The Courage to Return to the Marital Bed

After the birth of Roxy and Graham’s high maintenance children, Roxy became obsessed with sleep. Julio and Reyna were born one year apart and had finally sleeping through the night. Roxy’s husband Graham, on the other hand, avoided sleep. He believed he could function on adrenaline and the novelty of life.
Graham’s idea of adequate sleep hygiene consisted of intermittent napping during the day when Julio and Reyna were not creating havoc. Graham could shake off fatigue, get up, keep going after only two hours of sleep, and working a night shift delivering bread. Graham spent all his free time leading the gospel choir at church. His unwillingness to prioritize sleep and family created resentment with Roxy. It took great courage on Roxy’s behalf to advocate for more quality time. She thought it should be obvious to Graham where to place his priorities. In a moment of courage, but with much trepidation, Roxy asserted, “The kids and I need more time with you.” “Can you put us first?” Graham responded with silence. A silence that was not welcome.
The next weekend Roxy’s parents came up for a visit. Graham willingly accompanied Roxy, the in-laws, and the kids to the Seattle Children’s museum. Graham had even cancelled his choir practice and went to bed early that evening around 9 pm. Roxy reflected on the day’s events while grandpa and grandma entertained the children in the living room. Roxy felt complete.
Suddenly Roxy’s contentment came to a crashing halt. A commotion emanated from the bedroom where Graham was sleeping. There was clanging of metal, and rumbling sounds. It was if a seismic event was taking place. Roxy rushed to the bedroom door with great concern for Graham. However, fear took a close second. Graham was all wide-eyed like a neck-frilled lizard. He was tearing the metal blinds from the wall. When Roxy commanded Graham to stop, he took a leap out the bedroom window. In a brief moment of courage, Roxy began to think of the safety of her children. She asked her mother to take the kids to the basement and lock the door. She yelled to her father to call 911. Her father did as he was instructed, but also went after Graham who was making a fast dash down their suburban street wearing only white underwear and white cotton socks. Roxy cried as her mind was dealing with a myriad of emotions. How could she be calling the authorities on the man she loved? Would they us a taser or shoot him down? For a moment Roxy felt a gut-wrenching loss of a relationship. Her marriage had just taken a turn for the better and now she had no idea what was happening to Graham. Was he psychotic or dangerous? Would he come back and hurt the children? Would he be run over by a car? Would a frightened neighbor overreact and shoot him?
Moments later a police officer and Roxy’s father returned with Graham. He was now lucid. Blood dripped from his fingers from the embedded fragments of glass. Luckily the rhododendron bush outside the window had broken his descent to the ground. Graham had been found at a neighbor’s porch a about a quarter mile down the street. He had been knocking on the door for help. He woke up at the porch when Roxy’s father had called his name. Graham could not explain how he got there. The police asked Roxy if Graham took drugs, abused alcohol, or if there was any history of violence or PTSD. There was really no explanation for his behavior.
After several consultations from a doctor, a Psychologist, and a Sleep Specialist it was determined that Graham was suffering from “Night Terrors”. He could not wake up from a dream state because of deep sleep related to his sleep deprivation. The doctor’s recommendation was to have a regular sleep schedule, take some medication, and sleep on the bottom floor in the basement where there was no chance of leaping out of great heights.
Graham gave up his church activities but refused to sleep downstairs. Roxy found herself having to drum up the courage to give Graham and ultimatum. She said, “You sleep downstairs until we know you are well again.” Graham’s was in denial and replied, “I’m ok, it was nothing”. Of course, for Graham it was nothing. He was not awake during the intensity of these events. Ultimately, Roxy had to take a leave of absence from her job. She had no choice but to courageously take the kids with her, drive through a snowy mountain pass, and live with her parents. After a month of a long-distance relationship, Graham begged “come home”. He reluctantly moved himself into the basement and boarded up the window in the bedroom as the doctor had recommended.
Roxy scraped up the courage to move home. She loved Graham and missed their marital bed. It was awkward having Graham confined to a room in the basement at night. The plan appeared punitive, but the safety of her children came first. Graham remained compliant with his new sleeping regime. Initially, Roxy and the kids slept together on a full-size mattress on the floor in the nursery. Roxy felt obligated to stay alert until midnight; because Night Terrors typically occur during the “window period” of the first three hours of sleep.
Two weeks into the new routine, Roxy’s hope of Graham returning to the marital bed grew. As she lay crucified between her kids on a mattress, a big sonic boom was heard and felt from below the house. The walls and windows trembled just like the earthquake that hit the Puget Sound earlier that year. Fortunately, the kids slept through it all. Roxy proceeded with caution and locked the nursery door behind her. She did not have the courage to go to the basement alone. She pressed 911.
The solicitous police officer that arrived was a Night Terror expert. He empathized with Roxy. His son struggled with Night Terrors too. He treaded softly down the stairs and found Graham had torn the blinds from the wall. Graham had used his brute strength and bare hands to pull off the nailed plywood sheet that had covered the window. Graham’s head had broken through the window. He was awake and aware of his predicament. They both new one wrong move would result in pierced jugulars from the sharp edges encircling his neck.
Graham and Roxy hopes to return to the marital bed were squelched. Graham had to move to another sleeping area in the basement further away from a window. He was running out of sleeping spaces. Roxy began to contemplate. What’s next? A storage room with padded walls? The next day at the doctor’s office it was determined that Larry had suffered a Night Terror related to having a fever. Fevers apparently trigger Night Terrors, that made sense to Roxy since fevers can cause delirium.
A few months later Graham’s chronically ill mother moved into their home. Coincidentally, the hired caregiver Alexis was one of Roxy’s ex-nursing assistant students. Alexis lived in the neighborhood. After some time, Alexis confided with Roxy that she thought Graham looked like the man who appeared on her porch one-night banging on the door yelling, “Let me in”, “Help let me in”. Alexis said she saw a shorter man call him away from the porch and take him down the street. Roxy confirmed the details. “Weren’t you scared?”, asked Roxy. Alexis replied “No not really”. “I thought he might be lost.” “When I saw he was in his Fruit of the Looms I did not to have the courage to open the door and called the police.”
A year passed and Graham still experienced some mini-night terrors. None of those mini-terrors compared to the ones that registered 8.0 on the Richter scale. Graham later explained to Roxy that he felt someone chasing him during a terror. Roxy thought how non-sensical these dreams were. Why couldn’t Graham escape his persecutor through a door rather than a window?
Roxy finally found the courage to allow Graham back into their marital bed. Unfortunately, by that time, the marital bed had become the family bed. A routine that would take some courage on Julio and Reyna’s part to dissolve.