How I Worked Through Anxiety at 1 am

I had a rough night last night. I’m at my husband’s hunting camp in Middle Georgia. We have a nice roomy travel trailer. The weather is nice, mid-80’s and then 50’s at night, comfortable sleeping weather. So why did I wake up just past midnight with leg cramps and extreme restlessness?

Taking the youngest dog, 15 month-old Sugar, for her middle-of-the-night stroll, gave me relief from the cramps, but the restlessness was just as bad when I returned to our queen-size trailer bed. No, it was something else bothering me.

I learned long ago sleep would elude me until I felt I’d accomplished a task I had put off or faced the fear staring me in the face.

Asking Myself the Hard Quesitons

”What is it?” I asked myself. “Why am I so uncomfortable here?” Having three dogs that need walking several times a day keeps me active, perhaps too active, explaining the leg cramps. But what else is nagging me?

The memory of a panic attack in a mummy sleeping bag, inside a dome tent thirty years ago, held the answer. My claustrophobia had reared it’s ugly head. But I don’t have issues with crowded elevators or long airplane flights, well, no pressing issues.

Taking the Initiative to Find Answers

In the dark, laying in bed, I reach for my iPhone and Googled ‘claustrophobia’. There are a couple types, but the fear of being trapped seems to fit my situation. At home, I can’t even allow the folded comforter at the foot of the bed to weigh down my feet in bed. I have to push it over the railing of the four poster bed. And sleeping with dogs is not my thing. As long as Sugar is near the center of the foot of the bed, I’m okay, but don’t get between me and the edge where I swing my legs over to get up. Don’t do that!

Reading further about the cause of claustrophobia, it can usually be traced back to some childhood trauma where the sufferer was put in a dark closet or box, or just felt confined and unable to get out. I rack my brain to remember anything like that in my own past and there it is.

Making the Connection

When I was about 9, my sister and I were playing at her friend’s house. There was a rope swing hanging from a chinaberry tree. It was along the embankment leading down to a railroad track. We had lifted up a railroad tie to see is any cool bugs were lurking beneath. The tie had sunk into soft red clay that now was hard, leaving behind a perfect, narrow trough.

As I swung out, I let go with the intention of landing on my feet, knees bent to soften the impact. But somehow I landed on my butt, legs extended out, straight into the trough. The wind was knocked out of me and I panicked, trapped in the hard clay. My sister and her friend came to my rescue, pulling me out.

Realizing the source of my anxiety, helped me understand situations where I feel uncomfortable:

    • A preference eating on the open porch rather than our usual location at the bar off the kitchen, the upper cabinet over my head
    • Feeling closed in unless the blinds are open during the day, no valence or draperies on my windows, ever
    • Choosing seats on trains, buses, or automobiles where I can look out both sides or even better, three sides
    • Always preferring outside to inside, even if it’s cold, rainy, or hot

Learning How to Make My Life Better

Thinking about all this calmed me considerably and I was able to fall asleep. Even better, this morning I opened all the blinds, shared my insights with my husband and now I feel like I’ve opened a window where I can breathe into myself. It’s another brick removed from the wall of protection I’ve created.

Sugar Among the Posies