Sad News and an Update on Personal Health Recovery

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,

Matthew Ferguson

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17 Responses to Sad News and an Update on Personal Health Recovery

  1. Neil Godfrey says:

    Very sorry to hear about your loss, Matthew. And do hope your own health does continue to take an upward turn.

  2. David Austin says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Very sorry to hear of your tragic loss. It must be very hard to lose a sibling who is very close to you in age.
    At least you know, as an atheist, she is no longer in pain, and I guess she, as a Christian, was buoyed by the hope of an eternal life of bliss in Heaven.
    I repeat my offer of hospitality in Perth should you ever decide to travel to Australia.
    David Austin

  3. Paul D. says:

    My sincerest condolences about your sister!

    It’s good to hear you’re making progress with your insomnia. My father had to take a medical retirement because of his, so I have seen its effects firsthand.

    • sheila0405 says:

      I ended up on total disability because I’m bipolar with mania predominant, and shift work ruined me. It totally destroyed my sleep. I’m still in therapy and on medications since I broke down 7 years ago. I get it.

  4. Robert says:

    Life can certainly throw some terribly emotional hurdles in our way and it is very hard. But it’s great to see that you’re looking at it with courage and positivity.
    All the very best
    Robert Jones

  5. Randolph Williams says:

    Sorry for your loss. I too, am dealing with a recent death, but of my mother, just last Thursday. Your post filled me with empathy and felt like a bit of therapy. Your words helped me in a good way, so thank you.
    Keep up the good work. I’m always brighten up when I see a post from you in my inbox.

  6. busterggi says:


  7. roblcecil says:

    My deepest condolences Matthew. I have lost a brother and a father – the first unexpectedly, the second not. So glad you have made progress on the insomnia!

    btw, I am indebted to you for your work on your blog. Thanks so much!

  8. Matthew, my condolences to you on losing your sister. I too grew up in a religious family. We lived on a 100 acre farm in east Tennessee and everyone was infected with evangelicalism. I believed for the first 15 or 16 years and now being in my mid 50’s I have been liberated completely thanks in part to you and your excellent writing on this blog.
    I can understand the insomnia you are suffering with. I worked swing shift in an industrial sand mine for 23 years until 2004 when I moved into management. I never have recovered from swing shift. I worked from 8 to 4 mon-fri from 2004 until I retired in 2015. The way I managed the 23 years of swingshift (which was 1 week of 1st, 1 week of 2nd and 1 week of 3rd) was pretty simple. Starting with the first day of 3rd shift, I’d stay up LATE on Sunday night, sleep as late as I could on Monday morn (10:00 or 11:00), stay up all day and start at midnight. I’d get off at 8, stay up until 11am or 12pm, sleep as long as I could (usually until 6pm or 7pm). Following that pattern I managed to reset my biological clock to around 26 hours a day.
    Even after I went into management I had a terrible time. I could not sleep at a set time. Not only did I have the internal clock issue I also have restless leg syndrome. I missed at least a night or two a week of sleep for the next 10 years. I’ve been retired for 2 years (and in excellent health, everything paid for and enough money to live comfortably on….), as of right now (10:45 am) I’ve been up since 9:00 am yesterday and am just now getting sleepy.
    Anymore I just sleep when I get tired, sleep until I get enough rest and if I get up at 2am then that’s fine with me. I don’t worry about it and it just takes its own natural course.
    Btw, I did the Ambien thing until I started sleep walking and doing crazy shit! One morning my wife said I scared the hell out of her the night before; she woke up and there I was, decorating her with a can of whipped cream. I was asleep the whole time and she said I had decorated myself first.

    Anyway thought this little story might lighten the day.
    Btw, I didn’t mention that I’m one of your subscribers. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge I really have learned a lot following your schooling and work. Ron

  9. So incredibly sorry to hear about this tragic loss you have experienced.

  10. Gary says:

    My sincerest condolences, Matthew. Your sister lives on in the hearts of all those who loved her.

    Wishing you a speedy health recovery.

  11. sheila0405 says:

    I’m so sad for you that I’m suffocating. Too many details of your loss and your insomnia mirror my life. I really feel for you. I hope you move forward day by day with good things which are still part of your life.

  12. Wim says:

    So sorry for your loss. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

  13. Lee Burvine says:

    Condolences for you deep and terrible loss. And thank you for taking care of yourself. May you have peace and health.

  14. Emanuel Goldstein says:

    Thats the breaks.

  15. miraculo says:

    Wow, somebody still hasn’t shown up and declared that this is what should drive you to the bosom of Christ? Miracles do happen.

  16. R. A. Denke says:

    I’m sorry about your loss.

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