Anxiety: The Night Shift

 

What were you doing at 2am this morning?

Chances are you were asleep.

Me?

I was cleaning my kitchen.

Are you insane?

Well yes, but I don’t usually snap on the Marigolds in the wee early hours of the morning..

Thing is. I went to bed at 10pm last night and woke up having one of my not so wonderful nocturnal panic attacks. I’d been dreaming so I presumed it was around 4 or 5am, which is the time I usually wake up with a racing heart..

Then I looked at the clock.

IT WAS 11.30 PM!!

There was an ‘What the actual fark?!’ moment, right there.

I’d only been asleep for about an hour?

This was alarming in itself as I am used to waking up around 4 or 5 am. I have woken early on other occasions but when you are half asleep things are confusing and unfamiliarity intensifies fear which intensifies the sensations of anxiety.

I my breathing exercises but on this occasion they didn’t work. I was just too wired.

The adrenalin surged through my body affecting every part of me from my head to my toes. This is the sensation where my body feels electrified combined with a horrible feeling of foreboding. It’s a majorly shit feeling but I’m used to these sensations. I’ve experienced them more times than I can remember. Mostly, the deep breathing works, but sometimes my heart races on regardless.

That’s when I have to get up.

This was one such occasion so at 11.45, I gave in and got up.

On walking into the kitchen, my dog looked at me as if to say, ‘What the fuck are you doing, Human? I was having this totally awesome dream about me, a fit Dalmatian and a pallet load of Bonios and in you walk lookin’ all pale and shaky. Don’t expect me to lick your sweaty face anytime soon, yeah?’

Then she started licking her arse..

I don’t blame her. Like me, my dog is a creature of habit and doesn’t like surprises. I often wonder if she is autistic too?

My first job was to flick the kettle on for some herbal tea. Ginger for the nausea. Then I filled in one of my trigger forms for health anxiety. This is where I talk myself down from my state of irrational fear by asking myself what my worst fear is and what factual evidence I have for it. For instance, my fear might be that I will have a heart attack or my heart will stop and I will, like, die. Factual evidence for this thought are my symptoms – such as palpitations and chest pain.

Then I consider the evidence against this thought. In my case, I have had recent and extensive tests which all showed my heart to be working as it should albeit a bit fast due to anxiety. There is no evidence of heart disease. Also, I have had these episodes for the last 6 years and I am still here.

I remind myself that even if the worst was to happen, I have experienced and come through a major health scare when I was bleeding internally in my 37th week of pregnancy. My life and that of my son was in danger. However, despite understanding the seriousness of the situation, I felt no fear and did not panic. This suggests that if the shit was to hit the fan, I would cope.

I also remind myself that, relative to it’s power input, the heart is the strongest organ in the human body. It’s designed to keep going despite stress or trauma. This organ kicks arse yet because of the sensations of racing and humping, I imagine it to be frail or delicate? There is no medical evidence to support heart failure or disease. My heart is merely responding to the fight or flight mechanism. A necessary bodily function. It’s there to keep us alive. My brain doesn’t know that it’s my thoughts that are triggering the response. It’s simply doing it’s job.

Next, I consider the other possible explanations for the panic attack. What have I done differently?

In this case, I had eaten too much sugar and too many cups of decaf. Even decaf has a percentage of caffeine, so if you drink enough and are sensitive enough, it will affect you. I also ate a spicy meal which I know affects me. When I woke up, my mouth felt like a flip-flop, so I could also have been dehydrated and dehydration can trigger panic attacks.

So what did I do to cope with the situation?

I cleaned my sodding kitchen!

I worked with the adrenalin instead of feeding it with irrational shit.

I completed my worksheet by coming up with a realistic thought about my situation and this is what I wrote..

This is unpleasant but I have been here hundreds of times before.

These sensations always pass.

I can cope with this.

At around 3am, I reevaluated the intensity of my thoughts, emotions and sensations and noted that it had gone from 90% fear to 10% with my physical symptoms being less intense, so much so that I was able to go back to sleep.

It’s 8am as I am typing this. I have had four hours sleep and I feel exhausted but I got through another night shift.

I didn’t add fear to the fear.

I didn’t phone for an ambulance.

I didn’t disturb anybody else.

I will not fear going to sleep tonight.

If I have another panic attack, it won’t kill me.

It never has.

“That’s the advantage of insomnia. People who go to be early always complain that the night is too short, but for those of us who stay up all night, it can feel as long as a lifetime. You get a lot done” ~ Banana Yoshimoto

 

 

 

 

I Go to Extremes (OCD and Me)

I sat in the therapist’s office. Coat on. Hands in pockets.

‘So, what can I help you with?’

