Insomnia: He actually met me in those moments
I toss and turn left right, then I turn back again to adjust the pillowI pull close and hug my cover tight, then countdown a thousand to zeroMaybe I should switch on the light, and pick what to wear tomorrowIt’s just another nightToday I will try white noise; the still sound of a waterfall might workWait, how about a soothing voice, let me play some worship music back to backAlmost there! It’s coming I can feel it so close, let me wait for it as I lay on my backIt’s just another night
Quite late for bed time
I am 28 years old. I am a part-time student of theology and I also work as a missionary in a church 5 days a week, working in outreach and discipleship midweek and preaching on Sunday twice a month. My calling is to pastoral work, which I passionately love and enjoy. As for hobbies, I like to read, write poems, act and listen to music.
It’s 12:58am as I write this. Quite late for bedtime, you may ask? Well, not for me. It’s very normal for me to fall asleep long past 2am. I don’t really remember when or how this habit started, but I have always gone to bed really late and woken up sometimes late, sometimes early. As I remember, at the age of 20 I got a part-time job that meant I had to work night shifts. Within four weeks I fell into the rhythm of working half the night, going to college in the morning and doing some acting in the afternoon. The money was good and my grades were not affected. I was okay, great actually. I had this rhythm for two years.
I was struggling
After graduating from college, I got a full-time job, this time with a financial institution, which required me to be at the office from 7:30am to 5pm. Initially, the excitement of working in a new environment had me excelling at my job. I would leave work at 5pm, play football with my friends, get home for dinner, watch a movie and read a book or write till 2am. It felt normal until about five months later: I started to crash. I came to work late most days, I was tired the whole day, I had no motivation for work and my bosses were starting to get concerned. My output was still good but they could tell I was struggling.
Where was God in this?
I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I had no stress. I went to bed late but maybe that’s normal, I thought. I never knew it was insomnia; as a matter of fact, I had never heard of that condition until my friends started commenting about my very late night Facebook updates and late phone calls. They started sending me memes about insomnia. It was funny at first, and then I decided to read about it. I realised I had most of the symptoms but I was determined to overcome them. So I began to go to bed early, switch off all of the noise, switch off all lights and get off my phone. The more I consciously tried to sleep, the more awake I was. I spent hours upon hours tossing and turning, talking to myself and over-thinking. I remember sometimes being awake until 5am (which still happens sometimes). I tried to pray about it without change. Where was God in this? The bible says he gives sleep to those he loves. Does he love me?
He actually met me in those moments
More than ever I was sleeping late, my eyes were hurting, most days I was tired, my work was affected so much so that I felt guilty that I was letting my bosses down. Yet they trusted me because of my output. I felt bad for my co-workers because I was being ‘favoured’ while they had to be in the office way earlier. Two years into the job, I started realising I might never change, so I started using the time to study the bible and listen to preaching to understand God’s will in this. I also engaged in writing poetry and plays. Within months, I found joy in the most vulnerable place. I decided to quit my job and applied for an acting job at a church. It was more convenient and I could use the late hours to work on scripts. I have never been happier! Through acting, I discovered my gift for preaching four years ago. All along, I had been asking why God leaves me in the middle of the night, yet he actually met me in those moments! So I gave up the fight. He spoke to me and helped me find my calling right in those dark hours.
My faith is stronger
After consulting with my mother, I decided to see a doctor recently. He recommended ways to help me to sleep earlier, such as; working out during the day, avoiding alcohol and caffeine 6 hours before sleep, ensuring my mattress and pillows are comfortable and many more. I still have sleepless nights, still feel tired, but out of the worry, sleeplessness and tired days, I have created a time of writing, meditation, devotional and communion with God and catching up with my friends in more appropriate time zones. My faith is stronger, my writing has improved greatly too!
This is part of a series for Mental Health Awareness Week. Read the others:
14-20 May 2018 is Mental Health Awareness Week, an initiative to encourage discussion about and reduce stigma around mental health issues. The Jesuits in Britain want to take this opportunity to help our readers and listeners to pray, think, learn and talk about life’s uphill struggles, whether they are associated with diagnosed mental health conditions or other circumstances.
Across our online platforms, there are a number of different resources about situations in which people struggle to find peace of mind and heart. Our written and audio content will explore some of the causes, effects and manifestations of anxiety, and look particularly at the dynamic between faith and mental health.
We will be considering ideas, offering prayerful support and sharing experiences. However, please seek professional help if you are concerned about yourself or somebody else.