You know it is time to ask for help when the sleepy little Waze guy in his comfy hammock above the words Sleep Mode bring you to tears.
I am not making this up.
In case anyone other than my mother has noticed my absence here on the blog, I haven’t written much lately because I have been operating on decreased brain power. In the last few weeks, I have experienced two long stretches of sleepless nights. Four or five nights in a row of less than three hours of sleep results in subpar functioning for this already middle-aged muddled brain. Writing coherent words was not happening.
No sleep also pisses me off and makes me say more curse words than usual.
As I have lamented here before, middle age hormones have been disruptive to my much beloved sleep. Until recently, the disruption to my sleep primarily looked like a few restless nights a month and was generally well managed with strategic doses of Benadryl and Melatonin.
Recently however, I have begun to have nights where I flip and flop until the wee hours of the morning or never fall asleep at all. In recent weeks, this has turned into a nightly ritual and a gigantic pain in the ass. When I started crying at the sight of the Waze guy dozing in his hammock, I knew it was time to go see my doctor.
Here is the good news: thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, I finally slept for 9 uninterrupted hours last night. In a bed. All night. When I woke up and looked at my watch this morning, I threw my arms over my head with fist pumps of victory. I haven’t been so grateful for a decent night’s sleep since my babies first slept through the night.
Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, So what. We all have problems, Kelly. Why are you telling us about this and why should we care?
I’m so glad you asked.
As the fog begins to clear today, I am pausing to consider what I am learning from this struggle which might translate to other challenges in our lives. Keeping in mind I am still operating from a major sleep deficit, here is what I have come up with so far:
Asking for help is hard. Like many of you, I prefer to be a source of strength and comfort to others, rather than the recipient. I don’t like others to see me struggling and I don’t like to ask for help. I consider myself a problem-solver. If I don’t know the answer, I almost always know where to find it. But several nights of wandering my house desperate for sleep despite all my best efforts reminded me how vulnerable I am. Whether it be an unexpected health challenge or circumstances we didn’t anticipate, we are all fragile. I couldn’t solve, manage, manipulate or fix this problem on my own. I had to reach out for help and I needed an expert. I also needed to whine and cry to my family and ask some friends to pray for me. My people have been very kind to me lately.
Sometimes we just need a win. When I finally went to the doctor, I told him I wanted us to come up with a plan to manage these hormonal issues going forward, but first I needed a good night’s sleep ASAP. Before I could look at the long-term, I needed to fix the most pressing short-term problem. When life seems overwhelming, sometimes we just need to focus on doing the next right thing. A little bit of progress can renew our resolve and enable us to fight another day. I know my problem is not solved entirely, but one night of good sleep gives me hope for an eventual solution. It also recharges my waning sense of humor and general good attitude. I missed them both.
I know some really brave people. It is not lost on me how my problems pale in comparison to many of those in the lives of people around me. At 4:30 in the morning, when I am facing the third sleepless night in a row, I began to understand more deeply how difficult it is for my loved ones who battle anxiety. As I struggle through another day foggy from lack of sleep, I think about my friends who face chronic illness or debilitating pain every day of their life with courage. As I wander the house, moving from bed to couch and back again, I think about my homeless friends trying to sleep in their cars, in the woods or on a thin mat on the floor of the hypothermia shelter. I know and love some bad ass warriors who face down hard things every day with grace, resilience and a sense of humor. I am lucky to witness their bravery and grateful for their example.
I am grateful for ordinary days. I remember learning this lesson when I suffered from frequent migraine headaches a few years ago. Back then, I began to notice and give thanks for the days when I did NOT have a headache. For my friends with chronic illness, I know the good days are cause for celebration. Crawling into bed, fluffing my pillow and snuggling in for the night doesn’t seem like a big deal until bedtime becomes a battleground. As I get older, I am more and more grateful for a body and mind which works reasonably well most days. This latest detour has been a good reminder of the beauty of the ordinary.
By the way, feel free to leave me any prayer requests you might have as I tend to have a great deal of time for prayer these days. If I know you, I have likely prayed for you lately. You are welcome. Ok, enough philosophizing from me for tonight. It’s almost bedtime again, so wish me luck as I head back into battle. Don’t worry, I’m a brave warrior and, if necessary, I am now armed with pharmaceutical weapons. 🙂