I’ve already clocked the box of tissues to the left of me and wonder how many boxes she goes through every week. Does she bulk-buy? Anyway, we go through the usual questions like, ‘On a level of one to ten, how has your anxiety affected you in the last two weeks and are you about to top yourself?’

No, I don’t want to top myself. I just need some help in lowering my anxiety levels from 10 to a 5, ta.

My eyes struggle to connect with hers. I’m way too anxious so I stare at the carpet, which is clean and has no pattern. Good. Because I’m in no mood to be coping with patterns and stains..

‘I don’t think we will have enough hours to address all my stuff.’

‘Well, just start with what’s easiest, OK?’

I blurt out, ‘I HAVE INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS’.

Pen poised, the therapist replied, ‘Really? In what way?’

I gave her the example of the hour before when I was partaking of a cup of coffee with OH in Costa. The sun was shining outside and there were only a few people in so I wasn’t overwhelmed. I felt relatively happy. Yep, I can do happy. Just as I acknowledged the happy feeling, a thought clouded my mind..

What if masked men burst in now and started to shoot?

My body reacted as if it was real, not that I’ve been in many hostage situations, thankfully.

Next thought was my son who was at school. Then my grown up boys. Adrenalin flooded my body and my undigested sausage bap was in danger of being barfed back up.

Then I remembered that it wasn’t real..

‘Calm down, nutcase, it’s just your mind being a bastard again. You KNOW this. Drink your coffee, there’s a good fruitcake.’

It was just a thought that had barged it’s way into my mind when I was feeling calm. One of millions of irrational thoughts over my 47 years. Even though I knew it wasn’t real, it threw me. Maybe I need to lay off on the police dramas?

I comforted myself with the thought, ‘What’s the likelihood of Costa being raided? What are they going to say, ‘Everybody on the floor and give me all your muffins?’ Then I researched it and there has actually been such an incident, only they were after money, not muffins. It was prior to opening and thankfully, nobody was hurt. I guess wherever there is money, there is motive..

See, I have this problem with safety. I can’t remember when it started but I’ve definitely done it for the majority of my life. It’s to do with fire, mostly. I have a thing about the house burning down so I have to check plugs and sockets.

Then I have to check them again.

I’ve noticed it’s worse when I’m stressed. The other day I literally couldn’t satisfy myself that I’d turned my straighteners off, despite me holding the disconnected plug in my hand. Then, I have to touch candle wicks to make sure they are cold and sometimes I stick them under the tap to be EXTRA sure. Once upon a time, I taped up all the knobs on my gas cooker in-case they turned themselves on while I was out because everybody knows, cookers can do that, right? I blame that one on surge in pregnancy hormones but I have been known to turn the electric cooker off too. You can gauge my anxiety on how many things I turn off but even on my best day – sockets, plugs, windows and doors are a given.

I refuse to go out and leave things charging up, like phones and Kindles. There’s, like, NO WAY I can do that. OH struggles to understand it. He says it knackers the batteries. I tell him, ‘Battery or insanity, mate, your choice’.

To get out of the house, I have a routine of going round and checking all doors, windows and sockets. If the chain of thought is broken with ONE of these things, I have to go and check them ALL again. Thankfully, I’m not incapacitated by it. I’ve often thought it would be easier to say sod it and stay in but that’s a road I know I don’t want to go down. I have my ritual. As long as I do this, I cope.

I don’t know why I do it. There isn’t a logical explanation for it. There has never been anything to justify it as far as I am aware of. No fires. No burglaries. I’m just a loon, innit?

With this is mind, I often wonder how I managed to be a school caretaker and NOT go totally gaga? I still have dreams about doing my ‘checks’. The alarm was the worst thing because I would convince myself I hadn’t set it so I would go back again and again. I’ve gone back to the school late at night because I’ve convinced myself I haven’t set it. Of course, I always had. It’s a wonder I wasn’t arrested for acting suspiciously, eh? On the positive side, having a security obsessed lunatic as a caretaker isn’t such a bad thing as in ten years of service, I was never called out to the alarm going off. No window or door was EVER left unlocked on my watch.

There seems to be some confusion regarding repetitive behaviours of autism and OCD..

Basically repetitive autistic behaviour, like stimming, is comforting. I stroke my little furry (NOT a euphemism) because it comforts me and picking scabs is on par to a decent orgasm in my book.

New word.

Scabasm.

OCD, however, is anxiety driven. The fear that something will go catastrophically wrong if I don’t touch my plugs ‘n’ shit. I am autistic but I obviously have OCD too, it’s just never been diagnosed because I’ve never sought help for it. Nor has anybody ever suggested I get help. Mostly, they are amused or frustrated by it. Maybe now is the time to address it? In for a penny, in for a pound, I say.

What’s the betting that my therapist will go off on the sick after she’s finished with me?

A slice of fruitcake says she does.

Image via Pixabay