I’ve been having night terrors or nocturnal panic attacks for the past 6 weeks.
I fall asleep and wake an hour or two later in confused fear. It’s like my body and mind are out of sync and sometimes it feels like I’m trying to reach the surface from the bottom of the ocean and I run out of breath before I reach the top. Other times it feels like I’m trapped or falling.
These nighttime panic attacks are a real blast.
When my body catches up to my brain, my eyes pop open and I fly out of bed— shaking, sweating, sometimes crying, fighting to stay awake-sometimes for hours- until the fear subsides.
The first few times it happened, I tried to figure out what was causing it, but I couldn’t put a name to what I was afraid of or even decide what might be bothering me.
Every attack left me with the same ending: I was scared to go back to sleep because I didn’t want it to happen again.
During the daytime hours, busy with family and work. I felt fine— no sign of panic or even anxiety.
It dawned on me that the nighttime attacks began happening around the same time as the partial upstairs collapse of the Mercy House Global warehouse and I wondered if they were somehow related or if it was just a coincidence. I was in the building when it happened six weeks ago and it was very scary, but I was okay, right?
After a particularly rough night, where I spent most middle of the night and early morning hours between my bed and living room sofa, playing and replaying scriptures on my phone and looping worship songs about peace, I drove my sleep-deprived body to work the next morning, crying most of the drive.
I needed help. I was exhausted.
I pulled over and I texted a pastor and asked for a Biblical counseling session. He met me that afternoon. Tears filled my eyes before he asked a question or I said a word. Just thinking about the vulnerable conversation that was about to happen made me weep.
I’m going to cry, I announced as I looked around for Kleenex. He waited for me to return with a box of tissues.
The thirty minute session turned into two hours, thanks to his generosity. I basically recounted the past two years in a stream of consciousness flow and I talked about Covid and how it changed so many things…how 2021 began with one of the three maternity homes in Kenya burning down, kids heading to college, my daughter’s autoimmune disease, and I remember saying something about not even trusting a floor not to fail anymore…I don’t know if what I’m experiencing is spiritual or physical but I’m so tired.
He listened and took notes and then asked this question, “When did you stop writing?”
I thought it was an odd question. What does that have to do with midnight panic?
“I guess in March of 2020, after Made to Move Mountains came out and the pandemic started a week later…” I answered thoughtfully.
We talked about my writing journey … how it started as a way for me to process motherhood, what it became once Mercy House Global started, and why I stopped (so many reasons–it felt like work, it felt like failure, it felt too hard to make the time).
“Okay, if you’re not writing anymore, how are you processing things?” He asked.
I had no idea. I, mean, I know there are a lot of ways to process things, but I just honestly didn’t know if I was doing any of them.
He leaned in, “I think you’re fine during the day because you’re busy and there’s always so much to do, but at night when your body slows down, your mind doesn’t stop. Maybe your brain is trying to process all that has happened. Try writing again. Something. Anything.”
That night, I wrote the first few sentences of this blog post. For the last week, I’ve written a few more, each day…slowly. I think I’ve got a lot to say.
I stopped writing because I was doing it for others.
I’ve started again because I’m doing it for me.
Oh, I’ve slept like a peaceful baby the past week.