Taking a daily nap is frowned upon here in Middle America.
Where I come from people often get chided for taking a nap. (Unless you work night shifts; are in cancer recovery; or have influenza.). If you roll in somewhere or other and it’s already past 9 am, you are likely to hear ‘and where have you been this morning? Were you sleeping in again?’ Or, ‘Sun’s been up for hours, in case you were wondering.’
Taking a daily nap is part of my required homework for PTSD and Anxiety Disorder recovery.
A few years ago (when I started my convoluted recovery), my therapist explained, ‘You may feel guilty or like you have better things to be doing. But it really is a silver bullet for recovery. Schedule in a non-negotiable, daily nap, every single day. Try not to sleep beyond twenty minutes. That’s the golden time frame for healing your mind. You may need to set a timer. ‘
At that point I was nearly incapacitated with an anxiety disorder and couldn’t work full days anyway. I trudged through mornings at work and ducked out at lunchtime. Then I sat at home staring at the walls and hoping no one knocked on the door until my BHH came home.
I thought I may as well try napping, it would pass some time (time which was excruciating to live through). My hesitation was that I doubted I could actually fall asleep.
I had no capacity for sleeping during the day in my former life, unless I was sick or already behind on sleep. A lifelong insomniac, I hardly had the capacity to sleep at night! I couldn’t even go to nodds-ville when bored in church. There was no relief for me on long car rides either. I’d always envied people who fall asleep on airplanes, and stayed that way from wheels up to touchdown. I was too vigilant. As if I could help the pilot were an engine to blow.
When I first tried to implement the new non-negotiable-nap-rule, I felt nothing but a racing mind and heart. My brain latched on to things, like, what if one of my abusers takes a gun and comes after me while I’m lying here defenseless, to, what am I going to tell my coworkers if I keep only working half days. I was living in near-constant fear from past traumas being awakened. When I got up again, after those first nap attempts, I didn’t feel refreshed. But I forced myself to listen to youtube relaxation videos and to be as relaxed as possible for the required time each day.
Then one magical day of rainbows and unicorns, after weeks of forcing myself to lie still at the same time each afternoon, my mind quieted… and I fell asleep. I had done it. I had napped. And I naturally woke up about twenty minutes later. For a few minutes, right after waking, I even forgot to be anxious.
I was sold. I started to look forward to nap time. I didn’t always fall asleep. But that hour or so of lying still and allowing myself to relax became a time I craved each day. In time, I started being able to fall asleep in cars (and…airplanes). I listened to youtube sermons and also found myself falling asleep listening to preaching.
I still haven’t found myself falling asleep in church, though. But, it is a goal of mine. If I were able to fall asleep in church it would mean I had stopped being hyper-vigilant around clergy and other church leaders. It would mean I finally felt comfortable enough amongst other believers to let myself be that vulnerable…and it takes allowing yourself to be vulnerable to fall asleep; especially in public. And, for me, especially in church. (An ordained pastor abused me in my childhood).
As I improve, my therapist continues to stress the non-negotiable-daily-nap. I’ve stopped asking when I can quit doing all this ‘homework’. I know, now, that all of it will be lifelong changes I need to make.
Now that my stamina has returned and the anxiety has quieted– like a dog in the corner chewing on a bone–it is tempting to skip the daily naps. I mean, I let my entire life slide for a few years. I’m seriously behind on ‘things’. Do I really have time to take a daily nap?
Or, perhaps I ought to rephrase that question.
Do I really have time NOT to take a daily nap?
At this point a relapse is always in the back of my mind. I do not want to go there.
So I’m reminding myself of the value of naps today. And hopefully, those reading this can find value in this as well. Many famous people, inventors, artists, and world leaders, were avid nappers (see here for a longer list of famous men who were nap-takers) :
Churchill. Edison. Ronald Reagan (though his wife and staff denied it, and he ‘joked’ about it),
And Jesus. Yes, Jesus.
He was fast asleep in the middle of a storm. (Ok, it may have been nighttime when that storm hit. So technically His slumber in that boat may not have been a nap.)
But the point remains: it takes a lot of faith to sleep in the middle of a storm.
I pray that God increases my faith. I want to be able to take a daily nap for the rest of my life. Eventually, I also want to feel myself falling asleep in church. I’m not too worried that I’d sleep longer than a second or two because just to get to that point of comfort with myself and with others would cause me to jump up and shout Hallelujah.
I really want to live life relaxed. Sleepy even. No matter how much the storm of life still rages around me.
Just like Jesus did.