Suck It Insomnia

Until about four years ago, I wouldn’t have labeled myself as an anxious person. I’ve always been socially anxious, but life didn’t keep me up at night, specific events did.  Like an exam I knew I didn’t prepare enough for, a big game or track meet at school, an important interview, having to give a presentation in class or at work, or a tough deadline.

Actually, until I turned 30, I would have described myself as a pretty laid back person. This is funny to me now, because I think I just had a skewed perception of my personality. I guess I’ve always been a worrier, but I suffered mostly in silence.

With one phone call from my dad the day I turned 30, my life completely changed and my ability to pretend I wasn’t a pessimistic ball of anxiety shattered along with it.

Over the next two years, my dad was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and I was heavily involved in his care and treatment schedule. I was laid off from the job I’d held for four years, I struggled with unemployment, I got married for the second time, my dad passed away, and we got pregnant and I became a parent. This may not sound like much more than normal life to some, but it changed everything for me.

Nothing could or will ever be the same again.

Yep. credit:

Yep. The capitalization and punctuation in this ecard is causing me mild anxiety right now. credit:

Anxiety became a part of my life every day. I didn’t really know what to call it though–I was just over-thinking and spinning out about everything. I started imagining the worst case scenario for every piece of news I received. I would lie in bed at night unable to shut my mind off, and I would see even the most mundane set backs through to the worst possible conclusion imaginable. Many of them worked out exactly the way I feared.

This is still a real part of my psyche today. I’m awake and writing this at 4:00 am because insomnia hits me at the same time almost every night, and I’ve started getting up and going to my office instead of staying in bed counting the hours of sleep I’m not getting.

When the ice storms hit Texas last week, I had what I can only describe as a panic attack.

I woke up three nights in a row with night sweats. Completely drenched, short of breath, dizzy and nauseous. On the third night, after I’d changed into dry clothes, and did some deep breathing, I went to my computer and did what no person with medical symptoms should ever do and googled night sweats.

As Web MD popped up, I spiraled down the list of links and possible causes, convincing myself I was seriously ill.

They start off easy–are you too hot? Is the temperature in your room comfortable for sleeping? Yes, I was wearing what I always wear. Cookie pants and a long sleeve t-shirt. Winter sleep wear for someone who is always cold.

Then I followed the hot flash links. I’m too young for menopause right? But wait, what is perimenopause? I guess that could be it. Am I going to have hot flashes until I’m 50 and actually go through the change? That is terrible. I guess I can’t have any more kids. Do I want more kids? Well, not really, but what if I change my mind? I want more kids now, crap! No fair. Being a woman is terrible. Freakin’ vagina and boobs. Nothing but trouble since day one.

Then there were the cancer links. Night sweats are an early symptom of cancer. Lymphoma. I’ve got lymphoma. I knew it, I’m going to get cancer. I smoked for so many years. I’m going to get lung cancer or lymphoma and my daughter will grow up without a mom because I couldn’t put the nicotine down. I’ve got cancer.

Fuck YOU Cancer.

I need to call my doctor right now. I need a chest x-ray and a CBC, stat. Why aren’t doctor’s offices open at 4 am? I could EAT a cigarette right now.

Eventually I grew tired of the internet as I often do. My eyes got heavy again, and I decided I couldn’t cure my cancer ridden, hormonally unbalanced body right then, and headed back to bed.

As I passed the thermostat, I noticed that it was set to 76 degrees.

My husband sleeps in basketball shorts only and has a light-weight blanket for his side of the bed. I was in sweats, long sleeves, and buried under a down comforter, sheets, and an extra blanket on top.

I was sweating. At night. Because I was too hot.

Thermostat wars.

Or…you know. Cancer.

Can someone please pass me a Xanax and an Ambien with a Jameson chaser?

My doctor won’t prescribe them to me, and I probably wouldn’t take them anyway because that would cause me more anxiety.

It’s not always a fun place up in my brain.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate.

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52 thoughts on “Suck It Insomnia

  1. Totally. Esp as one suffering hot flashes and the insomnia that goes with all that stupid lady shit. I take more ‘supplements’ now than I used to to tamp all that down. Sigh.

    • I can’t wait for this lady stuff to intensify :) Ughh…being a woman is awesome sometimes. Hope the supplements are helping. I may have to start looking into some of that myself soon.

