white bed comforter
Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

Sometimes I look back and I’m amazed at some of the things I was able to accomplish through absolute exhaustion. I believe that, particularly as a student, it’s easy to assume constant fatigue is just a way of life. I know I sure was used to it by high school- getting up at 5:45am every day? I really don’t know how I did it.

But other times, particularly this past semester, I noticed I was alarmingly tired after getting up at 7am or even later. Even if I went to bed early and got up with 8 hours of sleep behind me, I would still find myself hit with a wave of exhaustion around an hour after waking up. It wouldn’t hit immediately in the morning- it would happen while I was waiting for the shuttle, sitting on the subway, or even at my internship itself. One time, I got so abruptly sleepy while riding the T, I missed my stop altogether. I would drag myself into the building and struggle to keep my eyes open until around noon or 1pm, when the sleepiness would finally start to subdue. It was annoying, but also concerning for me as it began to interfere with my life. 

When I realized that most of these sleepy spells lined up with my menstrual cycle, everything began to click together. Oh yeah, I reminded myself. You have PMDD. This is your reality. In fact, “severe fatigue” is listed as one of the top symptoms for PMDD on hopkinsmedicine.org

The thing is, my menstrual-related sleepiness had NEVER been as severe as it was this past spring semester. And now that I’m out of college, I almost never get hit with fatigue. So why did that happen?

Through doing a lot of thinking and researching, I’ve decided it probably had a lot to do with stress. Spring 2020 was an amazing semester, but it was also absolutely wild. For one thing, knowing this was my last semester of college and I had to do well to graduate was always pushing me in the back of my mind. And then, when the global health crisis emerged and my entire future went up in the air, well, I became exhausted. For me, numbing myself out rather than getting hysterical is just a normal coping mechanism. And so, I’m not surprised I spent a majority of January/February/March feeling absolutely fatigued. Especially when coupled with my hormonal disorder, which is notorious for causing sleepiness, it makes a lot of sense. I think I was truly just burnt out. Additionally, PMDD is associated with “non restorative sleep,” so even if I get my tight eight hours in, that doesn’t mean I’m getting good sleep.

There wasn’t really a cure for me during that time besides just trying to keep my mind busy, and through physically holding my eyelids open in the morning. I would also text my boyfriend during the early mornings, since he was an early riser as well and he could keep my mind occupied. Overall, however, it was a very bizarre experience. I tend to be a very energized, go-go-go kind of person, so not being able to feel alert or constructive for half the day really bothered me. However, like I said, my early-morning sleepiness has improved tremendously. For one, I’ve felt very in control of my life lately, and that definitely makes me feel motivated. Secondly, my physical PMDD symptoms have slightly subdued in the last couple of months. I’m pretty sure this is due to having better sleep hours, a healthier diet, and exercising more frequently, but it’s hard to know for sure. Nonetheless, I’m feeling great now! I do notice I do occasionally become fatigued while on my period, but it doesn’t drag on for hours and hours like it used to. 

For anyone else who struggles with PMDD, I’d love to know your experiences. Has fatigue ever interfered with the quality of your life? Do you notice that stress tends to exacerbate your symptoms as well? Let me know in the comments below! Feel free to drop your tips for preventing sleepiness in the comments as well, so that we can share tips and advice with other folks who may need it.

Monday, February 10

I can definitely tell that my PMDD is starting to rise up again out of the woodwork, but at least I can be prepared and remind myself that this storm passes. I’m feeling pretty alright in general, but my motivational drive is at a low point and I’m definitely a bit edgier than usual. When my PMDD starts to act up, I tend to get ticked off by the littlest of things and overthink every aspect of my life. Oh well, all I can really do is continue to forgive myself and take care of my body the best I can!

41D0830E-FBE5-40F8-BE60-F82BB07A6B2A.JPG

On a more upbeat note, I’m super excited to sell my Nikon d3500 so I can buy a new stylus for my surface book! I’ve been wanting to get back into digital art for a while now, but it’s essentially impossible without a new stylus. So hopefully that’s something I can get into in the future! I will say, even though I’m very moody and emotional this week, my art and creativity has been really interesting and fresh as of late. I think there’s something about being vulnerable and emotional that really improves the quality of art, what do you think?


