Nightmares While I’m Awake

I lay in bed, my brain twisting with horrible thoughts. This weekend my husband takes two of our small children to a baseball game without me because I’ll stay home with the baby. A thousand scenarios race through my mind days before they leave. I can’t sleep and know I won’t be able to until they are home.

Someone could try to kidnap one of my children. There could be a bomb. My husband could be robbed at gunpoint in front of them. He could be hurt or killed.

My legs twitch and the pit in my stomach grows. Why do I do this? Worst case stories pile up. Which one is the worst? Because that’s the one I’ll play from start to finish multiple times. I hate myself for allowing these images to take over.

They could get in a car accident, killing everyone, leaving me with no family. There could be a random shooter.  

At therapy, this is explained to me as irrational thinking. My anxiety revs up when things are out of my control and I allow the news to intertwine with life. Does it help that my mother in law used to send me articles about children being snatched from grocery stories when their mothers turned their back for just a minute? No. And I’ve asked her to stop sending those. She just sent me an article about bacteria in the ocean killing people, though. I’m not sure we’ve made progress.

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They could be crossing the street and someone could run a red light. One of my kids could wander away and my husband wouldn’t notice because he’s preoccupied.

How do I turn this off? I don’t know if I can. I tell myself it’s irrational, but then a voice in my head tells me, “But these things really happen to people!” An attempt is made to silence the voice from continuing hounding me with horrible ideas.

Sunburn! Sure, it’s not as bad, but what if my husband forgets the sunscreen. Worse, they could accidentally fall off the top balcony.

Let the thoughts come in because trying to stop them causes me more anxiety. Recognize them, then figure out where they are coming from. In this case, it’s a lack of control. I won’t be there to watch after my babies (ages four and seven). My very capable husband will be companied by his father and another friend (albeit the friend has a 4-year-old also). The adults equal the number the children, which eases my worry, slightly. The scenarios anxiety comes up with play through like a train going over a crossing.

They could eat too much junk food and throw up in the car, coming homesick. Someone could flash them. I’ve been flashed in the city multiple times, the first time when I was their age. It’s not something you forget.  

I tell myself to see my thoughts. Let them pass, wave them goodbye, have hope, know the likelihood is everything will be fine. My children drive me crazy, but they are my life. I’m not always the best mom, but I’m pretty sure that definition is unattainable. Especially for an overactive thinker and anxious driven woman such as myself.

They will have a great time. They will be part of a parade of little leaguers and get to walk the bases. They will love this special time with their dad. He will feed them cotton candy and they will come home wired, maybe a little sunburn, and probably asking me about panhandlers.

Deep breath. I can’t control everything. Life would be boring and too predictable if I could, but truth be told. If I could put a magic protective bubble around my family, I would do anything to do so. Anxiety runs deep, affecting me in so many ways. Out of sight out of mind? Not when your anxiety fills in all the blanks for you.

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays on book reviews, insights on aspiring to complete her first novel, and some good ol’ fashion soul searching. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram, she’ll follow you back and not delete you.

Featured Photo by Eduardo Balderas on Unsplash

Other Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

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8 Replies to “Nightmares While I’m Awake”

  1. This sounds really intense! I have nightmares the moment I close my eyes at night, while I’m still awake. Falling asleep used to be something I looked forward to but these past few months haven’t been pleasant, ever since a traumatic experience in April. It didn’t involve family members but involved failure, university, and hospitals (specifically children). I have the same reoccurring nightmares almost every night. It’s awful.

    1. I’m so sorry. I hope time will heal your suffering. I’ve heard people say that dreams are a way to work through things troubling us. But it seems so unproductive when dreams repeat itself and cause us more anxiety

      1. Ever since failing peds clinical, this nightmare has been playing on repeat. I went into this program thinking I wanted to work in pediatrics, but this nursing instructor made that experience so traumatic (it only took her 3 weeks to ruin the entire semester) that I never want to step in that clinical rotation again. It’s crazy how instructors can take something you love and make you hate it, or make you love something you once hated.

      2. I commend you for trying. Seeing children in distress everyday would be too much for my tender heart.

  2. We talked about this in my therapy session today, sorry we talked about anxious thoughts and catastrophizing possibilities. I admitted that when my husband came home from a trip that I didn’t feel an overall sense of relief now that he was home. I expected to. I expected to feel better and that all my anxieties would be washed away. Except they weren’t. He was home but all the bad things that could happen were still there.

    I don’t know if we’re going to try to figure out what’s causing the anxious thoughts or what to do about them. I mean, I’ve been in therapy long enough to rationally know what to do about anxious thoughts but right now I can’t seem to listen to rational thinking.

    The nightmares are there. Not every night but enough. I slept peacefully last night and woke up feeling alive. Less anxious. But even now, just typing “less anxious” makes me feel anxious for not being anxious enough.

    It sucks.

    1. Yes, I know exactly how you feel. The baseball game was this weekend and everyone is home safe. My son had a great time, but I know the next time he’s out of sight the same feels come up. Actually he’s been at camp this week and it’s been really hot. I worry about him everyday

  3. My favorite is when I’m supposed to “just relax” when we have an overnight trip together. I don’t know how guys just turn that worry off.

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