Insomnia (Can’t Sleep) as Depression


Len Tao was a twenty-one year old college student at a major university.  He had always performed excellently in his academics and achieved the highest grades.  He was proud of his accomplishments, but the success didn’t come easily to him.  Len Tao felt he had to study harder than most of his classmates.  He generally didn’t share the lengths of his study time with others, because he felt that he might seem unintelligent.  He wanted the academic success for many reasons, but the most important was his desire to avoid the disapproval of his parents.  Like many parents, Len Tao’s mother and father had placed much importance on his grades for as long as he could remember.  He knew that they would be very disappointed in him if he did not perform.  In fact, he had long worried that they might not love him as much if he disappointed them. 

As Len Tao advanced through the grades, maintaining the same performance level became more difficult.  He had to study harder and longer just to keep up.  Then, his grades began to drop slightly.  While the performance drop was only slight, Len Tao felt very anxious.  He began to worry, as he tried to go to sleep, that he would be a failure.  He imagined the faces of his parents when they learned that he had failed after all their efforts.  His worries became so intense that they began to interfere with his concentration and so, his exam grades dropped further.  He was still performing adequately, but not up to his and, he feared, his parent’s expectations. 

Len Tao began having trouble sleeping.  He discussed this with a friend who said it was because he studied too much. Another friend told him he heard of another student who had trouble sleeping and the doctor told him he had a throat problem causing this and surgery would help. Finally, a third friend told him he had the same problem and went to the doctor for help. The doctor gave him a medicine which helped him sleep and his problem was solved.

Len Tao decided that he would go to see a doctor at a nearby hospital. The doctor asked him about his story. Len Tao told him the following story.

He would awaken several times during the night and, sometimes, would awaken early in the morning before it was time to get up.  He worried about his loss of sleep because he couldn’t afford for anything to interfere with his academic performance.  His energy dropped and he felt fatigued most of the time.  He began to withdraw from his friends.  He would get irritable with them for even minor actions.  He felt sad or down most of the time.  He didn’t really enjoy anything any more.  Then his concentration worsened.  He would read a page of text and couldn’t remember what he had read by the time he got to the bottom of the page.  He couldn’t remember facts on tests that he had known while studying in his room.  Now his grades were dropping severely and failure seemed imminent.  Life seemed hopeless and he felt worthless.  How could he face his parents and other family and friends?  His thoughts about himself had never been so negative. 

Len Tao told the doctor if he could just get a good night sleep he would be better. Len Tao told the doctor about his friend who had received a medicine which could help him get sleep, and then he could get good grades and please his parents. 

The doctor told Len Tao that he would give him a few sleeping pills but he also told Len Tao that he did not think these pills would solve all of his problems regarding school and his grades. The doctor also told him to never take more than one per night or he could have severe side effects or even kill him.

Len Tao took the sleeping pills and he slept a little better but he realized that the doctor was right, that is the pills did not solve his problems. If anything they only increased them. Death began to seem like the only way out.  His life seemed so miserable, that dying seemed to be a relief.  His thoughts of death and suicide became more and more frequent.  He began to think of ways that he could kill himself.  After some thought, he decided to take an overdose of pills, while in his dorm room.  His roommate was not supposed to come home for several hours so he figured he would be dead by the time he was found.  So, after writing a note to his parents, apologizing for being such a disappointment to them, he took a large number of pills and lay down in his bed to die.  He cried to himself as he fell asleep due to the effect of the pills.  

Len Tao’s roommate had not planned to come back to the room, but he had been worried about Len and, for some reason, decided to check on him.  He was, of course, shocked to find him on the bed with the empty bottle of pills beside him.  He felt for Len Tao’s pulse.  There was one; weak, but there.  He called for an ambulance and Len Tao was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for the overdose.  His doctors indicated that his treatment was successful and that he would live.

The next day, Len Tao sat in his hospital room, weak and sedated, but still very much alive.  He wondered what had gone wrong.  Why had the attempt not been successful?  Now, he would be even more of a disappointment to his parents and others.  His life had totally fallen apart.

