I don’t sleep much. I lie awake, night after night, trying to trick my brain into shutting down. I pray – long, winding prayers that end in a plea for sleep or short, memorized prayers I murmur on repeat, hoping the monotony will bring me enough peace and comfort that I’ll slip quietly into oblivion. I’ve tried everything – counting, breathing exercises, simple meditation – and still sleep eludes me.
I am so very tired.
I’ve been this way ever since I can remember so I can’t blame it on cancer or motherhood, though both serve to exacerbate the problem. I’m simply an anxious person, an over-thinker, an analyzer, a worrier. I remember my parents playing a relaxation CD to help me sleep. I would listen to the entire thing, knowing it was nearly an hour long, dreading the moment it would stop.
Most people don’t understand. They tell me to calm down or relax or chill out. They tell me to stop worrying and let it go. But I can’t. If I were able, wouldn’t I do it?
We spent New Year’s Eve playing darts in the Cave, the TV showing us celebrations in Australia and Japan, the monitor humming in the window (the only place it gets a wireless connection). Twenty minutes before midnight we decided to take the monitor to the front yard and watch some fireworks. We walked a hundred yards into the street, where the neighbors were drinking and laughing and shooting fireworks. We said hello and moved a little further from the house and then the monitor started beeping, no longer connected to the wi-fi.
I immediately felt breathless, panicked. What if Zoey wakes up sick? What if she learns to climb out of her crib? What if she chokes on something?
I had to go back. I had to go home right then. I needed to be in range of our house, close to my baby, there if she needed me. I started to say my goodbyes, flashing the monitor as proof that I needed to go. As soon as I did, it decided to work again.
“It’s fine! It works! Look! You can see her sleeping!” They assured me. And still I could feel the anxiety wrapping around my heart, my lungs, squeezing my organs.
“It’s in and out,” I insisted. “I need to be there.”
“She’s fine. It’s works! You’re right outside the house!” They pressed. I tried not to cry. I knew I was over-reacting but they didn’t or wouldn’t or couldn’t understand. I needed to go.
“You never hang out anymore! Have a glass of wine and stop making excuses!” I knew they meant well but still my anxiety increased because I wasn’t making excuses – I was struggling not to drown in near debilitating anxiety.
And then, “Don’t use your kid as another excuse not to hang out. She doesn’t even know you’re here!”
They were right; she didn’t know. But I knew. And whether or not they thought it was weird or crazy or dramatic, not being home in safe range of Z sent waves of dread coursing through my veins.
I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like missing things. I don’t like being the boring one, the lame one, the old one. But sitting around socializing, making small talk, listening to the story of the guy that worked with their mom who had a cancer similar to but not exactly like Casey’s that died last week, isn’t fun when I’m panicking about whether or not my daughter is choking on a piece of pepperoni she found in her hair. (And when was the last time we had pizza?)
I’m not in control of very many things in my life right now. Whether or not I show it, I spend most of my time worried, anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, tired, and afraid. I conjure up the energy to get through the day – to teach and play and cook and workout – so that at night I can lie awake and try to trick my brain into shutting down.
Every once in a great while, I get medicated lucky and fall into a sleep punctuated by vivid dreams, so vivid that when I wake, I’m not sure I actually slept. But most of the time, sleep eludes me.
Yet somehow I keep going. Somehow I push through without enough sleep and too many worries and plenty of (unshed) tears of frustration. Even riddled with anxiety. That’s how I know Someone loves me, Someone heard my prayers, because without Someone, I might not sleep at all.