I’ve had an anxiety disorder for my entire life. I believe my anxiety is partially genetic, but additionally, environmental factors have definitely played a role in my mental health. Surprisingly, most people don’t seem to realize that there is a profound overlap between mental and physical health. I could go into a lot more detail on all of these specific correlations, but for this particular topic, I’m just going to touch on the relationship between anxiety and fatigue. 

Interestingly, fatigue is listed as one of the top three symptoms of an anxiety disorder. For some people, this may be because people with anxiety tend to lose more sleep because of their condition. When insomnia and anxiety link up, the results can be devastating for your sleep schedule. For me personally, I sleep just fine at night, but panic attacks and anxiety attacks completely deplete me of my energy. There is a phenomenon known as the “anxiety attack hangover,” which more or less describes the feeling of being drained or “jet lagged” after having the attack. This is something I’m all too familiar with, and I have some thoughts on why this probably happens to me.

Going into fight-or-flight mode uses a ton of energy. Anxiety itself uses up a lot of energy! Feeling my adrenaline spike, my blood pressure heighten, and my breathing accelerated always leaves me feeling absolutely destroyed after I recover. The production of adrenaline itself uses up a ton of glucose and energy, which is probably why folks with anxiety disorders (including myself) are always so dang tired afterwards. 

However, anxiety itself is not the only thing that can cause me to feel fatigued. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I have a prescription for Ativan, which belongs to the benzo drug class (Xanax is a more common benzo you may have heard of). Ativan is used as a short-term treatment for people with anxiety and panic disorders, and is also used as a sedative before medical procedures.

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In a nutshell, it’s a pretty strong drug. I don’t take Ativan often, probably only about ten times a year, because it’s designed for short-term use only and can become highly addictive if taken too often. When I do take an Ativan, I’ll usually feel extremely calm and a bit out of it, because the drug causes my heart rate to significantly slow down. The last time I took an Ativan, in preparation for a speech in class, I decided to forgo my usual coffee in fear that an “upper” would interfere with a “downer.” This may have been a mistake, because I became SO exhausted and chilled out after my speech that day, I was essentially incoherent. I went to lie down in my room around 3pm, and didn’t wake up until 6:30pm. I was completely disoriented for the rest of the night, because frankly, that’s just what Ativan does to you. I guess the only silver lining is that I did get through my speech without having a complete breakdown.

So, yeah. Fatigue and anxiety is a lose-lose situation, in my case. If I don’t take medication and subsequently have a panic attack, I get fatigued. If I take my medication and avoid an attack, I still get fatigued. As I previously said, I very rarely take Ativan, so most cases end with me having a full-fledged panic and consequently feeling tired for the rest of the day. I really can’t win with my anxiety.

Now that I’ve gotten the depressing things out of the way, let’s talk about what you (and I) can do if you get hit with those post-anxiety sleepies. One thing that makes me feel better is to take a little nap, or even just lay down and do nothing for an hour or two. This is the time your body NEEDS to recharge and re-center, so there’s no reason to have guilt. If you have the resources, practice some form of self-care to get you through the rest of your day. Practice some deep breathing, meditation, or treat yourself to a bubble bath. Put on a video or a funny movie that makes you laugh. 

Having an anxiety disorder is not your fault, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. If you’re comfortable with it, make sure your professors and family members are in the loop about how anxiety can affect your mental health. In my personal experience, most people are more than happy to listen and help you in any way they can. I promise you don’t have to go through anxiety alone!

Further reading: https://www.getthegloss.com/article/how-to-deal-with-the-anxiety-attack-hangover

Image: VectorStock

Wednesday, October 23

I didn’t have a chance to write yesterday, because the first half of my day was too busy, and I felt pretty disoriented for the second half. Yesterday was the day I had to give my four-minute speech, so I took an Ativan and forgoed my usual coffee. I felt pretty solid for the first half of the day, but by 3pm I was absolutely wiped and I had to go lay down. I woke up around 6:30pm, and because I’d skipped my regular morning coffee, I ended up with a pretty horrendous caffeine withdrawal headache.

So anyway, that was the long way of saying I didn’t get any work done yesterday. I’m sitting in my Communication Research class right now, and I’m feeling the anxiety creeping up on me. If my class has negative or chaotic energy, that almost always directly rubs off on me. It’s only 11:30 in the morning, and I’m already feeling overwhelmed by the stressful nature of this classroom.

Anyway, onto some good news! My good friend Eli is coming home for a visit next week, and I’m really looking forward to spending Halloweekend with him. We don’t have any solid plans yet, but I know we’ll inevitably find some fun or mischief to get into.

Friday, October 25

This has been a pretty mundane week, minus my usual bouts of anxiety popping up here and there. I am feeling a bit edgier than usual, and I can imagine that probably has something to do with my cycle and my hormones. Nonetheless, I’m pushing through, and trying to take extra good care of myself in preparation for Hell Week

I’m very excited to report that I will be taking part in my school’s chapter of DREAM, which stands for Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring. It’s still in its founding stages, but we have tons of good ideas so far for how we can get this chapter started. I love to serve as an advocate and use my voice as a tool for spreading change, especially when it pertains to something personally important to me. As someone with learning disabilities who has an easy time “passing,” it’s important to me to bring awareness to these issues. One of the biggest problems with invisible disabilities is that you often feel invalidated, or like your disabilities won’t be perceived as seriously as they deserve to be. I’m looking forward to taking part in this lovely movement on my campus. 

Missing this cute boy right about now!

I’m feeling a bit like a hermit today, I’ll probably stay in for the rest of the day and watch a spooky Halloween movie and burn my favorite fall candle. I haven’t had a chance to partake in many fall activities, so maybe I can make up for that by having my own little spooky-themed night in my room. I’d also like to continue my research papers I’m currently working on, and potentially start another writing project. We’ll see how I’m feeling after binge-watching The Shining and The Keepers

Saturday, October 26

Yesterday and today have been quiet days. I don’t have a lot of friends on campus, and the friends I do have don’t seem to like to go out and do social things (no tea no shade!), so I’ve just been hanging out in my room working on some writing. Today I started a new writing project after being inspired by a dream I had last night, so that’s been taking up a substantial chunk of my day. It’s been a goal of mine to write another book, but I struggle with coming up with story prompts that are original and unique. That’s why I’m so excited to be basing a book, a collection of short stories really, off of my dreams. I’m basically winding a story out of my unconscious thoughts, which I think is a pretty cool idea! Do any of you write down your dreams as well?

I’m not sure if this is technically Halloweekend or if it’s next weekend, but either way, nothing exciting is happening tonight. Hopefully I’ll have some decent plans for next week when Eli is here! Happy Halloween-ish!

Coming up this week:

10/28- What if College Campuses Had Animal Shelters?

10/30- A Beginner’s Guide to The Sims 4

11/1- Giving my Friend a Vintage Makeover