Wednesday night, or really early Thursday morning, my day ended with Thomas pulling me up from the floor of a steaming hot shower, slipping me into one of his too-big t-shirts, and tucking the blankets up around my ears. He kept saying "Just close your eyes, sweetheart. We don't have to talk about this tonight. Tonight is just for sleeping." I think around 2am, I finally fell asleep - somewhere between worrying about how much sleep he would have before waking up for work and dealing with the sting of dry eyes from a night of sobbing.
Monday was a not so great day. Then Monday night I couldn't sleep and that turned Tuesday into a bad day. Tuesday night I was restless and anxious and couldn't fall asleep until hours after my usual 11 o'clock bedtime. By the time I woke up on Wednesday I was a mess. I worried that I kept Thomas up too late with my pillow flipping and blanket adjusting and that because of my sleeplessness, he would be too tired to focus on the road today and surely he'd be in an accident. Or maybe I forgot to do something. Maybe that's why I couldn't sleep? Maybe my brain was trying to make me aware? I had a third crappy day, and when Thomas walked through the door I started crying. The rest of the night was a blur of trying to feel better: watching West Wing, ordering my favorite Chinese food, and going to bed early.
That night I worried the house would catch on fire. I worried someone would break in. I worried that I was too fat. I worried that my nightmares would never go away. I convinced myself that opening a shop, writing this blog, and living in Georgia were all bad and worthless decisions. I was driving myself crazy, but I couldn't make the thoughts stop. The anxiety was there to stay - and in my haze of exhaustion, there was nothing I could do to stop it. After three days of feeling unsettled and sleepless I knew what was coming. Anxiety attacks are the worst, and their unpredictability is the thing I hate the most. Last night I think we both could see one coming, I could feel it building and after three years, he notices the signs. Luckily, he doesn't say "Hey crazy. I've noticed you can't stop scratching the tops of your arms. Think you'll be crying and shaking on the floor in a couple of hours?" Thankfully he doesn't say that.
Sometimes they build up over the course of a few hours and sometimes they build over the course of a few days. Typically the longer it builds, the more intense the attack is going to be. Finally, after 10 years of having these anxiety attacks, I've started noticing things that on their own are no big deal, but put them together, and I'll be a mess in the next few hours. In the hours leading up to the attack my skin gets really itchy and I feel increasingly thirsty. They only happen at night. There's often a period between the day and the night where I get the giggles, tell myself that it's just been a bad day, and feel really happy. We'll call that the calm before the storm. Once the attack hits, it only lasts around thirty minutes but leaves me feeling exhausted. For 20-30 minutes I can't stop crying, my body tenses up, my head hurts and I can't focus. I feel restless and move around from the bed to the floor to the bed to the shower. After a little while I start to feel like I can't breathe and then I often throw up. I sob the entire time, those hot, uncontrollable tears that make my eyes puff up. I can't talk, can't form the words, and I keep crying and shaking. My heart is pounding, I feel like I'm suffocating, and I can't get control. Thomas, bless his soul, knows that the best thing to do is hold my face in his hands and maintain eye contact. I've learned that the quickest way to come out of an attack is to shock my system - drinking lots of cold water, stepping outside, or getting in a hot or cold shower.
I wish I could wrap this up by offering some consolation to those of you who have anxiety attacks too, or with some suggestion for how to make them stop. But because I don't have any I'm curious if you do? If you need me today I'll just be here, curled up on the couch recuperating with naps and tea and last night's episode of Nashville.