When Rest is Evasive and Sleep is Impossible

Sleep has been an elusive phantom for us for our entire life. It might have started when I was 5 months old and my parents dropped me off at someone’s house in the middle of the night. They were on their way to take my brother (who was two years older than me) to a different state for necessary surgery and rehabilitation. My caregivers were people my parents trusted, and it never occurred to them that a five-month-old baby was capable of understanding that they were going to be gone a while but would return. However, when I went to sleep in my own crib and woke up with strangers in a strange place, I was deeply and profoundly traumatized.

A logical question to ask: How can I possibly remember a trauma that happened when I was so young? I can’t answer the question of how. I only know that the memory was so vivid, I remember exactly what those people looked like, I remember where the furniture in the kitchen was and what the wallpaper looked like. My father has confirmed that these memories are accurate. I have struggled with fear of abandonment almost my entire life. I can’t say for sure that the trouble with sleep started then; but it makes sense.

Other traumas throughout childhood, teen years, and well into my adult life added to the complexities of getting restful sleep. There were times when I would wake my parents up, seeking out the comfort of their presence and reassurances. Most of the time I endured quietly and alone. In my late teen years I experienced my first clearly manic episode. I was a college student and I was taking a huge overload of classes. I excelled in all my classes while getting about 2-3 hours of sleep half the time and no sleep at all the other half. Twice a week my parents drove the 45 minute jaunt to take me out to eat because most weeks that was all I ate. I wasn’t diagnosed until many years later, but the creative juices had me on a constant emotional high that is so characteristic of manic.

I wish I could say we no longer struggled with sleep, but that would not be honest. We have, however, developed several strategies to cope better. There are two that I rely on pretty much every night currently. One is listening to Christian lullabies as I try to go to sleep. They are mostly based on Scripture, often word for word passages set to orchestra music. Sometimes it actually interferes with falling asleep while they are playing because I’m listening so intently to the music and rhythm.

The second is Bible passages that cause our heart to sing with reassurance and still our soul in peace. Here is one example: Psalm 16: 1,2,5-9 “Keep and protect me, O God, for in You I have found refuge and in You do I put my trust and hide myself. I say to the Lord, You are my Lord; I have no good beside or beyond You…The Lord is my chosen and assigned portion, my cup; You hold and maintain my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good heritage. I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory [my inner self] rejoices; my body too shall rest and confidently dwell in safety.”

There are so many passages of Scripture that speak to the troubles and blessings of the heart and or soul. Sometimes I look up specific words in the concordance in the back of my Bible and read passage after passage. It’s like taking a shower of blessings and praise. In them I find the comfort to quiet my souls and the courage to release all my concerns. I encourage you, dear reader, to let your mind & heart read those words again and feast on the assurances that are there.

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