Middle of the Night Thinking

night-skySleeping has become a bit problematic for me lately.  In fact I’d say that sleeplessness has become the defining feature of my nights, so much so that I almost dread putting my head down on my pillows…almost.  I’m so dang tired that I gotta at least try to sleep.

Falling asleep.  Not a problem.  Staying asleep.  Feels impossible.

I find myself tossing and turning and thinking. Sometimes that thinking turns into panicking.  Overwhelming fear.  Heart palpitations.  Heavy chest. Shallow breathing.  Fear that makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

And if I weren’t so tired I’d just get up and do something…anything to take my mind off of my fear…off of my thoughts.  But I’m tired…bone-weary, aching joints tired.  And in some weird way I don’t think I want to go downstairs and watch TV and pretend that I’m not afraid.

I feel like I might have to feel this to deal with this to overcome this.  Something can’t be fixed if I don’t acknowledge it, right?

This past month these episodes of over-fearful-thinking have happened a fair amount.  It isn’t even about one thing.  Most of the time, in the morning everything feels a little less daunting.  Still concerns, but not terrors. Am I going crazy?  I’m not saying that to be silly, I’m truly sharing a fear…another fear.

I feel like there is just so much to do and think about and I feel like I can’t do it all…all the thinking.  All the little things and all the big things.

Thinking about my children.  Each one with unique needs, concerns, hopes, dreams, struggles, decisions, issues.

Thinking about the house.  Repairs. Cracks. Drips. Wobbles. Clutter.

Thinking about work.  Lesson plans, class management, expectations, assessments, communication, and time management

Thinking about finances.  How?  How do I get in a better place?  How do I deal with the guilt of decisions I thought were good, but haven’t had the desired effect?  How do I fix the mess?

Thinking about relationships.  How do I love well?  Trust again?  How do I let go of fear when sometimes it’s so physically overwhelming I can barely breathe?  How do I let myself be loved?  How do I make friends when I barely have time for my children?  How do I mourn the changes that have happened with friendships I thought would never change?

Thinking about church.  Thinking about family situations.  Thinking about how to take care of my mom.  Thinking about groceries, toilet paper, toothpaste, and Band-Aids. Thinking about oil changes, car batteries, tire rotations, and brake pads.

It all makes my head spin.

And in the middle of the night, it makes my body toss and turn and my head hurt and my chest ache and my heart pound.

I don’t know what to do.  I don’t have a spiritually astute solution.  I pray hard.  I beg for rest.  I let things slide.  I reduce caffeine.  I make lists.  I tear up lists.  I pray harder.

But things don’t get better.  And not sleeping has so many repercussions…mentally, emotionally, physically, vocationally, and spiritually.

And then I wonder, is it all spiritual?  Is it because I’ve lost my focus on Jesus?  Because I’ve let the cares of this world overwhelm me? Because the weight of my own failures feels too great to carry.  Because I can’t seem to figure out how to walk this path gracefully, without stumbling.  Falling on my knees…not how I want to fall…in prayer.  I fall in fear, in failure, in fatigue.

And I think, wasn’t it just last week?  What did I even write about?  What did God lay on my broken sometimes healing heart?  What did He reveal to me about Himself that brought me such hope? I don’t have the faintest idea.  Am I truly that tired that I don’t remember the hope?

I had to reread my own words.  How pathetic.  I remember now.

All things are possible with Him.  This life.  This is possible with Him.

Why does sleep, rest and peace still feel impossible?

Sorry, I’m fixated on the sleep thing – it just seems so important, vital, life-giving.  I’m afraid of what will happen if this continues.  I’m afraid of being ill.

I’m trying to trust.  Trying to trust that this season of sleeplessness is part of the plan.  What plan could this be, God?  Why?  What purpose when life is already so challenging?

Tomorrow I go back to work – I was hoping that I’d be well-rested.  Unless there is a miracle tonight, I’ll go back as exhausted as I left.

Bummer.

Ugh.  I sound like such a complainer.  I’m sorry.  I’m wondering though is anyone else struggling to understand why things are the way they are?

I mean I get the whole “in this world you will have trouble” thing, I guess I’m not getting the “fear not for I have overcome the world” thing.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

What does that mean for this place?  This place of sleeplessness and fear and anxious thoughts and overwhelming demands?  Those are the troubles…for me.  What is the overcoming?

Overcoming.

“To get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat; to overcome the enemy.” (Dictionary.com)

To get the better of.

What an interesting phrase.  This struggle has definitely gotten the better of me.

A new day.  A new month.  A new year.  Seems like a good time to turn the table.  But how?

Especially because my table is upside down.  It needs to get flipped completely before it can even be turned.  But maybe that’s the point?

Maybe all my thinking needs to be flipped.

I’m so focused on the struggle (again) – I can’t see any good.

When I was in the process of editing my book, the editor commented on a section where I shared about getting up early and staying up late to study the Bible and pray.  She said that it wasn’t realistic.  Nobody would believe that that was what I was actually doing.  But it was what I was actually doing.  It was the only way I survived that season – God upheld me.

Maybe He is asking me to do that again?  Maybe, in the middle of those sleepless nights, He is whispering in my ear, “Dearest, trust me.”

Trust me with your fears.  Trust me with your anxious thoughts.  Trust me with your mistakes and failures and hopelessness.  Trust me with your anger, frustrations, and irritations.  Trust me with you children, your relationship, your home, your work, your finances, your time.  Trust me with your love.

