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My story: anxiety, energy & sleep

I’m a male in my mid-twenties and I have been dealing with an anxiety/panic disorder for three years now. I have only recently sought limited professional help. I was always hoping that it was something that would just pass but it has become rather debilitating. Aside from just feeling anxious frequently and going through infrequent panic attacks I have a lot less energy than I used to have and terribly stressful insomnia.

When this whole thing started I first felt like I was dealing with depression. I was losing sleep and I had limited energy and motivation. Then after a few weeks I began experiencing all kinds of weird physical symptoms: blurry vision, diarrhoea, numbness in my fingers, intense anxiousness, random pain all over my body and inability to fall asleep, sometimes for days. In my naivety, instead of realising that I had a problem with anxiety I became a bit paranoid and convinced that in reality there was something terrible wrong with my body and that I was just very worried about my physical being. I spent months going from doctor to doctor and having all my vitals checked but they all told me that I was healthy as a horse. It then became apparent to me that I was suffering from some sort of anxiety/panic disorder but for some reason my paranoia kept me from seeking help from a psychiatrist. I quit my job and cut of most people, effectively isolating myself at home, rarely going out.

Months went by and slowly I started feeling better. I still had some problems with sleep and nervousness but I was much less paranoid and able to smile and have a good time. I was beginning to think that maybe this whole problem was reversing itself but then one day I had a terrible panic attack. It was a pretty normal day and I was sitting at my computer, maybe surfing YouTube or something. Then I started feeling really hot all over my body, my heart started beating a lot faster. I stood up realising that I was so tense that I couldn’t sit anymore. For what seemed like an eternity I paced around the house, mostly the living room, feeling like I was about to have a heart attack any moment or pass out. It felt like there was something wrapped around my neck, suffocating me. Eventually it stopped, but I felt terrible every waking second for about a week. I ended up going to a hospital and received an injection to calm me down and help me sleep after I had been sleepless for about 2 straight days and a week of poor sleep.

This was the time I decided to seek professional help. I had given up fighting this on my own. My psychiatrist prescribed Clonex (Clonazepam) – to help me short-term with nervousness – for about 4 months and after that I started taking Ectiban (Escitalopram) – an anti-depressant, to help me long-term – which I have been taking for 10 months and continue doing so. My psychiatrist hasn’t really diagnosed me formally but we just talk of my condition as anxiety. I haven’t had many appointments with her but the next time I see her I’m going to ask if I can get something that will help me in those moments when I feel more intense nervousness. When I was taking the Clonex I was nearly free of nervousness but now that I’m just taking the anti-depressant I again alternate between good days and terrible days.

Although I feel some level of nervousness every day I don’t have full-blown panic attacks very often, perhaps 1 or 2 a year. Unlike some people suffering from anxiety, the problems in my life – the sort that we all have as humans – don’t really contribute to my nervousness. I don’t feel stress about my finance or relationships with other people. Aside from those days that I feel anxious for no apparent reason, I usually find that any and all physical discomfort increases my stress levels. For example, just getting the flu stresses me out. I’m prone to migraines and a headache can make me feel nervous. The list of stress inducing things his pretty long but it includes stomach aches and general discomfort (such as gases), sleepiness/tiredness particularly after poor sleep the previous day(s).

We are just getting started though because what I think is my biggest problem so far is my problem with sleep and energy. It has always taken me more time than it takes most people to fall asleep but since the anxiety thing took over my life my circadian clock (sleep clock) has been completely out of whack. This is such a huge problem for me that it is impossible for me to keep a job or any sort of schedule. On a good day I manage to fall asleep around 4 a.m. and on a bad day 8 a.m. It doesn’t really matter how tired I am – my body won’t let me fall asleep. The strangest thing is that even if I manage to fall asleep and stay asleep early-ish I still can’t wake up before 12 a.m. If I wake up before noon what happens is that for a couple of hours I will feel fine. Then I will slowly but surely start feeling tired and after about 4-6 hours of being awake – regardless of how much sleep I got – I will start feeling like you would except someone to feel after having been sleep deprived for about 2-3 days; I get a headache, I get slightly nauseous, nervous and thinking becomes difficult. Sometimes napping can help me at that stage but at other times I just have to suffer for hours until I’m in the time range that I can fall asleep in. Most days I wake up around 1-3 p.m. Even if I get the same amount of sleep (in hours), just the fact that I’m getting up before 12 a.m. means that my body will have this extreme reaction.

This has quite simply ruin my life. I can’t get a job or go to school because then I’d have to get up around 7-8 a.m. which my body doesn’t allow me, as I’ve said, regardless of how long I manage to sleep. The worst part is having everybody around me just thinking that I’m the world’s laziest person. People don’t understand. If you’re in a wheelchair everybody can see your disability but when it’s something invisible you become a weirdo to them. I used to work hard and getting up 7 a.m. and working 12-hour shifts was pretty easy for me but now I’m worse than a 90-year-old.

What will become of me?


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