To be able to sleep she needed a plan. A plan to keep from being awake all night, frightened and alone, wondering when they or it was going to get her. Stuffed animals lounged throughout the little girl’s room. In the closet, in corners, under her bed and on her bed. Her plan included these. Every night, she would gather as many stuffed animals as she could and place them with her in bed. After pulling the covers up to her chest she would carefully position each animal so that every inch of her blanket-covered body was hidden. Then the little girl would delicately cover her head, keeping one hand free to place the last of the stuffed animals. Her hand would slip back under the covers and she would lay on her back, unmoving, motionless except for her breathing. Stuffed animals covered her from head to toe successfully hiding her from marauders and murderers. Laying on her back wasn’t very comfortable. The place where her lips met her blanket would become wet from her breath. Many times she wanted to turn her head and make a hole for her mouth so that she could have more that just her own soggy air to breathe but this would only disrupt the fortress she had built. She knew she had to stay frozen in place for this to work. At some point she would drift off to sleep only to awaken on her side, curled in a ball, stuffed animals on the floor, unprotected and vulnerable. She would break out in a sweat and as quick as possible start her ritual over again. This went on for days and weeks and months until the little girl was so exhausted from the routine itself that she had to stop and imagine another strategy. This time she wouldn’t involve any props that could cause failure. New plan – each night she would practice rolling from side to side and moving from end to the other of her bed. These moves were carefully executed to negotiate and evade knife thrusts from would-be attackers. She was convinced that she could anticipated every plunge of an intruder’s weapon. This assuaged her fear for a bit, but she finally realized that it was a preposterous notion to believe that she could awaken from sleep and just move around to avoid being killed. She had no choice but to climb into bed with her mom. This is another story and cannot be told now, but to put into perspective the fear the girl continued to experience, even as she slept with her mother, you need to know this – from time to time, when she would sleep with her mom, she would have to continually touch her mother’s head during the night to make sure it (her mother’s head) hadn’t been cut off while she had been sleeping. Even now as an adult the girl cannot sleep. She is up and down all night. The pillows have to be just right. The blankets have to be wrapped around her feet in a certain way. Sometimes she sleeps on the couch, sometimes in the spare bedroom, sometimes in her car. She sleeps sitting up, she sleeps with her head on a desk, she sleeps driving down the road. She sleeps at relatives’ homes and in stranger’s houses. But one of the places she rarely sleeps is her own bed. She hates when other people fall asleep in her presence but will not hesitate to fall asleep in the presence of others. When she was dating her husband she would sit outside his bedroom door while he was sleeping, feeling abandoned and alone. Sleeping is one of her many enemies but it is one that has the most influence on her life.
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