brains should be no more taboo a topic than the regularity of our heartbeat or the density of our bones. Why are the emotional responses of our bodies to environmental factors more shameful than the pancreas’ reaction to a lack of insulin?
I’m normal. My life if normal. I’d like conversations about mental health to be normal too, discussed without fear of judgment.
I suppose some out there will still call me crazy. That’s ok.
Did you know the word crazy originally meant full of cracks? Kintsugi is the Japanese art of “golden joinery”; the art of repairing broken pottery with resin mixed with precious metals. The philosophy behind this art form views the breakage and repair as an integral part of the worth of the object. They don’t try to hide the damage by attempting an ‘invisible’ repair, the artisan illuminates the repaired fracture with gold, silver, or platinum, adding to the original beauty of the object.
That’s me…a cracked pot hoping to bring something beautiful and worthwhile to my life and maybe when I share my ‘cracks’ it will help someone else too.