4:35 a.m.


I’m awakened by a feeling…by the sensation that someone is standing over me as I sleep (thank goodness that movie I watched before bedtime was not a horror film).  This has happened many times before.  I know it’s my son.

“Why does he stand over me without saying a word?”

I slowly open my eyes.

“What is it honey?”

“I can’t sleep,” he tells me.

This is not new.  He’s always had a tough time sleeping – even when he was very little.  But lately it’s been out of hand.  He doesn’t get to bed at a reasonable hour.  We’ve had a houseguest staying with us this summer and he found him in the family room at 5 am.  He was surprised that this young teen had gotten up so early.  It turns out he hadn’t gone to bed yet.  He sleeps until 2, 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

I know lack of sleep is one of the worst things for a kid struggling with OCD, but lately I haven’t been willing to fight with him anymore.  I can’t bear to beg him over and over to please go to bed.  Can’t take the frustration of going into his room and telling him it’s time to start his day – staying in his room until he climbs out and heads for the bathroom, only to return fifteen minutes later to find him fast asleep again. Can’t repeat this process over and over all morning and into the afternoon – only to have him still finally wander out of his room at 2 pm.

I glance over at the clock on the nightstand.  4:35 a.m.  I have a friend who is out of the house by this time with her ice skating daughter most mornings.  Not me.  I’m a 6:30 a.m. waker on an early day.  Not today, though.  My husband is away and it’s difficult to fall asleep without him here.  I watched a movie before bed last night and it was 12:30 a.m. by the time I finally turned the light out.  A late night for me.

“When did you go to bed?” I ask him.

“I don’t know.  I just can’t sleep.  Can I sleep on your floor?”

“Sure.  Get a blanket.”

“I’ll just sleep on these pillows,” he says.  He’s referring to the decorative pillows from my bed which are strewn across the floor.

“No,” I say in my groggy state. “Get your pillow and a blanket.”

“Oh, I can tell you are really tired,” he says.

“What clued you in?” I wonder this silently to myself as my eyelids drift shut.

I try to fall back to sleep but I can feel something isn’t right.  Some kind of tension.  I open my eyes several minutes later and spy him curled up on the carpet.  No cover.  No blanket. Tossing around.

“Honey, go get a blanket and a pillow if you want to sleep in here.”

“Well….” he starts slowly, “that’s part of the problem.”

I know what this is.  I just know it.  I know this way of talking.  He’s hedging – trying to figure out how to deal with this situation without giving himself away.  His OCD is shouting at him, “DON’T TELL HER THE TRUTH!!!  DON’T GIVE ME AWAY!!”

In my fuzzy state, I have little tolerance for his dancing around the issue.  I get out of bed.

“We are going to get you a pillow and a blanket.”  I don’t sound very nice.

“But see, that’s it, Mom.  My blanket smelled like maybe the cat peed on it.  Just on a little spot anyway.”

I get to his room as he finishes saying this.  Every blanket and sheet, except the fitted one is on the floor.  He’s been trying to sleep with no covers – tormented by the possibility that a pet snuck into his room sometime during the day and relieved itself on his covers.  It’s not that far fetched.  It’s actually happened before. Ever since then, though, he’s kept his bedroom door shut tight all day.

Today was no different.  I know that no animal has been in his room – or on his bed.  Still, I find myself reaching for his blanket, bringing it to my nose and sniffing it.

“What on earth am I doing?”   I think to myself.  As tired as I am and foggy as my brain still is, I know that this doesn’t help.  But I just want to go back to sleep.  I don’t want to think of the right thing to say.  I don’t want to put this back on him to struggle with.  I want to sleep.  So I offer up the reassurance – something we both know is probably true but misses the mark all the same.

“No animal peed on your bed today, honey.”  Then I add, “This is your OCD getting in your way of having a good night sleep…depriving you of your own bed.”

“Was that last part the right thing to say?”

I’ve promised that I’m not interfering in his struggle with his OCD.  I’ve told him that I won’t offer up comments or suggestions unless he asks for them.  I haven’t been true to my word.  But it’s 4:45 am now and I am sooo tired (I keep saying that, I know.  It sounds whiney now as I write it.).

I climb back into bed.  “I love you.  Good night,” I say.

I shut my eyes and hope I will fall back to sleep.  I can hear him adjusting his things on the floor and then I hear his prayer ritual begin.  I hear him pacing back and forth on the floor, repeating the motions of a religion I will never know.

I woke up an hour and a half ago.  It’s 10:30 a.m. now and he’s still asleep on my floor.  I can hear the alarm ringing in his bedroom down the hall.  It’s part of his attempt to get up at a reasonable time – to regulate his own sleep.  I admire the fact that he recognized that there is a problem and that he’s trying to change it.  But he can’t hear the alarm while he’s asleep in my room.  Do I let him go on sleeping?  Do I wake him and let him decide what to do…?


2 thoughts on “4:35 a.m.

  1. Are you sure we don’t have the same son? Dan has also always had problems sleeping, and when his OCD was bad, we’d find him on various floors of the house in the morning, without covers. He’d also be up all night. His sleeping still isn’t great…..I know his mind rarely “shuts off” and it’s hard for him to relax and go to sleep……….until he is totally exhausted, I’m sorry things are so tough for you both right now……..I wish I had some magic answer. We moms just put one foot in front of the other and do the best we can.

    1. One foot in front of the other for sure! I do have to say that your comment made me chuckle – imagining that some young man out there has the same kind of interactions at his home. Yes, I wish there was some way to make it all better right now, but it helps to know that we’re not alone. 🙂

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