What were you doing at 2am this morning?
Chances are you were asleep.
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