    • A native Texan dealing with real winters. Makes me shudder to imagine what a real one would feel like.
      Cookie pants are just what I call big, comfy, unattractive lounge pants. As in, there is room to eat many cookies with an elastic waistband :)

  2. I can totally relate. In fact, I had to double check and see if this was a post only own blog, because seriously I do the exact same thing to myself. One little thing out of routine at bedtime, and I am an anxiety ridden, insomniac psychotic. Sigh. At least I know it’s fairly “normal”. Or at least pretty common.

    • It brings me great comfort to know that others have had this same kind of experience. Thanks for letting me know! Haha, stupid insomnia and worry.

  3. I am 55 and have been having hot flashes for about a year, I think. It sucks. BUT, I also haven’t had a period in about a year. I used to take Black Cohosh and that helped, but it is supposed to have a bad interaction with other meds.

    I wonder why your dr. won’t prescribe meds. Mine will, but maybe you should see a psychiatrist who can give you a better diagnosis and maybe a medication that you haven’t even thought of. If you really are in the perimenopause and also have anxiety, then an antidepressant might help. I am not a dr., either, but I’m bipolar and take a “cocktail” of meds and supplements to keep me going.

    Good luck. Insomnia sucks.

    • I just have a GP and he’s held off on prescribing sleep aides because they can be habit forming. I haven’t pushed it because it’s only recently become an issue that I can’t manage with melatonin and benadryl. As for anti-depressants, I tried one a few years ago, and had a pretty bad reaction to it, so I’ve tried to stick to natural remedies so far. Exercise tends to clear most of this up for me, (I’m lucky this way) but I slack on it terribly during the winter because all I want to do is sit around bundled in blankets :)
      Hot flashes sound terrible, but that was the most accurate description I found for what I experienced that night. It was the first time this had ever happened to me.
      Thank you so much for your comment and support! I wouldn’t wish insomnia on anyone–sleep is one of my favorite things, and I’ve missed getting a full night of it terribly.

      • I had one really bad hot flash about eight years ago and then nothing again until last year. YES! Exercise is a huge help and the weather makes it so difficult. I’ve been doing yoga in the family room rather than my usual run. Hope you get a good night’s sleep.

  4. I also get panic attacks, but nowhere near the degree you get them. I also have an imaginary “clear” button in my neck, so if you see me crane my neck to one side (the left), I’m trying to clear something out of my head.

    I hope you can remember this story next time one strikes, and maybe laugh a litle to lessen the effect, or just tell yourself “oh, another thermostat event”, so you can get back to worrying about the important stuff.
    Like when the hell will is Spring getting here.
    (Spoiler: 43 days)

    • 43 days and counting! This is the first time I can say I’ve ever had something that felt like a real panic attack. I’ve definitely had a lot of over-reacting moments in the last couple of years, but my anxiety tends to be limited to situations where I have to actually talk to people. (sad all on its own). But I like the idea of a clear button. I think I’ll try that if this happens again. Thanks for your comment, Guap!

  5. I can totally relate. You’re not alone, and I’m happy you got up to write about it instead of lying there letting it build up. It’s a tough, confusing world…it just really is. Have you heard of EFT? I use it, and it really helps for immediate anxiety. Hang in there!

    • I have heard a couple of people mention EFT, but I’m still not really sure what it is. I’ll have to do some research on that. Thank you for chiming in! It helps tremendously just to not feel alone.

  6. Oh, anxiety and insomnia. Wanna know what I suddenly panicked about as I was about to drift off at 10:30 pm? I realized that I forgot to deliver a poodle skirt to a friend on behalf of her daughter that is having a sock hop at school on Friday. Sounds life-threatening, doesn’t it? Well, it kept me awake another half-hour running down the list of menial b.s. I have to take care of. I curse those moments. And, I can relate to the fact that at one point in your life you have X impression of yourself, and you think it’s realistic. At some point, you realize that no, no, no, you actually have far more of a Y disposition, and then you wonder, “Have I changed that much? Or was I just hopelessly wrong about myself all those years ago?” I’ve come to realize that I’m a control freak pleaser-type that is pathetically bad at keeping a schedule. It hurts to realize I’m not the carefree fun-type with an amazing ability to plan. But I think it’s a little of both–I’ve changed, and my reality-goggles have gotten a bit better, too. Thanks for the post–You write quite well at 4 am.

    • The more we chat, the more I think we might have been separated at birth :) The poodle skirt probably would have set me off too. It’s this mental list of things…it’s never ending. And the reflection. It’s good to do that, but sometimes you just have to be in the moment, and be okay with yourself exactly as you are. Easier said than done.
      Another great comment!

