Anxiety and Insomnia: The Tag Team of My Nightmares

Am I counting sheep or reasons to live?

Bertilla Niveda


A tense woman who has anxiety and insomnia, but is trying to stay strong.
Photo by Marie Pankova from Pexels

By conventional standards, I was an excellent student in school. Apart from getting brilliant grades, I also enjoyed several extracurricular activities like sports, music, writing, and art.

Although it felt idyllic back then, I was unknowingly becoming an anxious perfectionist, struggling to meet the expectations of practically everyone I knew. In retrospect, there were fairly alarming signs that should have warned me of what was happening in my head.

At 16, I broke down in tears some nights while studying fervently for days together and brushed it off as something common. Not such a big deal, right? I grew up in a society that places tremendous importance on examinations. With the mounting levels of pressure, it was quite reasonable.

But, kicking a wall in frustration after doing “badly” on a test? Yup. I broke my foot because I was vexed about losing a few grade points. As much as I used to debate my parents and relatives on how my worth is not determined by a few papers, I had no choice but to give in to the flawed system and do my best to not disappoint anyone.

Stumbling into my 20s — The onslaught of anxiety

In college, I learned more about mental illness and what it’s like to live with it. I empathized deeply with my friends who had social anxiety and tried to be there for them as much as I could. But, at the time, I didn’t understand what it actually feels like to have a panic attack and have your body shut down. Until it hit me like a pile of bricks.

Here’s what happened. I used to stay up late on nights before exams but never pulled a full all-nighter until I absolutely had to. In my third semester, with one day to revise between exams, I got little to no sleep almost every day. Now, this was going fine until I had to write an exam in the afternoon.

I tried to sleep the night before, at least for an hour. But no matter what I did, I simply could not doze off. I assumed things would go fine just like always and sat down in the examination hall the next afternoon, tired and woozy. And, to my utter dismay, I soon became overcome by bouts of dizziness and…



Bertilla Niveda

Artist, engineer, and writer with a lot to say. You can connect with me at | Learn more→