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Archive for March 23rd, 2008

Fire (c) Rosanne MooneyMany people who suffered child abuse struggle with night terrors. Unfortunately, that is my story, too. I still remember my first night terror back in college. I awoke as an anxious mess in the safety of my dorm, but I could not even cry about it without waking up my roommate. The night terror haunted me for years. To this day, I can get worked up if I think about that one.

Night terrors are different from nightmares, and you can definitely tell the difference when you have one. They occur in a different stage of sleep, making it much more difficult to pull yourself out of the dream. I have had night terrors in which I have tried to wake myself up at least seven times in the dream, only to find myself still stuck in that scary place. For me, this drives home the reality of how unsafe I was as a child.

I have had many night terrors over the years. All of my night terrors tie into the child abuse. I had another one last night, which is why I am writing about it this morning. I am still very shaken and will likely stay anxious and “off” for the rest of the day. Happy Easter, Faith. I believe that Easter is what caused the night terror. I suffered from ritual abuse as a child, and Easter is one of the days that ritual abusers desecrate through their sick ceremonies.

My night terror was all about the ritual abuse. In the dream, I was sleeping in my bed when I heard/sensed someone entering my room. I opened my eyes and saw a hooded man, and all I could see of his face was eyes glowing out of the darkness of the hood. This was the way my ritual abusers dressed (without the glowing eyes), and it scared the h@#$ out of me.

I tried to wake myself up, and I “woke up” in my dream to see sunlight shining through the blinds. I looked at the clock and saw that it said 6:00 a.m. I knew I had no chance of falling back to sleep unless I did things to comfort myself, so I got up and went to the closet. I took out a comforter and focused on feeling the material to make sure I was really awake. Then, I took out a blanket and did the same thing. I piled both on my bed and snuggled up under them. (Piling on lots of covers makes me feel safe because I always knew more abuse was coming when I felt the absence of covers on my body as a child.)

I closed my eyes to sleep and sensed the presence of more people again. I opened my eyes and panicked when I saw two hooded figures with glowing eyes coming for me. I jumped up and tried to force myself awake. I even clawed my face to make sure I would wake up. Again, sunlight was shining through the window. I looked at the clock, and it had been turned off. I banged it on my night stand several times, but it would not work. I clawed myself again and then went to the closet and removed the blankets, focusing on their feel to make sure I was awake. I laid back down to sleep.

Once again, I sensed the presence of the hooded figures, and they were there when I opened my eyes. I heard a young child and reached out to grab and protect the child from them. I said, “It’s okay, ____ (younger sister),” and the child said, “No, mom. It’s me, ___ (my son).” Before I could completely panic about protecting my son from the hooded figures, my body jolted into my son, who had climbed into my bed during the night, and I woke up for real. Fortunately, my son had his elbow aimed right at me, and my body jerking into it woke me up. Thank goodness.

The weird thing is that I did exactly what I did in my dream. I looked at the clock, which said 1:00 a.m. There was no sunlight shining through the blinds. I got out the comforter and the blanket and piled it onto my bed. I was shaken as I tried to sleep. I am still shaky this morning.

If you struggle with night terrors and have lucid dreaming (where you know that you are in a dream), try screaming. That is how I usually wind up getting myself out of the night terrors. When I scream in the night terror, I have no voice, which freaks me out. However, if I keep trying, eventually my body will make a noise, and that will be enough to pull me out.

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Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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