After a brief knock on the door, Len’s roommate stepped into the room.  He asked Len how he was feeling and told him he was glad he had survived.  Len Tao’s roommate became more serious and his eyes teared up.  He then told Len Tao that he had a solution for him.  He told Len Tao that there was a purpose for his life.  He told Len Tao that he had watched Len Tao struggle with his low self-esteem and sense of value and that he knew where his true value came from.  He told Len Tao that he had value because the creator of the universe loved him and sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die for his sins.  He also talked about how Jesus loved him enough to willingly die for him on a cross.  He read from the Bible, ‘God showed his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5.8).’ At first, Len Tao resisted what he was saying.  He couldn’t believe that anyone could love him just as he was much less God.  But over the next few days Len Tao’s roommate kept sharing his story of what Jesus had meant in his life and what Jesus could offer Len Tao.

Len Tao’s roommate told him that the Bible says, ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23).’ This means that all people everywhere in every time have sinned and this sin causes them to fall short of what God wants for them.  Len Tao’s roommate then told him that the Bible also says, ‘for the wages of sin is death but the gift of eternal is through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6.23).’ This means that there is a payment or penalty for our sin and that penalty is death, eternal death or separation from God in an eternal hell. However, God gives us life through the person of Jesus Christ. Len Tao thus became very interested in knowing about this eternal life.

Just before discharging Len Tao home from the hospital his doctor came into talk to him about his treatment. He told Len Tao that he had misused the sleeping pills. They were to be used to help him sleep and not for killing himself. Len Tao understood this. The doctor then told him again that he main problem was not sleeping well or having a lack of sleep. The doctor also told Len Tao that other medicines would not help him with his problems. He told him that this was only a symptom of underlying problems. The doctor told Len Tao that many people think medicines will cure their problems while they only cover up the problem. The doctor told Len Tao that simply achieving was not the most important thing in life but finding the right balance in life.

Len Tao’s doctor suggested he find some hobbies to do with friends or play some regular sports with friends. That way he will have friendship and physical exercise with some friends. Also, the doctor told Len Tao that even though Chinese emphasized grades they were not the most important thing in the world. Being alive was more important and just doing your best. Len Tao was glad the doctor had told him these things.

The doctor also suggested that Len Tao spend time with the counselor at the school to try to find some better balance in his approach to studying, time management and dealing with stress. The doctor told him that he needed to work on these areas. In finding better balance he would understand how to manage his stress better.

After a while, Len Tao became more interested in this person Jesus that his roommate has described. His roommate explained that we receive Jesus Christ through faith in him and not through our works. He showed him in the Bible where it say, ‘for by grace you have been saved through and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2.8, 9).’ His roommate said that nothing we do can give us eternal life as it is a free gift from God. He went on to show him another place which said, ‘even when we were dead in our sins Christ died for us (Ephesians 2.1).’ His roommate stated that this showed the love God for our sins. Even when we did not deserve it God sent Jesus, his only Son to die for our sins.  What a great love, in fact another verse in the Bible says this very thing, ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3.16).’ Len Tao wanted to have this personal relationship with this person Jesus.

Len Tao asked why his sin caused such a problem between him and God. His roommate stated that God is holy, that is he cannot and does not tolerate sin. His is perfectly pure. That is good because if he changed or compromised himself then we would not be able to trust his future actions towards us. Thus our sin separates us from God. In fact this separation is so great there is nothing we can do to bridge this gap. Thus because he loved us so much he sent his Son to die in place of our sins.  It was Jesus on the Cross died on our place to take our punishment away from us. Since Jesus took this punishment away from us it shows God’s love for us.  All we have to do is just believe this, which is by faith and nothing else.

Len Tao knew he needed Jesus to save him from his sins. He also knew he saw in his roommate joy and peace and purpose which he did not have. His roommate asked him if he would like to lead him to say this prayer:  “Jesus, I do believe that you are God’s son and that you came to earth to save me from my sins so that I can live forever with you in heaven.  I believe that I cannot go to heaven without accepting you.  Please forgive me for my sins and come into my heart.” 

Len Tao smiled with joy after this prayer for the first time in a long time.  He felt that things would be different.  He also realized that he still had to address things with his parents.  He also had to address his situation with the university in order to continue his education.   He knew there would be problems in his life, but now he knew that he was not alone.  He knew that he has a special value to the God of the universe through Jesus Christ and that God loved him.  Finally, he had learned that God would guide him throughout his life and help him make his decisions through an increasing knowledge of God through his Word.  For Len Tao, this new knowledge of Jesus set his life and his thinking on a different direction. He knew he could solve his problems without medicines, without the same stress and not in so destructive a manner because of the person of Jesus Christ.