You know that John Green line that everyone loves, “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”? That’s lovely, I guess. But if I were to write a truthful version of that line, based on how I sleep, it would be something like, “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: fitfully, exasperatedly, for a little bit, then not at all.”
Anxiety disorder is a peculiar creature. It can churn away in the background (if I’m lucky) all day long, not even necessarily latching onto anything that it feels it needs to obsessively ruminate about. But as soon as I go to bed, it leaps to life, like, “HELLO! SO GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN! OH MY GOD, I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO TELL YOU!” And then it’s off and running.
If I didn’t live with someone who can go from being upright to being in bed asleep in under three seconds, I wouldn’t believe that people can just go to sleep. That my particular exhausting ritual isn’t normal.
Before I even get in bed, I take my various brain meds, including the one for anxiety that makes it possible for me to sleep at all. I have to sleep facing the door with my back to the inside of the bed. It (go figure) makes me too anxious if I’m not facing the door. I have to sleep with a pillow between my legs because if my knees touch I get that fingernails-on-the-blackboard feeling. I also have to sleep with something playing on my phone. I burn through old sitcoms like mad, usually having 3-5 episodes on a night. I can’t listen to podcasts, because I want to actually LISTEN to them, which keeps me awake, but old sitcoms that I’ve seen a thousand times are perfect. Their noise helps distract me from my own noise. The other night the Hulu app went down and I nearly lost it. NEED SHOWS.NEED NOISE. I also usually sleep clutching one of the dachshunds, focusing on their little heartbeat and breathing.
Recently, I got a weighted blanket to help. One of the things I have always done to try to sleep is work on convincing my body I was heavy and sleepy. Weighted blankets are not cheap, but I finally made the leap, figuring it would be worth it if it could help me. The blanket is 14 pounds (most things I read suggest a blanket 10% or slightly more of your weight) and I love it. However, the first two nights, it actually kept me awake because I was so worried about my 8-10 pound dogs sleeping under that weight. Yes, give me a product designed to help reduce anxiety and I will turn it into something that actually makes my anxiety worse. I’m talented like that. Anyway. The blanket seems to help. I wake up way less in the night, and when I do wake up (and turn another show on on my phone), I fall asleep again faster. It either actually helps or has convinced my brain to behave like it helps (and convincing my brain of anything is a great task). I don’t really care how it works, just that I get a little more uninterrupted sleep with it.
If your anxiety pummels you all night long, tell me your coping mechanisms, okay? I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before my anxiety catches on to this blanket trick and rejects its help.