The weighted blanket was meant to be a solution. I am the kind that falls asleep right when my head hits the pillow. I am the kind that wakes up to find that I am in the very same spot I was in when I fell asleep. I am a candidate for how quickly REM comes. I dream long. I dream vividly. I dream in living colors. I will wake up from a dream and fall back asleep to continue the dream. Of the gifts bestowed upon my person, sleep has been an amazing one.
When my nephew died in a car crash in March, the daily drive to his mother’s house each evening became nerve-racking. I did not want to be on the road, never mind drive to and from her home. And I did not want to be on the road at night, which is when the return trip home would happen, at night.
When someone close to me dies, my nighttime routine changes for a week or two. Lights stay on everywhere in the house – including the bedroom. I have been afraid of the dark all my life. Death makes the dark more dreary for me. But I just needed to get through the two weeks. Those two weeks stretched into months.
The only cure for not wanting to drive was not driving at all. But that was not an option. So I did the next best thing. I drove cautiously. Think of that as driving below the speed limit on the highway – which I caught myself doing several times. I would look in front of me sure that I was going to drive right into that car before me. I would look beside me and behind me waiting for those cars to ram mine from the back or cross lanes into mine. Never mind medians and concrete barriers and tunnels, all of which were sure death traps in my mind. I didn’t want to drive at night. I didn’t want my nieces and nephews driving. I didn’t want my mother driving. Every phone call was, in my mind, a report of a terrible crash – until it wasn’t.
I have a sixteen-year-old car that I love dearly. I have put 230k miles on it and I have been behind the wheel 99% of the miles on that little car. You don’t get to those many miles not driving. I love my car. I love the open road. I love to go. This fear of driving was absolutely new territory for me.
Those stretched weeks also came with an unanticipated tempest. The tossing and turning in bed just became increasingly worse. I was up every two hours with covers all over the place. I was tossing and turning so much I literally woke myself four or five times in a sleep that lasted less than eight hours every single night. The weighted blanket seemed like the cure for this. It wasn’t.
Engulfed by fear, I slothed my way from spring to summer to fall and to winter. The sun’s shine lost its glare even in the peak of summer. In the fall a favorite uncle fell ill. I joined family and friends in prayer for his life. But he succumbed. I was deeply saddened. I watched and listened as his family and his friends spoke lovingly about him and the life he lived – a full life, a life of giving to his family, to his friends, to those who crossed his paths. I grieved that he was gone sooner than any of us would have wanted. In that moment between his passing and his funeral, a certain refrain kept playing in my mind: “He lived a full life.”
I have coworkers that have easily become friends. It so happened that I shared with them how I was feeling about driving and what was happening to me right around the time I shared about my uncle’s death. “There are people who live like that,” one of them told me. There are people who live with that level of anxiety, is what I heard.
At that moment, I had a name for what was happening to me, what I was going through. There’s a scene in Twister when a big rig is lifted off the ground and tossed about in the tornado like a toy truck. I felt like I had been in that twist, heading for the inevitable crash, until that moment when my coworker named my feelings for me. The descent began – not heady, but slow and sure.
At church the next Sunday, when my pastor shared his message title – The Truth About Death – I was ready to walk out sure I could not handle that message. I didn’t. I was also sure I would walk out when one of his first statements was “You’re probably going to die.” I didn’t. About a half hour later, I was driving home on 95, at or maybe above the speed limit.
I smiled to myself as I realized the folly of my ways. For months, I was sure that if I worried, I could control the outcome. My worry, though, led to sleepless nights, major digestive issues, and sunless days at the peak of summer.
I drove with ease that Sunday afternoon.
I did sleep through the night that Sunday night. I did dream in color that Sunday night. But the weighted blanket stays – because I like it.
Note: I have had times of difficulty in my life, but never quite like this one. I’ve had the wherewithal to not have things that are pressing overwhelm me. That wherewithal often has to do with the ability to drive places, be with family and friends, go to work – in other words get distracted. My heart, therefore, goes out to all those who suffer with depression and anxiety. There is hope and there is help. If you haven’t already, talk to someone – a family, a friend, a pastor, an elder, a counselor. Don’t suffer silently.
God’s blessings upon you. Patricia.
Watch the message “The Truth About Death” here: https://cornerstonejoppa.org/messages/the-truth-about-death/