Unwanted Intruder

I’m going to be honest. My anxiety has resurged recently. I don’t have the kind of anxiety where my mind is constantly filled with worries and what-if scenarios (though I do experience this too…). My anxiety feels exceptionally physiological. Like a hijacker has completely taken over my body, from the inside out, and I have absolutely no control. And all my special tricks, like deep belly breathing and meditation, don’t work. Because when this hijacker–this absolutely unwanted intruder–takes hold, I disappear.

Anxiety barges its way in, usually during the depths of the night, and settles deep in my gut. It thrashes around violently, sending my heart racing and my body temperature rising. I lay there in a full state of panic. No matter what I try, I can’t get a hold of myself — of my body. I lose all control. And here’s the thing: anxiety loves a panicky person. It thrives off it. So the more panicky I feel, the more powerful the anxiety becomes. Before I know it, the clock ticks away, and hours pass where I haven’t had a wink of sleep. Because who can sleep when their body is in full fight-or-flight mode?

And then I get anxious about the fact that I haven’t slept, and I begin to wonder when one of the babies will start to cry, or when my oldest will run into my room for the 3rd time telling me she’s ready to wake up, or that she doesn’t want to sleep in her room anymore. And usually, when I finally have calmed down enough to get that blissful wink of sleep, one of my children–who I worried about waking all night–actually DOES wake up, and I jolt out of bed, and race down the hall to her rescue. That’s just how this goes. I often think it must be the vigilance of motherhood, on steroids. Because this? This doesn’t feel–has never felt–like normal mother worry. It feels sick. Like an illness. Like a hijacker; an unwanted intruder.

The first time this intruder broke in was 6 months after my oldest was born. She went through a phase of waking up in the middle of the night, and crying for hours. This lasted from when she was 6-9 months of age, and during that time, my anxiety would spike each night, around the time she would start to cry. When she started sleeping again, my nighttime anxiety refused to leave. For a year-and-a-half, I fought it hard…but it always won. This hijacker had completely taken hold of my body.

Finally, FINALLY!, I banished it. I beat this awful anxiety, and reclaimed my nights–my sleep–again. I was a far better person for it too. All felt better, so much better, without this intruder living inside me. I was proud of myself too. Because I’d fought the hard fight, and won.

But now, all this time later, it’s back. It’s trying so damn hard to barge in, and take hold. And the awful part? It’s winning. The nighttime panic and tumult is back. I am sure it’s due to my oldest (not even the babies!) waking up, repeatedly, night after night after night. The hyper-vigilance I’m prone to wakes me up, and keeps me awake, just waiting, listening, wondering when she will come in. Or when the babies will cry. Or if I’ll get sleep–any sleep–at all, and how I will ever make it through the next day.

The good part though? I have fought this fight before. I know I can beat this thing out of my body–banish this bastard for good. It just will take some time, and perhaps utilizing some new and different calming tools, to send it away. There is strength here, in fighting this hijacker. I will find it, use it, and be better for the fight.


Leave a Reply