      • Acceptance of yourself. It’s all you can ever do. And the bonus is that it gives other people permission to do the same. But you gotta get some zzz’s, though, right?

  7. 4.00 am is usually about the time I hit the computer. No night sweats
    ( fortunately as a male I won’t go through ‘the Change’) and no anxiety though it may be that brought on the insomnia in the first place. My world shattered when my wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and all through the 20 months she lived after the diagnosis I would wake and listen to her breathing or stand at the side of her bed watching her.( not creepy). It’s 11 months since she died nearly and I still listen for her and sit talking to her. Brains can be awful places to live sometimes.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Not creepy at all. I’m sorry again about your wife, David. I’m not sure I realized it was pancreatic cancer that took her, but that one is particularly devastating, if there are degrees of such things with cancer. They are all devastating.
      Hugs, hugs, huge hugs to you.

  8. Um, yes. I relate to all of this. My father died unexpectedly when I was twenty (years ago) and I have horrible anxiety. Some times are worse than others, but when it was really bad, I’d wake up in a pool of sweat — seriously it was like I was having a panic attack in my sleep. I have anxiety about taking medicine for my anxiety. What I’ve found that works best for insomnia are audiobooks — calm and boring or even books you enjoy. This keeps my mind from racing and gives me a focus. It’s rough. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time. Feel better.

    • I had pretty terrible nightmares after my dad passed too. I would wake up with same kind of panicked feeling. I will try some audiobooks. That sounds like it would actually work really well for me, as getting my mind to engage in anything other than the anxiety seems to be effective. Thanks for your comment, and I’m sending you internet hugs. Grief is a terrible and lonely road.

  9. Rachelle, in a small span of your life you experienced the three biggest stress producers: death, birth, and a loss of a job. I hope you’re not too hard on yourself, because that is so much all at once. I would have trouble coping with that, as I think most people would. I get insomnia during my PMS and usually not much will help me then. Exercise is usually my way to unwind. If it wasn’t for that, I would be in big trouble. I usually take Benadryl to sleep, because sleep has always been a rough one for me. That helps me a lot.

    • I try to keep it in perspective. It was a lot all at once, and it is still affecting me, hence the recent trip down therapy road. Once it starts warming up, I will get back to consistent exercise too, which always makes a huge difference. This seemed to be an accumulation of a lot of different things, that all came to a head one night. Like a big ole PMS pimple :)
      I’ve been taking benadryl and melatonin too, but the main thing for me is generally exercise.
      Thanks so much for your support, and comment, Amy! Means the world.

  10. Well now I’M nervous. Is it okay to laugh at this? Are you contagious? Am I rude if I don’t have a soothing and reassuring comment? What if I have cancer, too? What if I’m really waking up at 4AM not to pee, but because cancer is tricking me into thinking I have to pee? Christ, I’m nervous about being nervous. Thanks, Rachelle.

    • Maybe the best comment ever! It is okay to laugh, I meant it to be funny, although all the cancer talk makes that confusing even for me, and I wrote it.
      I think anxiety can be contagious, so I will try not to stay on this topic for too long. This one was just hilarious to me, because the most logical answer was the correct one. It was too hot in our house.
      You might want to have that pee thing checked out though. Or, you know, it could be tiny bladder syndrome if you’re a beer drinker.

  11. oh wow, I feel for you! I have started getting insomnia this year for the first time and a few night sweats but you know what? I have deduced it’s only on nights I eat a heavy dinner that includes wine and dessert….namely date nights with my hubby that I absolutely love to have every other week. So sadly, not I have to feel guilty for my little splurge because I wake up at 2 am and can’t do a thing about it. Body is changing and it’s a huge bummer!

  12. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one going through all this anxiety and insomnia stuff, thanks for being a unknown companion, it’s a nice thought to have that I’m not the ONLY one.

