How a depressive period made me realise that sleep is a gift
“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go”
Let Her Go, Passenger
In other words, you don’t know what you’re missing til’ it’s gone.
Have you ever lost someone or something that had been with you for a long time, but you didn’t realise their presence and value, until they slipped right through your hands? They were always there, and you thought that this would always be so. You knew that they were important. You knew that you needed them. But for some reason, you took them for granted.
Until one day, crisis knocked on the door and snatched them away from you. For a few days? For a long time? Permanently? You did not know. All you knew was that they left a big void, and you desperately wanted them back. Whatever it took.
Painful, isn’t it? Scary, too.
Whatever or whomever you’ve lost, I can say that in a way, I get you. I have a long list of losses, and none of them can prepare you for the next one. When I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I almost lost something that I never imagined could just disappear.
I Stopped Sleeping. Literally.
I had the flu for two weeks. It was awful, but I knew that I was going to be fine in the next couple of days. It had always been that way, or so I thought.
I had trouble sleeping. I would sleep for a few hours in the morning, a little more in the afternoon, and some at night. It did not worry me as I had always been like that whenever taken ill.
But I kept tossing and turning one night. My already aching body felt like it was hit by a truck the next morning. But I thought that I would probably fall asleep during the day, and feel better after. Yet sleep was still elusive. Night came and I thought that I would hit the sack early, as my body was already screaming for a long and good night’s sleep. I thought that I would feel great the next morning, then go back to work.
12 hours passed and I was still wide awake. As soon as the sun rose, panic and shivers ran through my body. My pain levels went through the roof. I was sweating profusely, pale as a sheet, nauseous, and out of my mind. I was crying desperately and begging for sleep to return. I felt like I was dying, and knew for certain that I would not last another night without sleep. It was a life and death moment for me, and I was running out of time.
I told my family and we did not waste any time. We went to see a doctor in the morning, and met my boss in the afternoon to let him know that I desperately needed to take a longer break. Just thinking about the endless piles of work that had accumulated over the few of weeks during my absence was driving me literally insane.
My boss showed composure, sincerity and compassion that somehow calmed the chaos in my mind. He also said something that flipped a switch for me.
Sleep Is A Gift
He looked at me in the eye and said, “You know, Mary, when my business was not doing well a few years ago, I could not sleep. You see, I sold my house, everything I owned, left my job and my country to build this school. They said it would be easy and that it’d cost me just a small amount of money. But neither was true. It was a tough time for me and my family. But you know what? One day, I realised that sleep is a gift. A beautiful gift.”
For a moment, I felt that time stood still. I was in awe of what he had just said.
When someone thoughtfully gives me a gift, I receive it enthusiastically. I unwrap it excitedly. I keep it, I treasure it, I use it, I take care of it. Most importantly, I’m grateful for it.
Then I asked myself, “Have I ever treated sleep as a gift?”
Well, I couldn’t count how many times I had fought off sleepiness and stayed up late for studies, work, events, or parties. Sure, it happens. That’s normal. Yet many of those scenarios could have been avoided had I known how to proritise and manage my time. Or if I hadn’t been such a big people pleaser, doing everything on my own. I had even wished that I could sleep less, in order to accomplish more. (Okay, that just made cringe.)
The beauty and magic of sleep’s mechanism had never crossed my mind. And how it significantly serves my mind, body and spirit. Heck, I had never even thought of thanking my body and my God for it! I did not hate it. But I did not love it either. It was just there, existing, but I had never acknowledged its presence like I should have. Until I lost it temporarily (thank goodness!).
I was prescribed a sleeping pill. It promised eight hours of sleep, but my anxiety was so bad that I only got 2-3 hours per night. After a few minutes of taking the pill, I would see images and start to babble. It was scary for me, but hey, I was desperate.
All I could say was, “Truly, sleep is a gift. A very precious one. And I want to have it back.”
I was finally able to sleep naturally again about three weeks later! From that day onwards, whenever I feel sleepy, I just surrender. And when I open my eyes in the morning, I say ‘thank you’ for a long and good night’s sleep.
I challenge you to treat sleep as a gift. Tonight, turn your screens off at least an hour before going to bed. Create the best mood for a good night’s sleep (slow music, a warm shower, chamomile tea, lavender scent, dark and cool room – whatever works for you). When you wake up in the morning, express your gratitude for the best sleep ever.
Do you believe that sleep is a gift? How many hours do you usually get every night?
Have you had any trouble sleeping? Do you have any sleeping tips or hacks to share?
Let us know in the comments below, and please do not take sleep for granted.
Mary is a thriving spoonie, a health blogger, an online solopreneur and a natural healing advocate. She is on a mission to help women with chronic illness thrive by sharing natural healing success stories, tools, programs and tips that focus on real food. Connect with her on: Blog, Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest.