I have insomnia.
I don’t remember not having insomnia, but I think it might have started after I had children. Perhaps it was the hormonal reset, or maybe the consequence of so many sleepless nights piled on top of one another. They were worthwhile, when I had a precious baby as consolation, but my kids are finally sleeping through, and I am still not. For a goodly period it was trouble falling asleep, and then it was trouble staying asleep–being up for several hours in the middle of the night. We’ve now moved on to waking early.
The trouble with waking early is that there are medicines you can take for falling asleep at the beginning or middle of the night. There’s nothing I can take–at least that I’m aware of–which works when you have only a couple of hours of night left. So I lay awake. I tell myself I will sleep. I imagine I have slept, am asleep, will sleep more. I count things. I think of everything. I think of nothing. I change positions, places, practices. I read. I write. I try the couch, the guest bed, the floor. And despite all good efforts, most of my days start between 4am and 5am, though some days–like yesterday–begin at times like 2:51am. I am indeed a morning person by nature, but in my opinion, that’s nowhere near morning.
Insomnia is a lonely place. I spend too many mornings in isolation. I regularly cry, pouring my broken heart to God–He seems to be the only other one awake at what always seems, ironically, like an ungodly hour. I beg for sleep. There must be something I am doing wrong, something He wants me to learn, some sin I have yet to acknowledge. Or it’s something I’m eating or drinking. Or not eating or drinking. There must be something!
The bible offers me the same contrary frustration. For example, James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). So I rejoice in the testing. I practice perseverance. I hang my hat on the promise of Peter: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). I await restoration. This could be a lesson in restoration.
But there’s also Paul: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Corinthians 12:7-10). This could be a lesson in suffering, in weakness, in God’s strength.
Most certainly, these internal debates are not helping the insomnia.
In the end, I wipe my tears. I get up and fix breakfasts and lunches and greet everyone with a cheerfulgood morning! I ignore the dull headache of exhaustion, the tingly feeling of my drained limbs. I work out, do laundry, entertain and engage. B told me the other day that I should rest when I’m tired. If I lived by that rule, I would rest all the time. I continue pressing through the day with cheer. I ignore the constant urge to shout at people: I AM NOT SLEEPING! I HAVE NOT SLEPT WELL IN MONTHS! I laugh and chatter and work, maintaining my hold on this rested disguise with weary and clumsy fingers. When it slips, I feel guilty. After all, it’s not anyone else’s fault that I’m not sleeping. But I’m not sure it’s mine either.
In the end, it’s exhaustive in itself, this process. And confusing. And lonely, again and again and again. And yet, that’s where I am right now–the middle ground of waiting with perseverance. Alone but not alone, for God truly is always awake with me, even when no one else is, with the assurance that “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Whatever this ends up being, that is.
On the plus side, I got to enjoy 2.5 extra hours of my birthday. Now if I could just unwrap a full night’s sleep…