For a period of time, I would wake up from a deep sleep having a full panic attack. Once I started recovery I learned these are referred to as night terrors. And many people experience them when they suffer from panic disorder or severe anxiety disorders.
Simply put; night terrors are a panic attack you have while you are sleeping. Night terrors can be exceptionally frightening because you are woken up from a deep sleep in full panic. For me, when I had panic attacks during the day I was fooled into believing I could brace myself for them in some way. But with night terrors I was completely caught off guard and this compounded the situation greatly.
It was bad enough I was experiencing panic attacks during the day, but now I was afraid of sleeping in anticipation of night terrors.
Night terrors begin just like any other panic attack, or even high levels of anxiety; with a single thought. Despite the different levels of anxiety we can experience, all anxiety begins with a single thought. And all anxiety is based in the future. We do not have to be present to our trigger(s) to experience anxiety, all we have to do is think about our trigger(s) and we can set off the domino effect leading to higher levels of anxiety and/or panic.
So night terrors begin from some component of a dream. Somewhere in our subconscious, a thought of a trigger situation pops up, and that sets off the chain reaction leading to a panic attack. Just as it could as if we were awake.
When I first began my recovery I did not begin use of the tools right away. On some level, I didn’t believe they would really help me. I was suffering so badly at the time, how could the mental & physical tools possibly help me?
But once I did start using the tools and I started seeing some positive results during the day, I had to find a way to utilize the tools during my sleep time. Obviously, there weren’t many options for me, but being desperate at the time I had to try something.
What I began doing was leaving physical tools next to my bed. And when I would wake up with night terrors I would grab the tools and begin using them. Initially, it took some time for me to be able to remember the tools were even there. And when I finally started remembering they were there, I had to go through several trials to find the right tool.
You see, a lot of the tools weren’t shocking enough to match the state of panic that I would be in from night terrors.
During the day one of the tools I commonly used was ice. I didn’t know how that would work at night but eventually, I tried leaving a cup of ice next to my bed. That night when I woke up in panic, I grabbed an ice cube and held it against my skin. It was cold and as shocking as you could imagine, but it worked like a charm! Almost instantly after feeling the ice my panic basically disappeared and I returned close to no anxiety at all.
Usually when I tell this story someone asks me, “what if the ice melts”. Good question. It happened to me one night; it was almost morning when I had my night terrors, and it must have been during the warmer months, and all the ice had melted. So I took the glass of water and poured it on my head. It worked great for my panic, not so well though when I wanted to go back to sleep (off to the couch!).
But that’s how desperate I was in my fight against anxiety. Once I started using the tools and I realized there is “some” benefit to them, I went all out. Each time I experienced fear or panic I went to battle for my emotional health.
Honestly, at the time I certainly didn’t know the overall benefit that I would have in doing such things. But my counselor always told me that the more riveting and shocking the physical tools were, the more it would help snap me out of my anxiety-driven thoughts. Maybe I took that a little too far at times, but that’s how driven I was to create change in my life. I was tired of suffering and I would have done anything to change my situation.
It only took a matter of weeks before the night terrors stopped coming. Once I felt empowered and confident that I could manage my fear, they stopped.
And that is how it is with all anxiety. Anxiety thrives in our insecurities. This is why the tools work so well. The tools give us something we can actually “do” to combat our anxiety. Recovery needs to be proactive; we have to do something. Using tools is the thing we can do at the moment when we actually experience fear.
As always, I encourage you to practice the tools. Practice self-care. Manage your time, before your time manages you. No one can create the recovery for you, but you have the power to create it yourself.
Never give up! Persistence!
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