I’m Wide Awake: On Insomnia & Anxiety

I suffer from terrible insomnia.

Growing up, I was a great sleeper. I was notorious for sleeping well past noon on Saturdays — which I now regret, as I see it as a waste of half a day…but at the time, it was so, so nice.

When I hit college, around my freshman summer, I stopped sleeping almost entirely. Falling to sleep usually wasn’t too hard, but I woke up anywhere from 2 to 4 a.m. and couldn’t go back to bed. It came and went in waves, usually once every couple of months lasting from 3 to 5 days at a time.

It was awful. I would go days on end with less than 10 hours total, it made my stomach ache and body exhausted and I felt puny and weak. It wasn’t until well into my college career I identified the main source of my insomnia: anxiety.

I suffer from moderate to severe anxiety.

Throughout college, I got worked up easily: stress over obtaining a 4.0 GPA, stress over making sure I said “yes” to friends at all times, stress over trying to be a good Tri Delta, friend, student, employee, Christian, etc.

In Nashville, I stressed over similar things: plugging into a church, doing well at my job, finding community. Nashville felt like eustress — good stress, positive stress, excitement for newness and opportunity I never experienced in Texas.

My insomnia in Nash led to my intense manic episode which brought me back home to Texas. After undergoing an out-patient therapy program at Meier Clinic, I finally came to terms with just how much anxiety had a hold over my life.

The best way to combat anxiety is by remembering truth.

My therapist told me anxiety boils down to irrational thoughts: what if I don’t succeed? What if I’m not liked? What if my trip goes wrong? What if I succumb to depression again?

To lessen anxiety, I have to tell myself truths: It’s OK if I don’t always succeed, I don’t need to please everyone, trips are always stretching, depression may come and go for the rest of my life — but I can continually persevere.

I’m a full supporter of a holistic approach to health, this includes putting yourself first — aka leaving a party early when I run empty, exercising when overwhelmed — sleeping well, eating healthy, working out often, seeing a therapist and taking medication. It took a while to establish a routine, to monitor my sleep, energy and mood levels, to make sure I was cared for myself more than others.

I continue to struggle with an others over me complex — I love to be in weddings though they often overwhelm me. I feel obligated to put on a smile, to act politely, to do everything I can to make the bride happy. On a daily basis, I try to please man over God, to say “yes” to outings, to stay out late instead of diving into scripture.

But when I awake in the middle of the night and beg God to lull me back to sleep, and I still lie eyes-open, I ask Him, “Are you waking me for a reason? Do I need to spiritually rest in You more than physically sleep? What are you telling me?”

Honestly, I’d rather be asleep right now — it’s 5 a.m — but I’m glad to sit here and be still and know He is good.

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