Do you have 4:00 a.m. insomnia? I remember when it started for me, a gazillion years ago before my writing career took off and I was furiously writing ad copy, articles, and novels to pay the bills while raising kids and stepkids.
There were never enough hours in the day. Clean house? Not even on the list. My solution was the opposite of a solution: anxiety attacks at 4:00 a.m. that drove me out of bed and to my desk to get back to work. If I was lucky, at 5:00 a.m. Hooray, an extra hour of sleep! Argh.
As the years passed, our kids grew up and flew off to good lives, and I was able to focus on one book at a time. As the pressure lessened, so did the anxiety attacks. From the outside, that’s what the solution looked like – less stress. But the truth was, I’d been changing myself inside.
I was learning how much better I felt when I exercised, did meditative stretching, talked to various kinds of counselors, practiced mindfulness and shamanic journeying, and walked in the woods. I know some of you are going to think I’d really gone nuts, but at one time or another, one or three of these choices made my life easier, then good, and now joyful. Just sayin’.
Fast forward to a couple of mornings ago. At 4:00 a.m., I was jerked awake, chest tight, breathing shallowly, riddled with fear. It’d been a lonnng time since I’d had an anxiety attack. What did William Faulkner write? Oh, yes, “The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.” I broke out in a sweat. I felt doomed. Again.
But then my sleeping husband, John, rolled off his side and sorta onto his back. His warm shoulder landed against mine, and stayed there. Our old Manx cat, Domino, lumbered up from the foot of the bed to my other side and flopped his warm furry body onto my other shoulder.
John snored lightly (a deviated septum from an old football injury) and Domino simultaneously purred and snored (a mystifying and beguiling combination – maybe he has a deviated septum, too, along with the usual fine catlike qualities?).
The result was love in stereo. With their warmth and the music and vibrations of their snoring, I was able to breathe deeply, relaxing, my fears melting away. My anxiety attack vanished. Could I have done that back in the day, as they say, before I got smart and worked to de-stress and grow more resilient? Nope. No way. Not a hope.
Recently a doctor friend told me that the pandemic had heightened all of our emotions – our highs are higher, and our lows are lower. We’re sensitive in ways that we might never have experienced. I suspect that heightened sensitivity may have been one of the causes of my anxiety attack, because I sure didn’t see it coming. But at the same time, I’m grateful to know I have tools (and a lot of love) that work for me.
Come to think of it, Faulker blew it. He should’ve added: The past may not be past, but it doesn’t have to be the future. Yeah, right, Bill! Get a life!
For those of you interested, here are a couple of articles about taking care of yourself, or as they say these days “self care:”
● “20 Scientifically Backed Ways To De-Stress Right Now” by Meredith Melnick
Dear Rogue Readers … Please share your tips for leading a happy and healthy life! I’d love to hear them!