Tuesday, February 11

The weather has been cold and gray here for a few days, but as long as I’m indoors, I don’t really mind. Right now, I’m gearing up to start work at my internship, so that will keep me busy enough for the next six hours. Once I get back to campus, I’m going to crack down on my ethics homework and my essay due for my sociology class. The best thing for me to do when I’m combating PMDD hell week is to keep as busy as possible, so that I can distract my mind from getting too anxious or self-critical. Also, sleep is a big one too! I’m definitely aiming for a full nine hours tonight, because the seven or so hours I got last night is barely cutting it. When I was sitting on the train this morning, I could barely keep my eyes open!

Anyway, I feel like I’m still in a pretty good place, given the circumstances. I facetimed my friend Lily last night, and she always cheers me up no matter what I’m dealing with. As I said last night to her on the phone, “We’ve reached the point in our friendship where we can silently sit on facetime at 11pm and text boys who don’t love us.”


Thursday, February 13

The last couple of days have been very positive for me emotionally, so I’m hoping this means I’m going to have a decent cycle of PMDD this month! In fact, the only negative side effects that I have noticed lately are increased appetite (I’ve been eating way more than usual), and I feel absolutely fatigued. No matter how many solid hours of sleep I get, I wake up feeling exhausted to the point that I wonder if I can even get out of bed. As of right now, I’m struggling to keep my eyes open, hence why I’ve decided to try writing to see if that gets my brain going. I’ve also drank most of my coffee, but it might be time for another one. It’s frustrating to be tired, because I do get decent sleep now and it makes me feel like I’m not trying hard enough when I spend the entire morning feeling sleepy. There is definitely a level of guilt that comes with hormonal-based fatigue, even if it’s not my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it. I would be terrified to call out of work due to fatigue, because I wouldn’t want to let anyone down or make people feel like I’m incapable of doing my job. Anywho, I’m not a big napper, but today may be a Nap Day after I finish up at my internship. We shall see how I’m feeling tomorrow. 


Friday, February 14

Happy Valentine’s Day! Or Galentine’s Day, I should say. It’s about ten in the morning right now, so I’ve been up for three hours. Even though I’ve already had my coffee, the PMDD fatigue is still hitting me hard. I’m hoping it lets up soon, because Lily and I are planning on going to the MFA for a friendship date. I’ll see if I can squeeze in a nap before I get ready, at least.

Besides the fatigue and constant sleepiness, I’m feeling pretty okay! My anxiety levels have been really low lately, so I’m grateful for that. I’ve also been trying to get out more and do more social things with my friends, so we went to Target last night and goofed off. I’m so lucky to have friends who not only appreciate my chaotic energy, but match it as well. 

Regardless of how you celebrate your Valentine’s Day, remember to practice self love first and recognize your worth! You are stronger than you know!


Saturday, February 15

This week has just flown by, and I’m so happy that the weekend is here! I hope you all had a wonderful, happy Valentine’s Day with your friends and partners. I had an absolutely lovely evening with my friend Lily; we started out our night by going to one of my favorite restaurants, which is a vegan Chinese place called Grasshopper. Everything on the menu is 100% vegan, even if it has a traditional “meat” name (for example, I ordered this amazing vegetarian lo mein with “chicken” in it). It was absolutely superb, and pretty affordable as well. I’m looking forward to visiting again.

IMG_8931.jpg

After that, we went to the MFA because we get in free with our student IDs. I was hoping to see some works by my favorite artist, Edward Hopper, but the museum unfortunately was not showcasing any of his paintings at that time. Nonetheless, we viewed some really interesting pieces and had an overall lovely time. Lily is also extremely funny and animated, and she made me laugh so hard I cried a few times. It was such a feel-good night, and it reminded me that I am actually totally okay with being single. Sure, it would be nice to have somebody, but I love myself and my friends enough that I don’t really worry about it/get hung up on it. After our museum trip, we got some cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory and hung out in my room (and I’m eating my leftovers as I write this).

IMG_8929.jpg

Tonight I think I’m going to hang out with my friends on campus, and then tomorrow is going to be homework day. I was thinking about going into Boston to see my friend at Berklee tonight, but I’m honestly not really comfortable with taking the light rail by myself at night. I’m also kind of tired from all the traveling I did yesterday, and I do have some work to catch up on, so I think I’m going to stay close to home tonight. Anyway, thank you all for reading! Be on the lookout for more upcoming Analog content 🙂

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.

Mental Health Quotes Vector illustration Type template

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