INSOMNIA? ANXIETY? AND DOOM? OH, MY! A writer’s tale, but it ends well (really!)

by | Apr 11, 2021 | Gayle Lynds, The Writer's Life | 9 comments

by Gayle Lynds

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.

The old days, with big old computer and research and books everywhere. Fun!

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.

John talks, and I happily listen. Whatta guy! 💗

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.

Domino loves his heated bed in my office – when he’s not in our bed, of course.

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

“13 Small but Impactful Ways to Cultivate Resilience: It’s like a muscle.” by Anna Borges

Dear Rogue Readers … Please share your tips for leading a happy and healthy life!  I’d love to hear them!

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9 Comments

  1. Karna Small Bodman

    I loved reading about how “Domino” – your cat — snuggled up against you, encouraging you to relax and get back to sleep. I firmly believe that cats–and dogs–“sense” when an owner is in distress or anxious or hurt in any way. I’ve seen it with our dogs on numerous occasions – putting their heads on our laps if we’re not feeling too well and racing over to lick our faces if one of us happens to stumble and take a fall outside. How lucky we are to have such “sensitive” companions in our households. Thanks, Gayle, for a thought-provoking and interesting piece here.

    • Gayle Lynds

      Thanks, Karna. I so agree about animals and their connections to us, and vise versa. I love your stories about how yours react in times of need. They’re so sensitive, just as we are. We’re lucky to have these kinds of relationships.

  2. Gayle Lynds

    Thanks, Karna. I so agree about animals and their connections to us, and vise versa. I love your stories about how yours react in times of need. They’re so sensitive, just as we are. We’re lucky to have these kinds of relationships.

  3. Lisa Black

    I also piled on some de-stress techniques for the pandemic—daily reflections, a meditation app, and upping my too-infrequent yoga practices. They definitely helped…but I think I need to up them again since writing stress has taken over where the pandemic stress has been petering out!

    • Gayle Lynds

      Those are terrific ideas for destressing, Lisa. I’ve always had a problem with straight-up meditating, and admire those who can and do do it. John calls it a discipline, which helps to make it sensible to me. I find shamanic journeying does the same thing for me. In any case, writing stress gets our attention for sure!

  4. john sheldon

    Wonderful blog, Gayle. Isn’t it wonderful when cats snuggle!

    • Gayle Lynds

      Yes, John, it sure is. Love it when that purr gets really loud!

  5. Linda L Richards

    Great post. All of this resonates so strongly! For me it wasn’t anxiety, though. It would just feel like my head was too full to sleep. (Maybe that amounts to the same thing?) Even now I will occasionally get up in the middle of the night and spend a few hours in the lush quiet working away at whatever project is currently most filling me. And sometimes there will be yoga stretches, too.

    • Gayle Lynds

      I love the yoga stretches, Linda. I had no idea that stretching could be so pleasurable. I think we writers work so much out of our heads that we forget there’s more to us, so focusing on my body while stretching brings me back to a place that’s more “me” while giving me little bursts of happiness as my muscles lengthen. Crazy, and wonderful! Thanks for reminding about that.