One thing I find weird (and frustrating) is the crushing exhaustion I feel while I’m having a panic attack. How is it that my sympathetic nervous system can be so wound up that my heart is racing, I’m sweating and shaking… yet sometimes I’m so fatigued I literally can curl up with some kind of a distraction (one of my podcasts or an old favorite TV show) to hold my attention just enough to slow the spinning thoughts a bit, I can fall asleep. In fact, there are times when I feel like I HAVE to sleep.
I remember years ago, when I was working at a day spa, I was going through a really tough time with panic attacks. I was having them repeatedly, including while at work. I was trying to work through them and hide it from my co-workers, it was horrible. I remember once, when there was a short span of time with no clients scheduled, the fatigue caused by my panic attacks was so debilitating that I remember going into a treatment room and literally curling up on the floor. I kept dozing off, and startling awake afraid someone would discover me. It was horrible. It still happens to me. Usually I have to fight through it because life just isn’t organized to allow me to curl up in a corner when I need it.
I recently started listening to a book my therapist recommended (Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine) that talked about this phenomenon. He described it like being in a car, putting one foot on the brake pedal while flooring the gas pedal. There’s so much energy expended with the panic reaction – the drive to run, fight, explode in a flurry of panicked bees… but the body and mind just can’t withstand that. It’s not intended to run in that high gear for long periods. Sometimes it’s safer, when threatened, to freeze… Out in the wild, if you can’t fight the threat or successfully run away from it, hiding motionless so that you won’t be seen is the last resort that might save you. Since panic is illogical & the threat is not real, you can’t fight it or run from it… so I guess it makes sense to go ahead and freeze. It would sure be a hell of a lot better to not have to respond to the imaginary beast in the first place.
Anxiety is physically and mentally exhausting. It just is.