Since my husband died over 4 years ago, I’ve started to suffer anxiety at night. I’ve
never really been an anxious person before and it took me some time to identify what it was.
As evening approaches I start to feel unsettled, my activity level reduces and I just want to
get the essential things done. I serve my daughter dinner and leave the washing up until
tomorrow. There is a creeping sense of dread, an unease, and as the clock ticks the desire to
go to bed becomes overwhelming.
I am becoming frustrated at my daughters increasingly busy routine, sometimes
having to go out to football training or a martial arts club, making everything go late,
squeezing in homework and shower. Extremely tired.
If she doesn’t go to bed at normal time it is sometimes too much for me and I get into
bed first but leave my side light on for her to say goodnight. I dread putting on my pyjamas,
skip my teeth or washing my face. I want to feel safe in my bed.
I hate the silence of being up alone. It makes me feel incredibly anxious. But at the
same time I fear making any noise. I would love to have some me time, watch a movie, a
series, put some music on but it fills me with nervousness. I used to be a night person before
my husband died, busy doing all sorts at night or calling people or certainly having leisure
time if not. What is it about the silence I can’t bear? And what is it about the noise?
I suppose the noise is like normal life. Normal life has resumed in the day so why not
at night? There is a sense that something bad is going to happen and so I go to bed to avoid it.
I suppose the bad thing did happen at night with my husband, we had a lovely cosy evening
watching a movie and then I woke to a lot of noise and crashing in the middle of the night as
his Cancer ridden body stumbled through the hallway having a rare stroke that put him in a
But I still can’t connect it all together. I’m not aware of feeling lonely but I’m acutely
aware of not wanting to move around very much. And so pleased the day has been
successfully negotiated I accept that as my lot and crawl into bed.
I have started to force myself to read a few pages of a book to wind down. In the past
I tried bigger things. Sticking sequins on a piece of wood, mindfulness (which made it
worse), and I did manage to watch the odd movie or series episode from time to time.
I seem to be better when my daughter isn’t here and it puzzles me why that is. I’ll stay
up a little later and I will watch something although I’ll swap that for the cooking. I still
wouldn’t use the phone. I like being completely alone from time to time, not having to worry
about her. But then what’s the worry when she is asleep. Still though in the background the
fear is present.
I don’t feel l’m grasping the root of the problem. I still haven’t identified what this
foreboding is. I’d like my evenings back. I’d like my old self in the evenings back, it’s like a
whole part of me is missing everyday. It’s also just unpleasant to feel like this every night.
Everything changes when you lose a spouse. In some ways you become a better
person, stronger person, a warrior. But in others you are left wounded and with new
neuroses you didn’t have before. For me it’s Anxiety. I never knew Anxiety until my husband
died. I knew extreme mood states of Depression and Elation from my Bipolar Disorder. But
And there lies the answer! I’ve found it. What probably chases me at night is simple.
It’s a manifestation of unspent Grief. Perhaps it’s not ‘doing’ something that’s necessary.
Perhaps I need to just sit in silence and discomfort and observe it. Not running to bed. Not
lamenting that I feel rubbish and want to be doing something ‘normal’.
I discovered some months ago that my Grief was disguising itself as Anxiety. I don’t
know why I hadn’t linked that to these dreadful evenings. It makes sense that I would miss
him more at night. For the next week I am going to sit with it and give it space and see if my
question is answered by this action. I feel apprehensive already but this might just be my
vehicle for change.
I didn’t publish this immediately as I imagined I may want to return to it. I’ve just had
2 nights alone without my daughter and it’s been considerably challenging. On the first night
I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t Grief causing the Anxiety but a generalised discomfort
at being alone. I managed to start watching a series and make myself a meal but I still felt the
anxiety and I still did not feel settled until I was safe under my duvet. When you’ve been
with someone for 11 years it is hard to be alone of night. The silence is creepy and I need to
find my strength in being an independent woman again and find my own safety, feel safe
within myself not because I have a partner who makes me feel safe.
But on the second night I realised it was more complicated. I realised how much fear I
live with. I have a fear of life. In the day I am busy taken up with all the activities of caring
for my child, writing, doing my various jobs and Occupational activities. In night the demons
are out. The fears come alive. I haven’t even known what they are. I still don’t fully know
what they are. They have been sitting there quietly not letting me want to make noise, making
me want to go to bed and hide from them. I am frightened of my responsibilities. It comes
down to my illness. I watched the entire series on “Spinning Out” in a day during my alone
time from my daughter and it came to a head. The programme is about an Ice Skater heading
for the Olympics but suffering from Bipolar Disorder and the relationship with her mother
who also has Bipolar Disorder. I found it profoundly affecting. I could see the destruction of
not taking medication. Her life was going so well when she was complying with her meds
routine and all the damage happened when she stopped it. Yet I wanted to feel that alive.
The programme brought up so many emotions from my past from when I’d tried
similar experiments with my medication before I’d had my child when I’d gone wrong and it
ended in catastrophe yet still. I feel trapped by medication. Although I feel in a constant fear
of becoming unwell which I know means I need to take it. I didn’t like seeing the Disorder
portrayed on screen yet I was gripped. I work a better programme of self-management than
them but I was fearful of the seriousness of the possible consequences of the illness. Still it
was strangely enticing to think of reducing my meds. I didn’t want any responsibilities
anymore. My responsibilities make me fearful in case I can’t meet them. My child is my
greatest gift and I love her more than anything. But it is a huge work for me to continue to
meet her needs on a daily basis and live with this illness.
Yet she keeps me alive. She is my life force. She has literally saved my life. There is
no question I would be dead if it were not for my daughter. I’m moving from place to place
with this but my mind has been moving from place to place. I have to find a way to live with
the fear, to manage it. I guess I have to CBT myself. Bring the fears into the foreground and
identify them. Write them down and challenge them. But sometimes it would be nice if life
was not so much hard work. If I could just be chilling not constantly working on something.
Sometimes I just don’t want to do this alone, the driving to school, the shopping, cooking,
cleaning, taking to after school club, dealing with important issues that crop up as well as
having to deal with all the stiff I’m doing in my own life to try and make this year the first
year even that I don’t have an episode in Spring.
I really need that. I need that turning point. I need to hold onto the determination I had
a few days ago but it’s really fucking hard when you feel like you don’t know what to cook
for dinner let alone how to shop and you are dreading doing all the after school club rushing
around when school resumes next week. Life just sometimes feels like its too busy for
someone with all my challenges but in reality I do have the time. After every episode I’m
relearning how to live and I live in fear that it will all come crumbling down.
As the anxiety has gripped me and turned into a relentless fear as the past few days
have elapsed I have realised it is simple. One simple thing. My husband made me feel safe. I
felt safe in his arms, Safe in his company. Safe knowing he was there, to come home to, even
in bed asleep. Just safe having him around for 11 years. I need to learn how to feel safe in my
own skin alone again. Reduce the vulnerability that the echoes of my experiences have left
behind. Rebuild my strength. I seem to possess it all day as a mother to complete my role and
maybe that’s why it fades as evening beckons. I am running out of steam. I need to construct
something genuine inside of me, for me. I’m not sure where to start although this awareness
is a key point. I imagine bringing my fears to a conscious level a challenging them will be the
next. I can cope, I am coping. I just need to learn how to feel comfortable alone.