Because I’m not sure “anyone’s” listening.
It’s two a.m. My husband gets out of bed and leaves the room. He doesn’t know that I’m awake and that I hear him. I know where he’s going. First, to our home office, where he’ll sit in front of his PC watching old movies and then down to the basement where he’ll lie down on the sofa in the hope of getting some sleep. ANY amount of sleep. Most nights, his nocturnal ramblings leave him exhausted, both mentally and physically. Many nights—he gets no rest at all.
You might wonder how long a body can go on like this. So, do I. And that scares the hell out of me.
Like so many people, my husband suffers from chronic insomnia and sleep apnea. He’s never been what one would call a “sound sleeper,” but the last two years have been hell. The insomnia has escalated to a point where, if he gets three hours of sleep, that’s considered a “good” night. Compounding this is the panic that an insomniac feels knowing that he or she will have another long, wakeful night ahead. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s nearly impossible to break on one’s own.
As if not being able to sleep weren’t bad enough, this waking nightmare has resulted in other physical challenges. I won’t go into them all as I want to respect my husband’s privacy, but, I’ll just say that he’s seeing a number of doctors who prescribe a plethora of pills. Nothing has helped. Nothing.
A few years ago, when my husband was first diagnosed with sleep apnea, he tried using the CPAP machine. It was a complete bust because you see, you have to be able to fall asleep in order for it to do you any good. Therein lies the proverbial rub. It is now gathering dust in a closet somewhere. The good news is that these machines have evolved over the years and there are alternative options available.
Soon, my husband is going to undergo yet another “sleep study,” where he goes to a clinic and is hooked up to electrodes so that he can be monitored overnight. He was told to bring his sleep meds with him but, I’m doubtful as to whether he’ll be able to fall asleep in a strange environment, with nothing but a pull-out bed and a TV.
Years ago, the first time he was tested for sleep apnea, my hubby was sent home for that very reason. He couldn’t be monitored because he couldn’t fall asleep!
I can’t adequately describe how helpless I feel in that I can’t fix this. I’m lucky in that the pills I’ve been prescribed to help me get a decent night’s rest work for me. And I feel guilty because of that. But, as my husband says, one of us needs to get some sleep. There’s a house to run, four kids who depend upon us. Work to do. Bills to pay. You know: A life. But the quality of this life has taken a sucker punch to the gut.
Working from home four days a week is a blessing for my husband. Stumbling into his home office most mornings beats having to drive on zeros Zs. As it is, I don’t know how he does it.
When someone we love is hurting, we hurt. How can we not? What do we do when we can’t think of one more thing…to do?
I don’t know much about prayer. I’ve been very vocal about this. The product of a gentile and a Jew, both who were non-practicing, I know nothing about organized religion. Or un-organized, for that matter.
So, what do I believe in? I don’t know. Myself, I hope. Beyond that, I’m grasping at straws. I know precious little about God, Jesus, the Holy Trinity, the Torah. If I sound ignorant, in this regard, I suppose I am. I’m not ashamed, just floundering.
Buddhism always appealed to me because it seems to make sense. The whole idea of “Karma.” Of what “goes around comes around.” And adhering to the Golden Rule: Treating people as we’d like to be treated in turn.
Several years back, I actually bought the book, “Buddhism for Dummies.” I never read it. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. I’m desperate. And desperation does make me feel ashamed.
The notion of God. It’s hard to believe in a deity when there’s so much suffering in the world. So much pain and destruction. I know that the devout among us would have a response to this that might make sense to them, but woefully, not to me. Not as yet, anyway.
I never understood the concept of God giving men free will to do as they please. If that’s the case, we’ve screwed things up royally, haven’t we?
Here’s the irony in all this. I pray. Yes, me. I. Do. Pray. But I’m screaming into the abyss because I don’t feel as if I’m being heard. How do you know if you’re being heard? Is it a visceral response? Do fireworks go off in your head? Do you feel the breath of a whisper on your cheek?
My prayers are not for myself. I don’t pray for my screenplays to sell or to make a ton of money as a freelance writer, or for better hair—or any of that crap. I pray for my husband. I pray that he finds the strength to do what he needs to do in order to be healthy. I pray that we can find the right doctors. Doctors who will guide him…listen to him…help him realize why he can’t sleep. Instead of tossing another prescription at him when his fifteen-minute allotment of doctor/patient time is over.
The doctors my husband is currently seeing are highly rated and affiliated with a top Chicago hospital, yet, I’m left wondering, “What the hell are they doing? Or NOT doing?”
I go with my husband to many of his appointments. I’m the “mouthpiece,” the one who asks the questions that he might forget, or neglect to ask. When my husband talks at these appointments, I often talk over him, so as not to forget what I want to ask. That’s irritating, I know. But it helps me feel that I’m doing something.
I have to do something.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a form of hands-on problem solving that is supposed to help change certain thinking patterns, will be the next step. The challenge is finding the right therapist. That’s a job in and of itself. But I’m trying to remain hopeful. What recourse do I have?
When I said that I don’t pray for myself, I realized that this isn’t the absolute truth. I pray for my having the strength to deal with this situation, calmly and empathetically as sometimes I get angry and resentful. And then I realize how unfair resentment is. After all, could I have avoided getting breast cancer? With all the mixed messaging and reams upon reams of research, who can say? Did I eat the wrong food? Drink too much? Work out too little?
In 2019, roughly 1.8 million people received a cancer diagnosis. It’s the plague of our time and all the pink crap and walks and runs and “awareness days” appear to have had little effect. Lest we forget, it’s a money-maker after all.
So, I pray, but I don’t know who or what I’m praying to. Sometimes I pray to our cats who are gone, or my parents, also gone, or the man in the moon. It is ultimately exhausting, especially for someone with OCD. You don’t know what you’re doing but you’re afraid to stop.
I am not ungrateful. I am a breast cancer survivor, after all, but I’m searching. That’s the cliché of getting older. Questions loom that you never thought of asking before. Like this one:
For those of you who are heard, who get answers—what am I doing wrong?