When I was a little kid, I was plagued with nightmares nearly every night. I have no idea how these came about since my mom was extremely protective about the things we were exposed to; we never watched violent movies or television, and video games were strictly forbidden. Yet insane clowns, creatures without faces, demons, murderers, and ever-constant spiders chased me endlessly. I began a ritualistic obsession of repeating a prayer 100 times before trying to sleep, hoping this display of faith would keep the monsters at bay. When my mom told me that I was old enough for my own room, I insisted on continuing to sleep with my little sister; it made me feel safer. Of course I had to protect my reputation, so I told Anna that I was staying with her in case she had nightmares. I’m not sure if she or my mom actually believed me, but we stayed in the same room for years and the nightmares were something I just learned to deal with.
When I was 8 my mom remarried and we packed up and moved to Houston, and I entered into a blissful 12 year period where, exhausted from full days of school, sports, and eventually work, I would fall quickly into an easy, dreamless sleep. In fact I entered into debates with friends occasionally when the subject of dreams was brought up, everyone had a hard time believing I didn’t dream at all. But every morning when I rubbed my eyes open, all I could recall from the past eight hours was perfect, black nothingness. I never took these nights for granted, and every night and morning I thanked the Lord for keeping the monsters away.
Fast forward to college, and all of the sudden sleep is stolen from me. You’ve seen plenty of details about my insomnia in my last entry so I won’t go into it again, except to reiterate-it was hell. When you lie in a bed for eight hours trying to sleep, your mind starts playing tricks on you. Especially if you don’t dream. I started to think, surely I slept. That black nothingness that was the back of my eyelids had to have been sleep at some point, right? But the dark blue circles under my eyes in the mornings told me, no, I didn’t sleep. And so the ritualistic praying came back, but this time I begged Dear Lord bring the nightmares back. I don’t care, I’ll run from monsters all night long just please let me sleep. Eventually, that’s exactly what happened. I got on some meds that came with night terrors, but they were nothing I wasn’t used to. The most epically fucked-up, violent things could occur in my nightmares, but every morning I wake up after having them, I am overcome with gratitude that at least I slept.
My point is this: I cringe inwardly whenever somebody says, “well at least things can’t get any worse”. Yes they can. They always can. I’m a personal testament that you could find yourself in the situation of praying for your worst nightmares. I sat with a recently widowed lady one time at work, trying to help her figure out how to manage her timeshare after her husband’s death. We talked about her long marriage and she told me, “he got on my nerves so much. We would bicker over the stupidest things. Some days I felt like wringing his neck. But then he passed, and I find myself wishing every day he was still with me. I’d relish every fight.”
I know that many people feel this way, especially after losing a loved one. I know my fiancé’s father was hard on him, but he’d give anything for one more day with him. I know the men and women in our military who sustain injuries and lose limbs would happily go back to boot camp in a second and suffer through the exhaustion and what they thought then was pain. The worst times don’t only make you appreciate the good times that much more, but the times you used to think were the worst.
I use this thought to cope with unideal situations every day. Something happens, and I think, how could things be worse? And then I take my current situation and embrace it because it’s surmountable and really not that bad. It’s hard to do this sometimes. Sometimes you really just feel the need to wallow. But I’ve had too many loved ones who have suffered from actual depression to let myself wallow long. It’s cliché, but life is really too short. So instead, I abstractly evaluate every situation.
Running low on money? At least I live in a country where I have endless opportunities to make more.
Got screwed over by a “friend”? At least I have a few who’d do anything for me.
Have a horrible, ear-splitting migraine? Imagine if I was somewhere with no access to Excedrin.
Feel like the country is going to shit, and people are more hateful than ever? For every person with hate in their heart, there’s another with love. The only way I can change anything is by loving everyone as much as possible, and showing them how to do the same. Maybe we have corrupt politicians, healthcare is a disaster, women still aren’t paid as much, etc. But look at a few videos of Venezuela, where my mom’s family still lives, and tell me you aren’t suddenly filled with gratitude for our home, with all of its injustices and broken people. As you sit in front of your flat screen tv tonight and watch the Olympics after working a full day at a job that pays you more in a month than some people make in a year, let go of the annoyance with your boss or whatever is currently bruising your delicate ego and allow yourself to really think about how much worse everything could be, and how happy you are with everything you have.
Having nightmares? At least you can sleep.