Mental Health

When sleep eludes- Guest post by Samuel.

Hi everyone. Welcome back to my blog! Today I have a guest post written by a very talented writer for you today. Sleep eludes this writer due to the fear of their upcoming surgery. Go give Samuel some love! 

Thank you Samuel for your email and wanting to feature on my blog! If you like reading guest posts you can read this one from Beka here, this one from Jay here and another from Chloe here and lastly a guest post for Gemma and Campbell here!  

Let the story begin

All I wanted was to get some sleep. 

No matter how hard I tried, however, my nerves failed to acquiesce. Coming to life in anticipation of what was to come. Terrified of the possibilities arising from a planned medical operation. I tried to bury these feelings in the days preceding, clinging to the positive aspects of undergoing a medical operation to treat my scars. 

Yet no amount of denial or obfuscation can keep my mind away from such thoughts on this fateful night. I repeatedly ran over the details in my head, causing a feeling of dread to envelop me. What could be waiting for me on the other side of surgery? The thought of permanent impairment or even accidental death incited fear to run through every part of my body. While the likelihood of the operation going south was admittedly low, the possibility remained on the table. For someone inclined to believe the other shoe was always bound to drop, this seemed like a perfect recipe for emotional distress.

In these trying moments, when we are faced with circumstances beyond our control, it becomes far easier to succumb. To our raging emotions, our racing minds, or to the negative self-talk we subconsciously espouse. Even the strongest wills are weakened in these moments, forcing us to find ways to quiet the storm rising up within us. 

For me, tuning out the distractions involved turning on the television. Watching old sitcoms as I made feeble attempts to control the storm raging within. I tuned in to catch episodes of the classic Scrubs. A show focusing on the lives of a group of doctors working in a hospital. The main character? John Dorian (J.D.), as played by Zach Braff. An overeager, needy first year doctor constantly trying to please everyone around him. His penchant for over-analyzing and his predilection for letting his imagination get the better of him seemed especially appropriate considering the circumstances. 

I watched several episodes, eager to find some semblance of reassurance from the characters found within the show. Of course I knew that television is meant to entertain; but, isn’t it also filled with characters to which we can readily relate? Perhaps they have a way of coping previously unknown. Not the best source to seek comfort from, but at four in the morning, what other choice did I have?

Just when I begin to lose faith that anything will be gleaned by watching this show, a song starts to play in the background. “Everything’s Not Lost” by Coldplay. “When I counted up my demons…Saw there was one for everyday…With the good ones on my shoulder…I drove the other ones away.” 

This particular episode focuses on a visiting doctor named Kevin Casey (Michael J. Fox), a man who seems like the perfect doctor. He is well-loved by his patients, and his intellect far surpasses those around him. J.D. thinks Dr. Casey is the epitome of perfection, until he walks in on him repeatedly washing his hands, hours after completing his last surgery. Evidence of his OCD getting the better of him. “This is a weak moment,” he says. “Nobody is supposed to see this.” But aren’t we? 

What would the world look like if we readily shared our weaknesses with others? If we talked about the problems we faced, the mountains we had yet to climb, the burdens we held deep within our hearts. We need to know that we are not the only ones who fail to hold it all together one hundred percent of the time. We need to know that it is alright to fail, as long as you are willing to get back up and try again.

In the days, weeks and months following the traumatic event that seemingly brought my life to a standstill, I chose to believe that I would never be able to conquer the emotion brimming just beneath the surface. It felt as if no matter how far I traveled, no matter how far I had come, I would never be free from the pain of the past. It felt as if a coterie of demons were standing in the background as I carried out my daily existence, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. 

Yet suddenly, as I watched the story unfolding on my television screen, I realized the error in my previously accepted line of thinking. Life isn’t about traveling on predetermined paths. It’s about carrying out the hard work of healing, reaching for more even when pain clouds the path ahead. For we are more than the scars we carry, the trauma we have suffered, the mental health struggles we have endured, and the panic attacks we have experienced. 

“I think owning your burdens is half the battle,” J.D. says as the music plays in the background. Being honest with ourselves and others about the demons we are facing can do much to help us take the necessary steps to heal. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Allowing hubris or shame to ensure that we go it alone is not a sign of strength.

I thought long and hard about the implications of this often silly show in the wee hours of the morning. Even though the reality of surgery still reigned supreme in my consciousness, the power it once held over me began to fade. Perhaps I could overcome the obstacles faced by injecting a dose of honesty into my daily existence. Perhaps the person I most needed to be honest with was myself. 

I closed my eyes one last time, longing to indulge in a form of escape. The ending I am supposed to write is one in which sleep readily comes. I wake up the next morning feeling well-rested, determined to face whatever the future holds. All works out in the end; after all, who doesn’t love a happy ending? 

Yet such an ending was not in the offing on this fateful night. Watching J.D. following his best friend Turk around the hospital at four in the morning, the memories of the past kept me from closing my eyes and entering a peaceful slumber. No rest for the weary. Watching Scrubs would have to do.

Except for the fact that Scrubs had helped me come to terms with the need for engaging in more honest conversations. With letting people see my scars, both on the inside and the outside, so that they could both empathize and be empowered to face their own demons. For we all grow tired as we combat the adversity life sends our way. The least we can do is be honest about it, with ourselves and with those around us. 

That night proved to be a sleepless one; and, my fear was still present the next morning as they wheeled me in for surgery. It felt like a total loss, until I later considered all that had been gained. A new perspective, along with the resurgence of my fighting spirit that would come alive in the days, months and years to come. So, even though the night failed to unfold the way I planned, I learned I have what it takes to combat the demons from the past; for, no matter how bleak life may seem, the wise words sung by the inimitable fellows comprising that famous British rock band ring true.

“Everything’s not lost.” 

Samuel Moore-Sobel is a freelance writer. He is co-authoring a memoir about his experiences revolving around both trauma and recovery. He writes a column for the Blue Ridge Leader and publishes a blog which can be found by visiting www.holdingontohopetoday.com  

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