Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sleeping alone


When I was a child growing up in Bishop, California, we experienced intense windstorms. The type of storms that would make the house shake and the howling terrified me. I swear, I thought for sure that the house would come off its foundation and blow away, just like in the Wizard of Oz. When these windstorms hit (sometimes, the winds would get up to 70 miles per hour), I would wake up and try to go back to sleep and calm my pounding heart. I was embarrassed to wake up my parents. I felt like such a coward. Usually, I just couldn't help it. I'd finally get out of bed, got my parents' bedroom and tell them how afraid I was. I would crawl into bed with my mom and my dad would go sleep in my bed. Finally with someone in bed with me, I could go back to sleep and actually sleep very well. No worries. I was safe.

As I grew older, I loved storms. When I lived in Washington, DC, the amazing thunder and lightening storms were some of my favorite things. I marveled at what nature could do and I felt so safe and protected indoors while danger lurked just outside.

After getting diagnosed with myeloma, I became childlike again. I was afraid to sleep alone. I felt danger everywhere. I actually felt danger lurking inside my body and there was nowhere safe to hide. If I was around other people, with lots of distractions, I didn't have to think about it as much. But when no one was around and it was just me and God, well, I felt terror sometimes. I'd pray and beg God to let me live, to let the treatments work, and to let me be alive long enough to raise my children. But there was not safety, no respite. I oftentimes simply slept on the couch. I was in so much pain that getting in and out of bed could be really "un-fun" and so the couch was easier. But when I did sleep in my own bed, I slept with the TV on. Sex In The City played all night long until (and I don't know what time this was) it switched over to info-mercials. I would wake up around 6:30 and switch it to the local news and then at 7:00AM, start my ritual of getting out of bed and waking up the girls for school. Without the TV on, I became too afraid to get rest.

It took me a good eight months before I could turn off the TV and sleep soundly in silence. When that happened, I realized that I had made important progress in my emotional healing. I was surviving my diagnosis and my divorce. Things were slowly improving and life was achieving a sense of normalcy for me.

I  no longer fear silence, darkness or even death. I want to live. I love life. But, really, I fear nothing. I mean, I do fear cancer and chronic illness. Of course, who doesn't? But letting go of fear is rather amazing. It doesn't mean I don't ever experience fear, grief, or sadness. But I know that inside this body is a survivor.