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.
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.
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