Monday, August 8, 2011

Worry Wars

It was about 12:45 PM when I realized that there was a junior member of the household sneaking into our room. I called her over to ask what was wrong and got the usual answer of "I can't sleep". While Cecilia has been struggling with sleep issues this entire summer, I knew what this one was about - she was going to "sleep-away" camp for the first time today and was having a hard time settling down. I put her in the bed with us, more for my own comfort than hers, as she was not the only one having anxiety about this. At 1AM, she whispered, "Mommy, you know that feeling when you're half excited and and half nervous about something?"

Remember that? When you couldn't sleep because of Christmas morning, or because the next day was your birthday or even because you were so excited about the first day of school? I remember wanting to literally crawl out of my skin at those times, both dreading and hoping for the day to come. Finally falling asleep only to be awoken again what seemed like a mere moment later to start living the day that seemed so out of reach only a few hours before.

I'm sad to report that my sleeplessness generally involves only the "nervous" part of that feeling. Stress, anxiety, despair and hopelessness like to attack when the house is dark, quiet and you are the only one awake. Then the apprehension of sleeplessness resets the internal clock and next thing you know, you are awake EVERY night at 2:35. The worst part about this is the mental monologue that starts on cue the instant you open your eyes. You know, the one that can only seem to count your worries instead of sheep, the one that goes down the list of every failing you've had, both current and distant. The one who hits below the belt, telling you that you're a bad parent and that your children are going to be ruined for life because of your mistakes. Then you start wishing for the morning, but not for any reason that is good.

I have a number of tricks to try to win these nocturnal battles, regardless of the fact that I'm losing the war. Counting, visualizing steps on a staircase, listing everything I'm grateful for and finally, medication. I know everyone has stress and life is hard more often than not. I know that I have it a lot better than some, and some better than most, but that doesn't help me at 4AM, to be honest. But to find a way to hush that slithering, whispering voice in my head would be so wonderful. To not turn on myself with cruel words and harsh criticisms. To not worry about everyone and everything. To sleep peacefully, and to dream dreams that I remember and enjoy.

I don't know that any (responsible) adult will ever be as carefree as a well-loved child, but wouldn't it be great if we just got a little closer to it? To sleep the way our kids do when you check on them before you go to bed - arms and legs all akimbo and sheets thrown all over the place? I'm not sure how to get there but I am sure this world would be a much better place if we could.

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