I struggle to give myself permission to fall asleep, most nights.
I could be extremely tired, as I am this week, after working a trade show and getting my introverted self to act flawlessly and fool everyone into thinking I’m a bubbly extrovert. I could be falling asleep in my armchair, the sound of whatever music I’ve chosen for the night playing softly in the background. I could be longing for sleep – but I’ll be checking the clock the whole time. Is it too early? If it is too early, but I literally can’t stay awake a second longer, does that mean I’m sick or there’s something wrong with me? Do most people need more than five or six hours of sleep a night? There are too many things to do – I need to finish a number of things before I’m allowed to go to bed. Or sometimes, I’m just worried I’ll wake up at a weird time and be unable to fall asleep again, forcing me to be tired and nauseated all day at work.
If I do fall asleep, most of the time I’m up sometime during the night for no reason at all. On a good night, I’ll be able to fall asleep again fairly quickly. On a bad night, I’m up, tossing and turning and trying to understand why I can’t get comfortable, until my alarm blasts at some ungodly hour of the morning. And I’ll try to adjust when I let myself fall asleep and finally relax so that it doesn’t happen again – but a good amount of the time, it won’t work.
I’m sure most people don’t overthink sleep the way I do. But most people don’t suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I think that makes a difference. If they do, they’re not usually willing or able to talk about it. Insomnia is a symptom and it can be extremely isolating. I don’t have it as bad as some of my other friends with my mental illness do, but it’s enough to be one more thing in a day full of “one more things” that I have to think about.
I feel like a lot of my sleep issues lead back to my underlying control issues. I’m pretty much a huge control-freak and it’s something I’m well aware of because I tend to sort of lose the game a bit when I’m not in control of myself and my life 100%. It’s another symptom – another annoyance – of living in what I call #TheAnxietyDiaries.
I’m trying to break the stigma around talking about anxiety and its symptoms, because I feel most of the time like it’s not really “the thing” to be able to find support in your friends. In fact, I’ve started quietly withdrawing from some friends who just seem annoyed or bothered when I start talking about mental illness. I don’t want to lose them as friends, but I’m not in a place where I can handle people who are irritated by my posts or my goals around breaking mental health stigma.
That’s why I’m glad there’s social networking.
I created the hashtag #TheAnxietyDiaries, as well as a support group on Facebook, to allow people to discuss the ins and outs of our specific anxiety disorder without the fear of judgement. Because we don’t need more people judging us when we do such a good job of judging ourselves. Because we need a space to talk without being scrutinized and diagnosed and feared because we’re having a bad day.
I’m writing about this for the third time because I want to join Bell’s #BellLetsTalk Day. It’s a day that a Canadian communications company, Bell Canada, put together to try to erase the stigma around mental illness and reaching out for help. We’re amazed when people end up committing suicide or hurting themselves or others – “We never saw that coming!” – when the fact is, you probably did see it coming. Our society simply makes it nearly impossible to talk about without scorn, judgement, or dire consequences like losing our jobs or our autonomy.
So I’m talking about it, and I’ll continue to talk about it. We are visible, we are here, and we are telling you our realities because we want your support.
I’m writing this because I’m waiting for my body to give me permission to sleep. I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and this is just another chronicle in #TheAnxietyDiaries of my life.
Join us on Twitter under the hashtag, or tweet on #BellLetsTalk, and help erase the stigma around mental illness. Let’s make the world a safer place for all of us to live in.
This post was written as part of my #TheAnxietyDiaries series, and for #BellLetsTalk, to try to raise awareness for mental illness of all kinds.