Kristine’s story

After sending last week’s article, I received an extremely touching reply from a woman.

She talks about how, as children, our parents’s struggles can become our burden, how the way we relate to sleep when we are little can become a lifelong habit… and how one can eventually heal and let go of all that.

She agreed to let me share her story with you, so here it is.

Enter Kristine:

Kristine with her brother and their parents

Kristine with her brother and their parents

Dear Yan,

Bless you. When I got your mail I jumped at it. It gave me shivers but also recognition. It was me, all over again.

I will tell you my story in the hope it will give you more information to pass on with your endeavours to help others.

You are more than just a sleep therapist, you are a compassionate empathetic man with a desire to truly help others.

I will try not to make it too long but for me it must be said even for my own selfish sake.

I was a child born to two young people who met in a rehabilitation hospital in Poland in the aftermath of the Greek civil war.

My father lost a leg and my mother the use of her left arm following land mine incidents. They were both partisans in the communist uprising in 1948 and full of idealism at the ages of 18 and 16 respectively.

Life for them was hard but they were happy to be alive and father went to school for the first time to become a radio technician while mother worked in a tobacco factory. Here is when it all went wrong as far as my brother and myself were concerned.

It was in the early 50s and many people became sick with tuberculosis. My mother who was pregnant with my brother, was one of them and had to be sent off to a sanitorium in the mountains. My father could not look after me so they put me into an orphanage run by nuns. I was about 8 months old. There I remained and even though I can’t remember it, I often wonder how a child would cope being raised by the people that were on duty on a particular day of the week and lets not forget there must have been hundred of kids just like me.

My brother was born and was taken from my mother immediately and she could not physically touch him for over two years. She only saw him through glass windows. It devastated her. To this day my brother does not relate to my parents well. He is 60 but that is another story.

We were finally reunited and eventually emigrated to Australia where my mothers’ father had come in the 30s. This is when their life became even more stressful both financially and culturally. I think back now and realize that they were suffering from a form of post traumatic stress syndrome but being kids we couldn’t work out why they were always so worried and stressed. Our world consisted of you can’t do this and you can’t have that and you have to study and achieve we must pay off this so you have to go without. You get the picture.

My misery started when I was about eleven years old and sleep eluded me. I would stay awake all night it seemed and stressed about how I would cope at school the next day. If I tapped on my mothers door to get some sympathy, she would say, don’t be silly and go back to bed. She never once invited me to get in with her and give me a cuddle. We didn’t do that!

So I started a game I played to get through this. I would say to myself: “OK, you didn’t sleep tonight so you will sleep the next night”. And I would. But guess what, there was a trade off. “Oh well, I won’t sleep tomorrow night”. And sure enough, I didn’t sleep the next night, knowing I would sleep the next night.

This went on for years until I got married and it seemed to settle down. Perhaps if I had some professional help back then I would not have to revisit those dark (excuse the pun) times.

Because here is the thing, you never get over that fear that it will come back again. The inability to sleep for years. So whenever I would get a night that I couldn’t sleep, as you do, my fear and anxiety would go through the roof and I was that little girl again, not able to sleep and very very frightened.

I am now 62 years old and this fear came back for some ungodly reason and I was plunged into the terror. That is when I contacted you in desperation the middle of the night and you came back to me with a down to earth practical common sense approach.

I accept that I am not broken and sleep will come when it needs to and fear and anxiety is the only barrier. I am doing quite well now and get some really good nights, and even when I don’t sleep, I think of my family, (I have three grown up children and nine beautiful grandchildren) and don’t focus on myself and when I will fall asleep.

Just like the person waiting for the phone to ring and it never does. I get the call when I least expect it and it still never ceases to amaze me that I can fall asleep!

I guess what I am trying to say is that perhaps our childhood insecurities and experiences do play a big part in sleep problems and it is wise to tackle it in those earlier years as it will come back to haunt us, so to speak. I just hope this little boys parents do follow your sound advise and get him help. I am certainly vigilant when it comes to my grandchildren and will make sure they are nurtured emotionally as well as physically.

I hope this wasn’t too long winded for you but I had to confirm to you that what you said to this precious little boy (I want to put my arms around him and tell him it’s OK) was wonderful and him just knowing that someone else cares and that he is not alone helps.

Yours truly,

Kristine Milankov

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