  13. Ooooh girl. Totally feel you on all this. Especially the I’m hot to I have cancer in 34 seconds haha. I know it’s not funny when that’s happening, but it’s kind of funny later. Exercise and no caffeine after noon helps, but I have ambien just in case because sometimes I worry I won’t be able to fall asleep which causes me so much anxiety I can’t sleep. Wee! Snake eating its tail in our head party. Sorry you were invited too. In other news, this made me laugh out loud: Freakin’ vagina and boobs. Nothing but trouble since day one. Truth. Big squeeze and 10 hours of sleep to you : )

    • It always makes me laugh after the fact. Zero to cancer in 5, 4, 3, 2…1. Love the snake eating its tail image. And I’m glad you got a laugh out of part of it too. It’s the only thing that seems to help some days :)

  14. Peri-menopause has upgraded to the M-word with me, and that’s not just a reference to finding myself being called “ma’am” more and more — another bit of unpleasantness you’ll eventually get to know. I have had some drenching hot flashes, but I’ve discovered that exercising regularly is a huge help. I also sleep with the window cracked open even though it’s 28 degrees right now. A cool room and a warm bed are a great combo. But I’m not quite sure what you can do to shut off your racing brain. Have you tried meditating? It might help you relax. I don’t do it, because it might put me to sleep. I’m very lucky for I seldom have insomnia. I’ve been blessed with the sleep gene, but I know many who are cursed and without it.

    • I need to try some meditation. I usually don’t get very with the whole clear your mind thing. The M-word…sigh. I know it’s all coming :) thanks for the comment, and I’m happy that you have the sleep gene. I used to have it as well, and it saddens me greatly that it eludes me lately.

  15. I can totally relate. I have a few things that sort of “set me off” down a spiral of insomnia. Then I’ll find myself wide awake at 3am wondering if I should order the airbrush makeup kit on television because all of those smiling buffoons look so happy using it. I do this for a week or so, get so exhausted I spend all day sleeping, and then I’m fine until another trigger hits.

    Learning how to cope with my emotions in therapy has really helped me with this. I identify my nerves, try to identify what caused them, and figure out an appropriate way of handling this. Right now I’m doing well about 30% of the time which seems like it sucks, but it’s 30% more sleep!

    • Interesting that therapy seems to be triggering these things for me lately too. I guess things get worse before they get better?
      I’m laughing so much at the 3 am infomercials. I tend to stay away from the tv at night because I know those would lure me with their smiling happy faces too.
      I’m glad that you are at 30% better these days though. I’m hopeful I will turn that corner soon as well.

  16. I’m sorry you had a bad night! I can definitely relate. Anxiety is a beast. The only advice that has helped me to deal with my anxiety is to actually acknowledge it and work with it, rather than against it by trying to get rid of it… which of course, seems nearly impossible when you have it. Sometimes, I can talk my mind of out it, but my body has a mind of its own. However, just acknowledging it and working with it has helped. Not sure how to articulate that, so I hope that makes sense! ha!

    • It makes total sense! Funny, since I wrote this, I haven’t had a bad insomnia night since. I’ve been able to go back to sleep pretty easily.
      Anxiety is definitely a crazy beast though, and I appreciate your comment.

  17. Um, yeah, those hot flashes. I’ve recently learned they can last for ten years. That’s way too many to think I could be facing…. Tell your husband to wear some pajamas and turn down the heat!

  18. Please don’t throw darts at me for saying this, and I am not necessarily aiming my comments at others who commented here, but my 8 years of hot-flashes and related “woman stuff,” before beginning and after trailing-off menopause, didn’t make me as fussy as some (not all) women are. I was always wiping my forehead, taking off night-shirts due to the warmth, etc., but I have the philosophy that if it is bearable and NOT LETHAL, I can handle it! I don’t think I ever once mentioned the hot-flashes to anyone, except my gynecologist, since I knew they were to be expected and that one (glorious) day, they would end, and they did! I don’t think complaining makes the situation any better and I feel that some women “celebrate” or are often proud of their perfectly normal womanhood situations (breast-feeding–I did that too–, menopause, etc.) and consider themselves somewhat unique to the process, which actually is rather naïve. Just my thoughts, and I know many will be annoyed, which is not my intention. Rather, I just want to say that sometimes in a storm, it is better to not flail or rock the boat, and what point is there anyhow in telling everyone you are having a hot flash, or even complaining about it? Doesn’t really improve them. And thank God, menopause is not malignant! Just do whatever you can to relieve the symptoms and suck it up, is my position. This, too, shall pass, and if misery loves company, remember, there are, have always been and always will be countless millions of other women who suffer the same symptoms as you, and again, remind yourself that hot flashes will not kill you. Perhaps some form of medication is in order, but to complain to anyone other than a doctor is pretty boring,

  19. SO FREAKIN’ funny – Again I find myself actually laughing out loud!
    (alas almost a years worth to the day of reading still to catch up on, but I must put you down for now as duty calls and I must close up shop for the night at my lonely retail job here in frozen Boston, but we shall meet again soon!)

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