Insomnia breeds exhaustion. Exhaustion breeds hopelessness. Hopelessness breeds Negative Nancys. Negative Nancys must be stopped!
I’ve spent many-a-day playing the role of Negative Nancy, and I’ve never enjoyed her one bit. She’s easily annoyed. She’s too blunt. She struggles to enjoy the things she once loved. Negative Nancy is a major downer.
My sister-in-law recently experienced her own Negative Nancy day after a rough night of sleep. She told me, “I don’t know how you do it. I’m so crabby when I’m tired!”
I smiled and told her it’s certainly one of my biggest challenges. Little does she know the extent of my struggle.
Battle of the Mind
Just over a year into my insomnia battle, I discussed some of my frustration with a loving aunt. This woman has been through hell and back when it comes to health challenges, and today she’s one of the most joyful people I know. She fought intensely with lupus for many years and was sure the disease would take her life. Her pain became so severe that she couldn’t even hold her new baby.
Through a miracle of God, my aunt no longer tests positive for lupus and can lead a normal life as long as she takes proper care of her body. But her journey was certainly no walk in the park. The part of my aunt’s story that sticks with me the most is what she termed “the battle of the mind.”
Any illness causing physical limitations will also involve a mental component. We become fearful when our bodies begin to fail; although, inevitably, they all will fail eventually. It scares us to live a life that does not match what we pictured for ourselves.
Faith allows me to cope with this. It doesn’t make coping easy; it makes it possible. I’ve read and heard about an insane number of miraculous healings from insomnia and other illnesses, so I know that no matter how bad things get, there’s always hope.
But then there are those who don’t receive healing. And I could be one of them. It’s faith that allows me to cope with this reality as well.
Pondering the ‘Why’
In my previous post, I discussed how we often ask the question “why” when we’re sick and not recovering. I think this is a perfectly normal question to ask, and though none of us can give a definitive answer, pondering the possibilities is a good tool for warding off Negative Nancy.
One reason, which I discussed in last week’s post (see subhead 2), is how pain often acts as a catalyst. Suffering spurs us toward action so we can help those facing similar battles. Anyone who experiences life’s deepest pain knows that no one should face it alone.
Another guess involves the incredible maturation that often comes with a burdensome illness. I’ve seen this countless times. Someone falls seriously ill, and suddenly he or she begins living life the way it’s meant to be lived. Worries about rent, career moves and wrinkles fade to the background. Spending time with friends and encouraging people, whenever possible, becomes a greater priority. We grow in our faith. We’re humbled as we realize how little control we possess over our lives.
I have to (once again) reference Sara Frankl for my final guess. I mentioned Sara’s story in my first post, and how she touched my life with her joyful, optimistic outlook. Sara fell terminally ill, but her sickness created a community of hope that reached—and continues to reach—thousands of people all over the world. I believe God worked through Sara’s pain in countless ways, but probably the greatest among these is how He used it to spread the gospel. It’s impossible to read Sara’s story without sensing God’s presence throughout it all. Sara wrote about her suffering, perils and incredibly challenging circumstances; but more importantly, she shared how living in God’s Kingdom and viewing life with an eternal perspective gave her persevering strength until she arrived at Home.
Fighting off Nancy
Nancy wants us to believe our suffering is for nothing. This is why pondering the reasons behind our pain, and looking at how God has used others’ suffering for His glory, helps me the most when fighting off Negative Nancy. But there are other practices I also find helpful. My top three are as follows:
1. Find an uplifting support group and ask them to call you out (gently) on your negativity.
2. Stay in scripture—arm yourself for this battle of the mind! (Psalms, Job and Ecclesiastes are my go-tos.)
3. Address fear by finding the root. (Fear of pain? Fear of loneliness? Fear of death?) Then, study Truth and work through it with God through prayer.
Remember to give yourself grace throughout this process of fighting off Nancy. I let her win way more often than I’d like to admit, but I keep brushing myself off and starting all over again. His mercies are new each day.
Peace and blessings,
Kat, (semi-professional) insomniac