Lately, I have been having a lot of trouble sleeping. As most of you know, that isn't an unusual state for me. I never sleep very well, and it seems like the earlier I go to bed, the more tired I am in the morning. The sleep study I had done in mid-February only showed that I don't have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. (I wasn't surprised by that, as Phil tells me that I almost never snore, and snoring is one of the main symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.) Anyway, I was disappointed by the results of the sleep study, as I was hoping that they would find something that could be easily remedied and I would be able to sleep. What a sharp disappointment to find that once again, the doctor's couldn't figure out what is causing my symptoms! Several people had suggested to me that my sleeping problems must be the result of my husband's absence - it must be depression, since I miss him so much....
Well, I grabbed hold of that thought with much hope (never mind the fact that I haven't slept well in at least 2 years - long before Phil got his orders to Korea) and told myself that I would sleep really well while we were in Korea visiting him. I'm sure you can imagine the disappointment I felt when I realized that I was not sleeping any longer or better there than I do here. The only difference was that I managed to get myself to bed much earlier each night while we were there than I ever do here. Still, I woke up several times during the night, just as I do here, and I was just as tired each morning.
I've been telling myself that the reason I followed an earlier bedtime schedule in Korea was because I forgot to bring any of my projects with me and I didn't have any reason to stay up. So when I realized this week that I've been staying up until the wee hours of the morning again, I determined to cut down on my projects and get myself to bed at an earlier hour. I know that, even though I'm still tired in the morning no matter when I go to bed, it probably is better over all to go to bed at 10:00 rather than 2:00 or 3:00. Even though I don't notice a difference in the level of my fatigue, there probably is a difference....
So yesterday, I made a point to get everything I needed to do finished by 9:00pm. I was so proud of myself! I was going to get to bed early and start taking care of myself better....
Instead, I found myself creating little busywork tasks to accomplish before bed, and before you know it, it was nearly 2:30am, and I was still up and about. That's when I suddenly realized that there truly was a difference when I was in Korea with my sleeping. It's not that I went to bed because I didn't have anything to do (I could easily have stayed up to catch up on our family blog), but because I wasn't afraid of not waking up. Last January, when I was talking to Dr. Boggan (my neurosurgeon) about the breathing trouble I've been having and how it sometimes catches me off guard and I realize that I am not breathing, how I have to sometimes consciously think about breathing or else I just stop... Anyway, Dr. Boggan reassured me by saying, "Don't worry too much about it. As long as you are awake, you will breathe." It hadn't really occurred to me before that comment, but if I have episodes when my breathing stops while I'm awake, it's likely that it occurs sometimes while I'm asleep. So what if one of these times, I don't catch myself and remind myself to breathe?
Anyway, last night, as I realized that I was avoiding going to bed, it suddenly occurred to me that the big difference between here and Korea was that I knew that if something happened to me while I was sleeping there, Phil would probably notice, and he could wake me up and get me to breathe again. Here, I don't have anyone next to me while I'm sleeping, and there's no guarantee that I would catch myself. I realized that, even though that fear is not the cause of my sleeping troubles (the fear came as a result of the sleeping troubles), it is amplifying them because now, I am afraid to even go to bed at all! It's less terrifying to simply take small naps here and there throughout the day, never getting into sleep deep enough to sleep through a breathing episode.
I can't just not sleep, though. Especially with Phil gone, I have to take care of myself so that there will be someone to take care of the house and the kids. So I went to bed. Still, I could not drift off to sleep. I kept thinking of other little things that I could do first. I felt like crying! Instead, I prayed for help and guidance with this problem. I prayed for peace and especially for the ability to sleep this night.
As soon as I said "amen" there was a knock at my bedroom door. I groaned. It just figured that, as soon as I prayed for help sleeping, one of the kids would need me and prevent that sleep anyway! I started to get up to go check on whoever it was. (I try not to let the kids come sleep in my bed at night, because I sleep so restlessly that having a small child in the bed often keeps me awake even more than usual.) Then, a thought entered my mind: Why not just have the child come in to talk to me? Then, I could send her (or him) back to bed, and I wouldn't have to get up. So I did. It turns out that it was Becky. She said that she had a bad dream, but when I asked her about it, she couldn't remember anything. She just needed a hug and to cuddle.
That's when it finally occurred to me: I had just finished pouring out my heart to my Heavenly Father, pleading with Him for a way to sleep, even though I was terrified of sleeping alone. I asked for comfort and a way to feel that I wasn't alone. That was precisely when my sweet little angel Becky had come to my room with a vague fear that could only be comforted by a hug from Mom. Wasn't this, in fact, an answer to my prayer? I broke my rule and made room for her next to me on the bed. She settled in and fell asleep immediately. I did too, and the 4 hours that I got last night were more refreshing than any sleep I've had in quite a while. I think I slept straight through the entire 4 hours!
It was amazing, yet it wasn't a first. Becky seems to be particularly in tune with the Spirit where my health is concerned. Maybe that's because she was only a month old when my brain tumor was discovered, and she has pretty much grown up in the doctor's office with me. Or maybe we just have a very special bond. Who knows for sure? But it always seems to be Becky who comes running to check on me just as I'm experiencing some difficult trial related to my health.
For instance, the last time Phil was in Korea, I decided to mow the lawn one day. The kids were pretty small back then (Ben was 6, Emily 4, Becky 2 and Katie not quite 1), and I was reluctant to leave them inside unattended while I was mowing, but I didn't want them playing around the lawn mower either. My neighbor, Kate, who lived just a couple of doors down, came to my rescue and offered to let my kids come play in her yard with her kids until I was finished and came to get them. Kate tells me that about 15 or 20 minutes after she brought the kids to her house, Becky announced that she needed to go home to check on Mommy. Kate told her no, she needed to stay out of Mommy's way, and Mommy would come get her when she was done. Becky was insistent, but Kate was unbendable on this one. Then, one of Kate's children needed something, and Becky snuck off while Kate's attention was diverted to come back down the street to our house.
Meanwhile, I had passed out just as I finished mowing the lawn. I remember that I had bent down to empty the bag on the mower and then I was on the ground. I was in and out of consciousness, and I remember staring at the grass under my face and thinking "I need to get up, this isn't good" but I couldn't fully pull myself out of it. Suddenly, I felt a little hand, gently shaking my shoulder, and I heard a little voice say, "Mommy, wake up." I looked up and saw Becky's concerned face, and that was enough to bring me back. I got up and looked around, but I didn't see anyone. I assumed that I must have imagined it, but I was so grateful for the prodding, even an imaginary one, that finally brought me out of it. I put the lawn mower away and went to get the kids.
When I told my story to Kate, she assured me that I hadn't imagined Becky's presence. About 5 minutes earlier, Becky had, in fact, come back to our yard while Kate had been distracted. She was only gone for a couple of minutes before she had come running back, so Kate hadn't had time to come looking for her. She must have come to wake me up and then run back before I woke fully and got up. Still, there is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't have been able to wake myself up without her help. And no one else would have come to check on me for quite a while, since the agreement was that I would come get the kids when I was finished.
There have been other little times that Becky has come to check on me just when I need someone. She always seems to know before anyone else. I am so grateful! And I guess I don't need to fear. If she is that in tune with the Spirit, if she could know to come and wake me up when she was down the street, she could feel the prompting to come wake me up when she is in a bedroom across the hall. Just because Phil isn't here doesn't mean I am alone at night. My Heavenly Father is watching over me, and my sweet little guardian angel is intently listening to the whisperings of the Spirit. I truly am blessed.