I finally started sleeping at night a few weeks ago.
Not every night.
Maybe one day out of the week.
That strung into three.
It started happening randomly.
There was no formula. I’d been doing the same things, feeling the same way, battling the same anxieties.
But, for some reason, the nights I’ve been able to fall asleep — and stay asleep — started emerging every few days or so.
I still have to take a light sleep medication. Ambien — it’s the price of admission, to even have a chance at falling asleep. And I can’t stay asleep too long. Maybe five hours on a good night. But, it is still 1000% better than what it has been for the past year — which has been insomnia for weeks that stretched into months.
If I had been able to sleep at all, it had been broken. Two to three hours spurts, interrupted by hot flashes. Anxious thoughts. Panic attacks. And on the nights void of panic attacks, I’d just lay there helplessly as the night poured out into the dawn, tired and dark as molasses, even though I was so exhausted, my eye sockets would ache and my bones throb with hurt.
Sleep continued to elude me.
This has been my life for one year.
Wall Papered Memories
But, three weeks ago — after my last post here on Faith Barista — I started sleeping.
I certainly wouldn’t have guessed sleep could return out of the blue. So out of context.
Dr. P and I have been working through one particularly traumatic memory in my life.
For the past three months.
This was a very deep and painful chapter in my life.
I was seventeen.
And as you can tell from my writing these few months, it’s made me incredible heart broken to relive it in the tehnicolor of heightened sensory that comes with a body and nervous system amplified by post-traumatic stress.
And overwhelmed with grief.
Dr. P tells me this isn’t me now, who is drowned out by these intense feelings of numbness and excruciating aloneness.
It’s seventeen year old me, who has been frozen and sealed off by wallpapered memories.
It’s the seventeen-year-old-me who had lived many lifetime’s worth of aloneness and fear — since she was four years old.
For the First Time
I haven’t been able to even get out of bed most days.
Even when I drag myself out to take a walk in the morning and enjoy intimate time in prayer with Jesus, I find myself going back to bed, as a place of comfort.
Until it’s time time pick up my kids.
Then, I seem to come alive for them. I play with them. I go to Target, drive to Costco, buy my groceries, help with homework, cook, read CJ stories in preschool voices and listen to TJ demo the features of his latest spaceship Legos.
Then, after they’re tucked into bed and the dishes are washed, I take my bath. I’ll spend some quiet time sipping tea, reading or listening to soothing music and reflecting on Scripture I’d read earlier in the morning.
And I go back to bed.
To brave the night once again.
Except this time, for more than a few nights thereafter, things were different.
I’ve been able to sleep. For the first time.
I was excited to tell Dr. P this one morning.
Maybe I’m finally touching the surface after tunneling through so much trauma. Maybe my body is finally beginning its release through the memories that have been reignited.
It Is Now Time
Dr. P was very happy for me.
He tells me this is a big step in my recovery.
And we proceeded our therapy session that day, to process the remaining roots of the traumatic memory that we’ve been working through.
As I begin to gather my things at the end of the session, blowing my nose, and draining the last sips of my tea before I leave, Dr. P says it is now time for me to consider the next step.
What? I ask.
“It’s important,” Dr. P prefaces. “I want you to think about… reconnecting with your father.”
The dad I last saw when I was seven years old? Are you kidding me?
I don’t think so.
“Just think about it… Talk to Jesus. See what He says.” He prompts.
Just when I started sleeping again, you want me to do what?
Open a can of worms — to more emotional drama?
Nothing to think about there.
At least that’s what I thought…
The week before my next therapy session, my mind kept returning to a scene in the Bible where a man was lying next to the pools in Bethsada.
He was an invalid.
He could not move.
He could only lie there day after day, next to the pools that were rumored to grant him healing. If he made it in first, when the waters were stirred.
But, somehow, he never touch those waters in time.
He was trapped there.
For 38 years.
Out of all the people who piled around the pools hoping for a miracle — lame, blind, handicapped and suffering — Jesus saw this one man.
Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well.
Then, Jesus asked him to pick up his mat.
The one he had been lying on for 38 years.
Pick up my mat.
What is the mat you want me to pick up, Jesus?
What realities have I accepted living with for my “38 years” so long, that they have become immovable parts of my identity?
Like the paralytic man who is chained to his place by the pool — how have I adopted ways of coping, managing life, relating, and surviving — that might be keeping me from healing?
From the very beginning, when it first dawned on me —
Bonnie. Your panic attacks aren’t going away.
What’s worked before — staying strong, reading more Scripture, praying more fervently, exerting more self-discipline, applying greater optimism — isn’t going to solve this problem.
From the very beginning, Jesus has been whispering one phrase into my heart, as I read this story.
You’ve rowed your oars upstream for oh so long. It is time to stop.
Follow the current downstream.
Are you afraid where will it lead ? You can be afraid with me.
Follow me. Downstream.
Like the sun, faintly lit behind the fog rolling through coastal skyline, these words drew me to set out and seek a therapist to help me.
And now, here I am, one year later, asking —
Jesus, are you asking me to do what I’ve vowed I’d never do?
Are you asking me to look for my father, 36 years after the day he cried into my shoulders, and then drove off, leaving me with his tear choked whispers, “Say bye, bye to Daddy. Say bye, bye now. Daddy isn’t coming back anymore.”
To be continued…
“I have heard your prayer;
I have seen your tears.
I will heal you.” ~ 2 Kings 20:5
How is Jesus prompting you to pick up your mat?
How is Jesus placing the word “follow” on your heart today?
Pull up a chair. Before you say a word, I want to thank you for praying for me. The prayers you’ve whispered for me, as I’ve come to mind, are being heard. I continue to think of you and remember you as I echo my prayers as well.
I feel so small and yet, you’ve surrounded me with big encouragement, just by being present with your thoughts in the moment. Strangers we cease to be, when we share a quiet understanding for the walk of faith we are on.
My social circle has been very small this past year. But I can see, by the trail of words & stories you’ve shared with me, this painful stretch of the faith journey has brought me greater & deeper acceptance than I would’ve believed. Thank you for opening up your hearts and allowing me to hear & see Jesus in you, as is.
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*Next Thursday’s 3/21/13* Writing Prompt: It’s the last two weeks of Lent. Lent comes from old English word meaning “spring”. Imagine Jesus whispering the word “spring” into your heart. Reflect and share the thoughts and feelings that flow from hearing Jesus whisper “spring”.
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