I think I do, but then I toss and turn and tear up and I don’t understand why it all has to be so hard.

I want to, but I don’t understand what it looks like when things seem so daunting and hopeless, particularly in the middle of the night.

I don’t know how to stop the ache.  I don’t know how to not feel.

There has to be something that can be done…something that can make a difference.  Because, honestly, in those moments I really feel like I’d do anything to get away from all those feelings and thoughts that beat me down.

They are relentless in their assault.

And I’m tired of just lying there taking it.

Time to turn or flip the table…or turn and flip myself and my thinking.

My thinking needs to change.

I’ve learned this before.  Said this before.  Written this before.

I KNOW THIS.

Thankfulness.  Gratitude. Gratefulness.

I know this thankfulness thing.  I know it is the answer.

In those moments when I despair, pray thankfulness.

In those moments of fear, focus on blessings.

Simple. Profound. Powerful.

I can rest in that.  I can redeem the time from tossing and turning to thankfulness and trust.

I can do this.

All things are possible with God.

I can do this…with Him.

 

 

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. Sue,
    My heart aches for you when I read this. Tonight as I lay my head down to sleep, I am going to be praying for you that God will bring peace to you so that you can sleep. You are such an inspiration and your honesty is refreshing!

    Sandi

  2. I hope you are sleeping, praying for rest for you. But if not I hope you see this. My life is in transition (the shattered kind) I woke at 2am to the onslaught. Your story and your vulnerability to share candidly has led me to our Good Father so I can confidently say I am trusting the Wonderful Way Maker (Isa 9:6) this morning! I paid my tithe this morning to remind my feeble heart that all is His and any plans He lays out for me will be marvelous!! He will sustain my 5 and I and He will capture the heart of my ex-wife and He will sustain my life relationally. I am unclear how He will accomplish these tasks but I am confident in His ability and willingness to act on our behalf. (Isa 26:3) If He keeps me in this shadowland I will trust.

    You are truly an inspiration and a gift to me and my family. Praying for you and yours.

  3. Oh, Sue. I am a regular reader, a Christian single mom of 2, who also appreciates your vulnerability to “keep it real”. May I make a suggestion for the sleepless nights? (I so hope not to offend). Have you considered the effects of menopause? I don’t know your age, but many of the symptoms you are experiencing (sleeplessness, panic) could be related to menopause/ hormonal changes, and could be treated as such by an OBGyn; consider making an appt. Another thought: are you willing to try taking some Sleep-aids for a short season, to get your sleep pattern back on track? The more sleep-deprived you get, the harder it is to catch up. Not everything we face has a spiritual root; I pray God gives you the wisdom & discernment to know whether this sleep-deprivation needs to be treated medically or otherwise.
    We’re in this together; praying for you. ~Kristy

  4. I have been introduced to your story only in the last two days. I saw an ad for your book as i was looking for books for my youngest child. With two day shipping from Amazon, I’ve just “read over” the entire book. Before single parenthood, I wouldn’t have allowed myself the luxury of so quickly finding out how your story “ended.” But with a to-do list that is currently five miles long, my “old” ways of doing things have changed. My story is similar to yours, not completely (obviously), but the similarities are why I so desperately needed to know more about your story. My timeline is slightly behind yours; I’ve only recently accepted that I cannot pursue just any man to fill the God-sized hole in my heart and life. After looking at your book, I quickly whipped out my phone to see if you had a website, and here I find myself. Our stories, collectively (those whose stories do mirror one another), are so underrepresented and so needed within the Christian community – your book told/tells me what my brain tells me all the time: I may feel like I’m the only one who has suffered so, but I am not alone! I was hoping to find you very well, doing so much better than me, and you probably are!! I have suffered with panic disorder and can relate to horrendous sleepless nights, but I pray that some other much more benign cause is the root of yours. Many blessings to you for writing your book and sharing your journey; it has strengthened my faith and helped calm my spirit, at least for now. Thank you!

  5. I can identify with this write up and I’m so glad that I got to read it.
    Sometimes we can’t just help but feel this way in the journey.
    I believe it’s all a reminder of the fact that we are human and mortal beings.
    All we can do is to keep Trusting Him even when it seems there’s nothing to trust Him for.
    I remember such nights when I get so fearful and keep asking God if I’ll survive this.
    Sue, thanks for being so real.
    ” By and by when the morning comes, when the saints of God are gathered home, we will tell the story of how we overcome, and we’ll understand it better by and by”.

    Shalom

  6. I have had trouble going to sleep (without crying lol) for the past few months. I have the same exact thoughts as you. It seems like a constant barrage of fears, anxiety , pain and disappointment that comes to haunt me in the night. I love that you end it on the note of gratitude and thankfulness. If you don’t mind, can you please share what that looks like. Is it you simply saying thank you that your needs for the day were met. Is it thanking Him for salvation, grace and mercy. I only ask because while I practice this, and am truly grateful for these blessings, I simply repeat the same things over and over. I feel a longing for a new song in my heart in addition to these truths.

    • Thank you so much for writing Tia! You ask such thoughtful questions! I believe that it is consciously deciding to look for things to thank God for every day. It changes me. It changes my attitude and my perspective. It is big thank yous like salvation, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and peace. It is the little thank yous of a green light, a quiet moment to pray, a soft breeze, a lovely song on the radio at just the right time. It is an attitude of gratitude (terribly cliche but true!) Thank you again!
      In Him,
      Sue

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