When my mom was recovering from cancer (how's that for an upbeat beginning), I moved in with my parents temporarily to care for her. There was a hospital bed in the living room and I slept on the couch. My mom was recovering from a 16 hour life-saving and life-changing surgery. It was a scary time.
During the first few weeks, I am not sure what was going on, but the combination of heavy medication and anxiety caused my mother to wake all through the night and have lengthy conversations with me. Most of which made little sense.
One particularly long night, my mom woke up crying hysterically. She couldn't sleep and had herself convinced she would never, ever fall asleep again. I was exhausted and desperate.
I went into the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with a pill. Here is the conversation:
"Mom, I called your Oncologist. She told me to give you this pill. She told me to make sure I gave it to you laying down, because it works very fast. It is a potent powerful sleeping pill."
So she took it. And within 3 minutes she was sound asleep and remained asleep until morning.
Confession: I didn't call the Oncologist. I didn't dash out to Walgreens at 2 a.m. I gave my mom a Vitamin C pill I found in her cabinet. I gave her a dose of permission. Permission to put her brain to sleep.
For the next 3 weeks, I gave her a "sleeping pill" before bed nightly. It was a miracle. She slept like a rock. So did I.
The brain is a powerful thing. Its belief guides the body. Its fear paralyzes; its optimism cures.
My son once told me that his brain moves too fast. He said he feels like his brain is rolling down a hill and he can't catch it. Sometimes, his hands and feet follow. Lots of times he looks so confused when he gets in trouble...like his hands and feet arrived at the scene and caused a bunch of trouble before his brain showed up and put a stop to the shenanigans.
My son also wrestles with some OCD-esque issues. OCD is no way to live. It's a tortuous existence where your thoughts just recycle and replay to the exclusion of any new thoughts. In our house, we call it "getting stuck". If my kids had any idea what a record album was, I would tell them John's record was stuck and his needle needs a nudge.
So, in order to gets John's brain unstuck, I tell him a few... eh hem... tall tales.
For instance, I tell him that his pillow has a fast side and a slow side. At night, when he can't settle down I flip his pillow to the "slow side" which he now believes miraculously slows down is brain.
When I am sick, he gets very nervous & anxious. I tell him orange juice always makes me feel better. And he pours me a glass with shaky hands and, with that little bit of control over an uncontrollable situation, magically, HE feels better.
I have a secret location in the house where I keep objects for safe keeping. No one knows this location but he and I. When he is obsessed over an object and wants to take it to school (a no no) we store it in the super secret location and... he can breathe.
When he is consumed with a thought, an idea, a costume, a character, a gadget... We write it down on paper. We get it out of his brain, and onto a notepad. I tell him "Johnny, tell your brain it doesn't have to work non-stop to remember this, because now we have a written reminder." When he gets his idea written down, I see him physically relax since as his brain has been given a temporary respite from that particular thought.
Such trickery, you say? Perhaps. But in this life you do what you have to do to get by. Whether it's a sugar pill, a magic pillow ... or hanging on to your pre-pregnancy jeans fully believing you'll wear them again.
We all tell our brains stories when the reality is just too much to bear. "He's in a better place," "It's God's Will," "Everything happens for a reason."
My husband fears my son will resent me when he grows older and learns of my little white lies. But, I know that he won't. I know because he and I have had a perfect symbiotic relationship since birth. When he couldn't speak, I provided his words. When he was baffled by figures of speech, I translated. When he couldn't describe how he was feeling, I read his face. When the world was cruel, I held his hand and showed him how to be brave. And when he needed me to weave a story and put his brilliant, over worked, insanely detailed mind to rest... I told one.
I am a story teller. And I know he will love me for it.