Night time was always my favourite time. During the day I would have been busy, worked hard, made money and night time was when I was finally allowed to stop and rest. I always loved the feeling of getting into bed with fresh sheets, especially if it was right after I had shaved my legs. Oh my goodness, bliss. Sometimes I'd read, sometimes I'd surf the net, sometimes I'd just lay there... a big smile on my face, thinking to myself how grand life was at that very moment.
Then I became a parent.
I had never suffered from anxiety before I my kids were born and I had never hated night time like I do now. What was once my safe place, my reward at the end of a long day, my little slice of heaven on Earth... had suddenly become my worst nightmare. After my daughter was born, night time was dark, lonely and oh so very long.
I couldn't put my finger on it at the time but for some reason, a few weeks after I became a mum, I started dreading the night. We had a winter baby so the days were short. As soon as the sun started to get low in the sky and the mild weather from the day became chilly and frosty, I slowly began to panic. Another night was rolling in... there was nothing I could do to stop it... I started to find it hard to focus. I was easily distracted and I couldn't relax. I was on edge, irritable, snappy. As I started having to close curtains and put on lights, it would get worse. Goodbye world... Goodbye other human beings... Hello darkness... Hello isolation.
This was all completely irrational of course, because I wasn't actually alone at all. I had my husband and our baby. Later, I would have my husband, our toddler and our new baby. But thinking that, trying to remind myself of that... it never helped. I was alone. I think it was something about the quiet. The calm. The stillness. The dark. (This was all in between the crying, hungry baby and the annoyed, frustrated toddler of course.) Those brief moments when the whole house just... stopped... and everyone would be asleep. You'd think a mother would savour those moments of peace - for some reason, they only made me sad.
I was sad because it was the only chance I could be alone with my thoughts... and they weren't the kind to bring a smile to my face. The business of the day would be over and I had no choice but to dwell... reflect... worry... cry. I certainly wasn't sleeping - anxiety is good at getting in the way of that. For some reason I was scared. What I was scared of is still not clear to me however I think I was scared of something happening during the night that I couldn't handle. What if I fall apart during the night. What if I can't cope? What if both kids wake up at the same time? What the heck do I do then?
There was something about the sun being up that gave me strength and I never found myself getting as anxious. If it was daytime, I would feel as though I could cope a little better. I didn't feel like the only person awake on Earth because I could see other people walking around, getting on with their lives.
Yes, night time is now my least favourite time. While my anxiety is better controlled now I still find it hard to relax as the day draws to an end. I still feel my heart rate rising as the sun begins to set. I still start to get nervous about the night setting in as the street lights come on. As I write this, I'm up once a night (at least) with our 14 month old feeding/settling him and for some reason our daughter is going through an incredibly challenging phase involving refusing to stay in her bed and screaming the house down if we try to make her. Night times aren't fun at the moment. They're stressful, long and tiring - anything but restful.
It's the late afternoon right now and I'm already dreading what sort of night we will have. My anxiety is heightened by the unknown. It might be totally fine. The kids might go to bed with no dramas, I might enjoy a cuppa with my husband as we watch a bit of trash and I might get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Or... it could be worse. A lot worse.
Ugh - anxiety is rising now even as I think about it.
It's just so weird, how the sun affects my anxiety. It comes up, my anxiety will fade away. It goes down and disappears, my anxiety will resurface and reappear.
My favourite time of day has definitely changed to first thing in the morning. The sun coming through my blinds, warming our little house, filling it with hope, reminds me that I survived. I survived and I will continue to survive... just long as the sun continues to rise.