On Tuesday night I went to bed at 9:30pm. Yesterday, I woke up at 6am in a state of anxiety so extreme, that I could not get out of bed. Around noon I managed to shuffle into the bathroom to take my Ativan, shuffled back, and woke up at 7:44pm.
I spent over twenty two hours in bed! Not a personal best, but a decent chunk of time lost to my overstimulated nervous system.
My readers may think that I have conquered all my mental demons. Not the case. I still deal with debilitating symptoms from time to time. I am adept at fighting my symptoms when I can see them coming, but when I sleep, I lose that vigilance and my usual defenses are not ready for a mental assault.
You may wonder what it is like to wake up with crippling anxiety. Imagine waking up to a raptor in mid-air, claws out and screeching, and you have a good approximation of how I felt Wednesday morning.
Maybe I was in the middle of a nightmare that I don’t remember, but, for whatever reason, my body was frozen in terror the moment I became conscious.
As far as I was concerned, I was about to die. Definitely one of the least pleasant ways in which to wake.
I spent hours involuntarily clenching my muscles and teeth, attempting to breath deeper, and trying to break through the all-consuming fear holding me captive. When I was finally able to get my feet on the floor and get to my medicine cabinet, my body felt like it had been through 5 rounds of a UFC championship bout.
The medication I took pretty much knocked me out, hooray for benzodiazepines! Along with tricyclic medications, benzos, as they are colloquially known, were among the first generation of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.
As first attempts go, they were the equivalent of bringing a bazooka to a knife fight.
They work great, but there is collateral damage.
Fortunately, I am not prescribed a dose anywhere close to the usual dose in the 1960’s or 1970’s. I have 5mg tablet that I split in half. That is more than enough to slow my system down to a crawl.
When I was able to get out of bed without fearing the imaginary raptor, I was thirsty and hungry, which is why I keep a freezer stocked full of quick, nutritious meals. Those are great for when I need quality fuel, but do not have the energy to make a healthy dinner.
As the advertisement below demonstrates, anxiety has historically been viewed as a feminine illness. That is part of why I describe the details of my most anxious moments. Men, for a multitude of reasons, are not expected to get anxious. At least in their minds, as there are a host of studies and medications devoted to “performance anxiety;” of another kind. Men are not supposed to overreact. We are expected to be stoic and resolute with implacable faces when confronting any difficulty.
That attitude kept me alone and suffering for years. Now, I deal with symptoms that might not be as severe if I had gotten treatment earlier in life. I write and speak on these topics so that other people, especially young people, can understand that there are better ways to live with mental illness, and that no one is alone in this.
I may have lost yesterday to my anxiety, but I am here today. Making my winning percentage still 100%.