Insomnia and Anxiety

For two months or so, I’ve been suffering from insomnia. I haven’t really kept it secret, but haven’t elaborated on the reasons behind it either.

I do feel tired and want so badly to go to sleep at bedtime. By the time I finish all the things a busy mom has to do and my kids are in bed, I am wide awake. I have tried healthy habits, like tea, warm baths, reading, no television, keeping the lights low, and avoiding the “blue screen glow” of electronic devices to get myself in the right mindset to sleep.

I have tried melatonin supplements too, but I worry about taking those for too long. I wear earplugs to drown out the noise of household sounds like my dear husband’s snoring, my son talking in his sleep, or my dog barking at the aliens that must be invading our backyard based on the ferociousness of his barking. I have resorted to drugging myself with Benadryl when I can’t take the sleeplessness anymore. I have tried drinking a small amount of alcohol to relax me, but I can’t do that often because of my ulcerative colitis.

So what is my problem? My mind. I can’t shut it off. I do sleep some, just not well. I have been sleeping in our guest room a lot so I won’t disturb my husband. Don’t worry, our marriage is not in trouble. I read or write until I finally feel so tired I think I can go to sleep. Then I sleep, but only for a little while, a few hours at most, before I wake up wide awake before my 5:45 a.m. alarm. I lie there in bed, thinking, worrying, trying desperately to fall asleep again.

I’ve always been a worrier. It runs in my family, passed down from my Meema to my dad to me. You give me any scenario and I can think of hundreds of ways it might go wrong. I don’t set out to be pessimistic. Believe it or not, I try really hard to be optimistic, but at the same time I have to be realistic. It’s a vicious cycle.

The true root of all of this: Anxiety. Panic Attacks. For me, a panic attack starts as a feeling of uneasiness, followed by an overwhelming sense of dread, then a faster heart rate and ends with lightheadness until I can breathe deeply or cry to calm myself down. Now is the anxiety causing the insomnia or is the insomnia causing the anxiety? The hell if I know. Either way, I think if I deal with both problems, I will feel better.

When I first took medication for anxiety, I was worried that it would change ME. The ME that was writing through the pain that I felt had triggered the anxiety in the first place. I didn’t want to lose myself. Well, I didn’t. The medicine helped. I was able to sleep again and leave my apartment again without panicking. I was still able to write the entire six months I was on the medication.

I try not to stigmatize mental health issues. If you have diabetes, you take insulin. If you have ulcerative colitis, you take anti-inflammatory medication, immunosuppressants if necessary and occasionally steroids. Why should it be a bad thing to seek help for mental health issues? It shouldn’t be. So, I am going to get help again. I want to feel better. I know I will still be ME and still be able to write and love my family. Everything’s going to be okay.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

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