I have been away from the blog for a while due to an unfortunate tragedy in my family, in addition to some personal medical treatment.
Earlier this month, on Wednesday, February 15th at 3PM, my sister, Kristen Leigh Weddle, passed away. My whole family is devastated. She was only 30 years old, and she also has a young son who is only three years of age. I was fortunate (as I could be) to be in a meeting with my therapist as I received this news, when my partner Camille unexpectedly arrived at the consultation. Both my therapist and Camille consoled me as I wept, and I have since been very shaken up this month.
My sister was only a year-and-a-half older than me, and she was my only sibling. We fought a lot when we were kids, and there was a great deal of sibling rivalry. Looking back, though, even the fights were good memories. Both Kristen and I grew up in Trona, CA together and were raised in the same Christian private school. Kristen was very religious her whole life, and didn’t like my deconversion to atheism. Even my parents were more accepting of my choice to leave religion, but I think that Kristen had always hoped that I would one day return to Christianity. I don’t mind that she thought that way. I know that her intentions were in the right place, even though I didn’t share her religious beliefs.
As an atheist, I do believe that I will never see or speak to my sister again, but I also know that she is no longer suffering. My sister passed away due to organ failure of her heart, liver, and kidneys. It was a triple system failure, which is very difficult to recover from. She was in the ICU for several weeks before passing, so the news was not entirely unexpected; however, Kristen had also made a temporary recovery, which made our family hopeful, but also made her death more shocking when she returned to mortal condition.
Around the beginning of this month, when Kristen had already been in the ICU for a number of weeks, I made the personal decision to finally seek intensive medical treatment for my insomnia, which I have mentioned on this blog a couple of times now. It has been plaguing me for over seven years now, and only getting worse. It got to the point where I would literally sit in a dark room, starting at 5PM every day, in order to trick my body into thinking it was nighttime. I would then go through multiple boxes of sleep-aid tea, in addition to sleeping medication, and still stay up until 3AM every night, and sometimes as late as 6AM. With my only sibling facing critical health problems, I decided it was best for my parents and myself for me to finally get a hold on my health issues.
I have been receiving intensive therapy this month, and working through a program that is teaching me a lot about how to manage both my mind and body. Part of the process has been physiological. I have been taking new medication that has been greatly helping with falling asleep earlier. The process has also been psychological. I realized working with my therapist that part of my insomnia is rooted in my Christian upbringing and trauma in childhood. When I was a child, I used to have several nightmares about hell and also would stay awake at night fearing the apocalypse. I was always terrified that Jesus would come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). These dreams diminished when I became an atheist in high school, and they completely disappeared when I became a naturalist in college. But nevertheless, they still had a lasting effect on my sleeping patterns.
I am happy to report that I have made tremendous progress in my program. I am now able to fall asleep within two hours of trying to go to bed, which I have been unable to do for over seven years now. I have been feeling much healthier and more energetic, and have also been losing weight from a better diet and exercising.
I am especially glad to be improving, since I will really need to step up as an uncle now for my nephew, James Tiberius Weddle (I had some part in choosing his middle name). He has a very good father, both sets of grandparents nearby, and an uncle and two aunts on his father’s side; but in many ways I am the closest thing that he has now to his mother. I plan to take him to Trona one day, and to show him the house where Kristen and I grew up together. I want to be a loving uncle who can remind him of who his mother was.
I will be finishing my program soon and traveling to Phoenix for Kristen’s memorial. Everything that has happened this last month has delayed a number of my academic plans, and I certainly haven’t had time for blogging. Overall, though, I am just glad to be feeling so much healthier. I am sure that I will get back into the swing of things soon, but I also know that everyone will understand if I am busy for the next while.
Life flies by quickly, and we never know when our last day will be. As someone who believes that our conscious experience is finite, it reminds me to make the most out of every moment. My life in this physical world is the only one that I will ever have, and I plan to cherish it to the fullest. I wish the same for all others who live with kindness and empathy.
With thought and care,