I’m roused from my sleep suddenly, viciously, by Pudding’s scream. My husband rushes out of bed before I can even move. He doesn’t come back, choosing to sleep in the chair by her bed instead. Melatnonin doesn’t help, the weighted blanket is working, or the white noise, or anything else. She just needs her sleep, just like the rest of us. This is the second time he has gone to her, and I know he is too tired to do it again. He has to work in the morning. It is 4 am, and my heart pounds. I try to breathe, I’m suffocating. Amongst the noise of thoughts pushing for attention in my head, one is louder. This is anxiety, it shouts. I listen. I try to breathe in and out, slowly, quickly, through my nose or mouth, anything to calm myself.
Sleep evades me. Though I’m in a fog from headache tablets, I can’t find the peace I need. Eventually I get up. I’m not supposed to have anxiety. My husband has struggled on and off all his life. For my girl, it is the shackle of her autism. My boy doesn’t escape it either, but this is new to me. Now I’m in anxiety’s grip too.
I come downstairs and start to type, hoping that I can write out these thoughts that are looping around my head. This has been building up for a couple of weeks, not just for me, but for Pudding too. She has been struggling with sleeping alone. Stressed and exhausting, I allowed her to sleep with me. I know it isn’t the right approach, and by taking the path of least resistance, I’m exacerbating the problem, but I’ve just been too stressed.
Wait. The path of least resistance has led to this stress. These things are not happening independently. I’m stressed, so I slack, and that exacerbates the problem which makes me….you’ve guessed it- more stressed. And Pudding doesn’t so well surrounded by stress. She absorbs and then reflects all the emotions around her. It makes her anxious. Seeing her struggle makes me more stressed, and round and round, and down and down we go.
So I must stop. I have to be the one to stop the spiral, because she can’t.
I need to focus on calming her by providing what she needs, not what is easiest to give her. First she needs patience, a resource that is in incredibly short supply when we don’t get sleep. She needs positive reinforcement. She needs her senses soothed even if she doesn’t feel like doing the things that will help her. She needs consistency and she needs social stories to explain what is going on. In short, she needs all the supports that I readily provide when I’m feeling at my best, but which have somehow dropped away as my anxiety took its hold.
It is not to say that I’m not allowed to feel stressed, or anxious, or just plain miserable. I just need to make sure that when I’m feeling this way, I don’t take away all the things that she needs to prevent her from these very same feelings. It was a revelation: I can be the beginning of the anxiety, but that also means I can end it. It will take more effort at a time when making an effort is the last thing I feel like doing, but the results are already promising. And she has slept through the night by herself before, so she will do it again, as always, in her own time, and with the supports she needs.
As for me, I feel better already. Maybe this is the beginning of the end of anxiety.
Taking part in the Mental Health Blog Party:
May 18th, 2011