Sleep is my only respite from the relentless heaviness of depression. But sleep itself is often as elusive as the relief I so desperately seek. Ever since childhood I've been a light sleeper. The slightest sound stirs me out of slumber. Usually if I'm awakened in the night, that's it. I'm up and there's no going back. It also takes an eternity to fall asleep in the first place. In the rare case that I do sleep until morning, it's a restless sleep at best. Great if a prowler targets my home but not great for keeping one's sanity.
Sleep is so important. A luxury. I don't consider myself an insomniac thank goodness, but I have had bouts of recurring nights when I'll suddenly awake at 2 or 3 in the morning consistently for a week or two at a time. These hours are the most painful and dangerous of the day. Instead of rest I'm faced with idle time that my mind runs amok with. I do try reading or even watching television to occupy myself but it's a lonely and sad time span that tends to tailspin into exhaustive, emotional episodes. I mentally beat myself up. Reflect on bad memories. Lament decisions I've made. Ruminate on all my regrets. Pray for relief. Cry for hours. I'll sometimes wander aimlessly through the house trying not to disturb the family in an effort to expend the energy.
Having also dealt with anxiety, I was prescribed a generic Klonopin. The side effect is drowsiness. This has become my sleep aid of choice. For me this drug takes a while to kick in. Sometimes 2 or 3 hours. I take a half dose that gets me through the night. It's just right. No grogginess in the morning and I avoid the nightmare of being alone with myself in the wee hours. I loathe having to resort to this. It's an artificial sleep. It can't be good for me. On occasions when I really need to hit the hay quickly I'll take an Ambien. Strange drug this Ambien. You have to be careful with it. Between the time it kicks in and the time you actually sleep it's capable of making you do things you'll have no memory of the next day. I always make sure I take it immediately at bedtime. Unfortunately we depressives become slaves to these little pills. We depend on them to get us through the day as well as the night. It bothers me greatly but it always seems to come back to being medicated.
Whether the alarm sounds or I just wake on my own, it's the single worst moment of the day. The instant sleep evaporates and reality floods in. Utter dread and sadness barge in like unwelcome in-laws. As the sleep wears off I can feel my face contort. My brow furrows. It's a really deflating moment that sets the tone for the day. Weekends are even worse because there's more time to "sleep in" which really amounts to much ceiling staring.
I should just jump out of bed and take a walk or find something to occupy my mind but it really doesn't help. I have done this many times but I tend to default to just lying there and festering in my misery. No one to blame but myself. My poor wife wakes to my contorted face and at times gets angry. I don't blame her. I would be angry too. It weighs heavy on the marriage. I have ruined many weekends for her and I'm deeply remorseful for that. The vicious cycle continues and each one starts in the morning.
Having been raised in a non-religious household, prayer was always an enigma to me. To this day I don't feel I've ever prayed properly. I'm Jewish — both parents are — but for all intents and purposes my father is an atheist and my mother herself grew up in a home sans religion. They divorced when I was around 6 or 7. At about age 10 I attended a couple years of Hebrew school but lost interest and quit. Yes, a Hebrew school dropout.
In Judaism, prayer is very structured and scripted. It must be done three times a day facing a certain direction reciting certain scriptures in Hebrew, etc. I never learned the protocol yet I have prayed since I was a small child in my own small way. Though I respect tradition and see the importance of following a certain set of rules to accomplish a certain task, I never understood why prayers couldn't simply be accepted in stripped down versions bereft of pomp and restrictions. Why isn't a pure emotional outpouring as valid as a robotic, recurring routine?
The created crying out to the Creator.
Over the decades I have pleaded, begged, reasoned, pondered, questioned, and cried a million and one tears during prayer. I'd always try to start a prayer by giving thanks for what I already have fully aware that it's not about asking for favors or bargaining. All I've ever really needed was a bit of help to get my head above water or a lightening of the load. A divine boost or a some sort of "wink" from God reassuring me that I'm doing just fine and things will be alright. On the contrary, I cannot remember ever feeling better after praying. I have come away from each attempt at reaching out in much worse shape then when I began. I have found prayer to be emotionally draining and an exercise in futility. It's been an extremely slow realization. God of course works on His own time clock. I have read that prayer is not for God because God needs nothing. Prayer is for the benefit of the one praying...but I have never experienced benefit.
There are many a Christian whose default response would be akin to 'just give your life to Jesus and you'll live happily ever after.'
(Long pause for effect)
Sorry, but at the risk of offending many — I've never been able to swallow that pill. Not just because I'm Jewish but because I've seen with my own eyes that God really chooses not to intervene. Millions in concentration camps, Soviet gulags, prisoners of war, kidnapping victims, and the people in the airliners on 9/11 surely prayed for their very lives but their prayers fell on a deaf ear. This is clear evidence that prayers are not always answered. Of course people will adamantly disagree claiming God has in fact answered their prayers on many occasions. That's all well and good for them but this has forever eluded me. It's simply never happened.
He has already provided us with a planet to live on, air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, and brains to reason with. The rest is up to us.
One conclusion I've come to is maybe He has in fact answered me...by not answering me at all. That's the answer. Silence. The "answer" is — you're on your own. You have been provided the tools to solve your own problems.
I guess I've been too dense or stubborn to understand the lack of response as the response itself. I continue to struggle with this theory but maybe there's validity to it. Maybe not. It's all very perplexing and taxing so I've just stopped. There was no real conscious decision. No formal announcement with fanfare. One day when I had the desperate urge to pray, I simply decided I did not have the energy and chose to abstain. I gave up. In a way it was a restful decision. I spared myself an emotional episode.
By no means am I at ease with any of this. It's now one less source to turn to and yet another hope for help that's evaporated. In fact, I feel a slight upsurge of loneliness since refraining from prayer. I will most likely return to God and prayer in my quirky little way although I don't know when. I can only hope, in His infinite mercy, that He will accept me as I am with warm open arms.
The following are thoughts, observations, and quotes I have pondered on over the years from people much wiser than I.
"Don't take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive."
-- Elbert Hubbard
"Home is one's wife." -- Jewish proverb
"Life is ever since man was born, licking honey from a thorn."
-- Louis Ginsberg
“Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking."
-- J.C. Watts
"Nobody's seen where I've been. Nobody feels what I've done.
Nada one." -- Nancy Wilson
"Depression is not a sin; but what depression does, no sin can do."
-- Chassidic saying
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." -- Henry David Thoreau
"It's just a game, and all I can do is play." -- Rik Emmett
"If you want to be happy, be." -- Leo Tolstoy
"The pain of the mind is worse than the pain of the body." -- Syrus
"If God lived on earth, people would break His windows."
-- Jewish proverb
"A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ." -- John Steinbeck