It is not yet 9pm London time and I am in bed, ready to fall asleep.
Somewhere in the centre of my head, the remnants of last night’s migraine flutter about in a threatening manner.
My heart is beating a little faster than usual, but this isn’t uncommon for me at this time of night. I pop a propranolol and wait uneasily for my heart to calm the fook down before the palpitations spiral out of control.
I’m not ashamed to say. I am 33 and tonight I will sleep with all my lamps on. That’s three. One on either side of my bed and another in an opposite corner of my room.
I am 33, yes but I still have sleep terrors. The kind of sleep terrors that shove you unexpectedly into fight or flight mode, leaving you filled with sheer dread. It is a kind of terror I can only try to describe. But you never forget it. Even if you’ve no idea what you’re terrified of.
Sleep terrors are different from nightmares, which I also get and tend to remember in detail. But during my sleep terrors I rarely remember what was going on in my head, just that I wake up gripped by terror, often screaming, sometimes sleep walking, or talking aloud.
Read more: The messy side of mental health problems; what the media & campaigns don’t show
Night before, the sound of my own piercing screams woke me up. Totally not awkward. (Did I mention that I live in a shared house?) yes, renting in London is expensive.
The night after, I however I woke up while running down the stairs in a terrible panic ( my bedroom is on the first floor). I know it must be hard to imagine but yes, while asleep I managed to unlock my bedroom door with the key, close it quietly apparently and make for the staircase. In my mind I was trying to escape a terrible fate. But I woke mid way on the staircase, half naked and dazed.
After my shame subsided I had a meltdown over it. How dare my mind do its own thing unbeknownst to me. it is exhausting.
Apparently sleep terrors aren’t uncommon in people with C-PTSD like me.
It is absolutely one of the scariest things I’ve had to deal with. And I really wish there was more research and understanding about it.
Less stigma would be nice too. In my twenties I remember living in a house with a group of girls who found it funny, and bullied me because of it.
This is just a gentle reminder that no one chooses this. I didn’t choose the trauma that scarred me and rattles my mind into giving me sleep terrors and nightmares.
Scars or not I am still a person. A whole person. And it really bugs me that on top of having to deal with the actual symptoms, I must also worry about how some people will see me or react when they find out. Even in this age, there are some some people will see you as a whole person in your professional and personal life etc, but the moment they hear ‘mental health problems’ you’re suddenly less validated. There’s an example of what I mean below.
“I want someone normal,” he said, “without mental health issues”
Gentle hugs x
P.S Do you have a history of sleep terrors as an adult? and how do you cope with them?
Cover image by Matthew Larkin
Slider front page image by Calwaen Liew
2 Replies to “Not-so-good night: Rantings on sleep terrors”
I am so sorry you have to experience this. I had sleep terrors some years ago, but they subsided as circumstances in my life changed. Every once in a while, though, I still wake myself up screaming. Our neighbor boy (he is 12 years old and was adopted, but his early life was not good) has them. He tries to run outside, and his parents have had to put in a security alarm system that wakes them if he opens an outside door. They have found that if he sleeps with a weighted blanket over him at night, he does much better. I know several people, in fact, who use weighted blankets. And my sister and I were just talking today about the sleep terrors that our dear friend (we consider him to be like a brother) has. So, please know that there are people who understand. Sending you love and gentle hugs, Deb
Ohh Deb, thank you so much for writing this. It is so distressing and even though I know other people must experience it too it feels better to hear you share these stories so I know you know how I feel. I do get them less than before and I hope he frequency decreases further. I’m
Sorry you also suffer this and about your neighbours son. It is a terrible thing. I am going to look into finding a weighted blanket. Thanks so much again. How are you doing friend? Hugs x