My middle of the night anxiety is the. absolute. worst. For anyone new here I have had anxiety all of my life. It is not something you catch, and until I was diagnosed, I just thought it was normal. Normal to have panic attacks, shortness of breath, spontaneous crying, sadness, overwhelming fear (usually of nothing) etc. etc. etc. normal… uh huh. Once I was diagnosed I looked back at the years of medication, my denial, instances as far back as a child where I was completely stricken with this mental disorder, but never believed it was that bad. I was medicated many times over the years, and as soon as the meds would work, I would go “see there, I am fine now!” and then stop taking them and derail a few months later.
Now sure there are aspects of life that can exacerbate my mental health issues, but you know you really have a disorder when you survive years of domestic violence and chaos, you build a healthy, safe and happy life, and guess what?! Anxiety still resides resoundingly in me.
Back to my original comment, which will, in turn, land me back on-topic (hopefully), my anxiety at night is the worst of all. I will wake up short of breath, in sheer panic, heart exploding out of my chest, tears falling out of my eyes with nothing to blame. I will pace and try to breathe, run through a variety of tricks that sometimes help, and usually, reluctantly rely on a Xanax to finally slow it all down. A few months ago I started trying to think of reasons it would be so much worse at night. I watched my habits, eating, drinking, timeline. I documented dreams and chose my intake of T.V. shows, reading material, and social media more carefully. Then I remembered what my nights were like during the abusive relationship.
I cannot say for sure that it stems directly from what you are about to read. I remember laying awake terrified over nothing as a child, night after night, but for some reason, I feel the events of the abusive years catapulted my night panic into overdrive.
So there I was, a few years into the abusive relationship completely in-love, reliant, and loyal to the man who broke me down to nothing. The manipulations, verbal and mental abuse, cheating, lying, dismantling of my strong self, had been underway for the entire time, far before I even realized it. Then the physical violence started. He controlled me through fear and through physical force. As I laid in bed next to this monster, I would fluctuate between this submissive, broken woman and the old me riling me up to seek out evidence and proof to set me free.
And it was always there.
Somewhere after midnight, I would slide out of bed, and then tiptoe to our bedroom door. I would wait for his snoring inhale and turn the knob millimeters at a time. Once outside the bedroom, I would repeat the process to close it behind me. In order to not wake the kids or dog, I would walk as lightly as I could down the hall. Once at the stairs I had mapped out exactly where to step on each step to avoid any creaking. One by one I would descend downstairs, through another hall and into the kitchen. Once there I would slide the keys off the hook, and face another door knob, stopping every few minutes to listen for any movement, over my pounding heart. So loud at times, I would have to really focus on any other noise.
At this point, if he caught me I could claim I was getting water or something for my headache, convince him not to be upset and then scurry back to bed. Hearing his footsteps was terrifying. Being extremely quiet and stealthy became second nature. At the next door, I would wrestle with the handle for a few minutes in the same fashion as the first. My stomach would begin to knot up and my pulse would race, knowing that if he found me outside, I would be in for it. Once outside of the house, I would slide the gate open just far enough to wiggle my 115-pound frail frame through. My palms sweating, fear mounting. I would stay close to the house like I imagined a thief would do, and up into the opposing side of is vehicle. Fearing someone catching me, or worse him seeing me, I worked very quickly.
I would slide the key in the lock, slowly opening the door. Once inside I would search for any one of fifteen spots he would so boldly and blatantly leave the evidence. And, it was always there. Hotel receipts, cards and love notes from women, message after detailed message in his phone. Pictures and even personal items that definitely belonged to a woman.
My heart would sink, the sadness would overcome me. The tiny piece of who I used to be would fill with rage and then quickly diminish with fear. I knew I would only betray her again, that strong little piece of who I used to be, just as I had every time before. I would put everything back in its place. Then, proceed to reverse every step and act of defiance in getting out of the house. I would say, “fuck that, kick him out, you have proof!” and then I would follow it with, “no way, he will have an excuse, you are just crazy… look at you out here in the middle of the night!” and then I would imagine the battle I was not prepared for. I would crawl back into our bed, weak and sick, disappointed in myself more than I was in him.
Next to him, completely betraying myself and all that I knew was right.
I stayed, night after night. Woman after woman.
Those nights were even worse than the physical violence. The assaults from him paled in comparison to my self-torture in staying. Years in this hell, with a depth I never thought I would escape left me unable to find any part of me left, a stranger in the mirror’s reflection.
Maybe it was my anxiety that kept me up, or maybe my anxiety is now fueled by the memory of nights like those. It’s hard to say. Either way, I am grateful I found the strength to leave, for myself and my son. Leaving is the only ammunition I have in overcoming the embarrassment, shame and guilt I carry with me.
What I can tell you is that since then, I trust my instincts, and they are NEVER wrong. Further, I honor them. If you are in a situation and things do not feel right, you are not crazy, they probably are not. I will never ever again
invade someone’s personal items that way. be with someone who makes me feel like I need to look. If they are not transparent enough to trust and believe in, they simply are not the person for me. No need to look, just move along fella. And honestly, at this point in life, if they do not seem like they have good intentions, I am too tired to wait around to find out.
I offer too much love, respect, and loyalty to settle for less.