Five percent of adults suffer from frequent night terrors. I am one of those.
I’ve always been a big dreamer and I’m not just talking about the daydream variety. From a very young age, my subconsciousness and wild imagination became my mode of travelling, my gateway to far away and extraordinary places where weird and wonderful things would happen. As a five-year old I would spend many nights dreaming about riding my favourite horse into numerous magical adventures where I was the hero, the little brave and always fearless soul with otherworldly powers who would save the day. I wanted to be a fireman when I grew up, so my dreams were always connected to helping and saving others. As a child I remember feeling so sensationally excited about all of this that I would draw my dreams for my parents at the breakfast table whilst taking great joy out of telling the story with dramatic sound effects and courageous gestures. But then one night, at the age of 13 I had another dream, one that changed how I felt about dreaming forever. For the first time in a dream I was in real danger and falling from a 20-story building with nothing and no one around me and all I had was the very real and hard reality of sudden death awaiting me when I reached the ground.
Falling into a nightmare
I don’t know what prompted it that night, but at around 2am I woke the entire household with what my mother describes as an ear-splitting scream at such high frequency that the vibrations of the noise caused one of the ornaments on her dressing table in their bedroom, to fall over. Once I came to my senses, I remember seeing my entire family standing in my room looking half-asleep and seriously confused about what is going on, my floodgates wide open with tears streaming down my face and sweat dripping off my forehead like I just returned from a trip to the Sun. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I now know that at that very moment my mind yanked me out of that horrific nightmare and back to reality at the speed of light, my body was overflowing with anxiety and fear. Feelings of utter panic and absolute distress completely engulfed me and as a relatively normal 13-year old I had absolutely no idea how to deal with that. After a lot of gentle sweet talking and a glass of my favourite warm milk with honey, I managed to finally fall asleep again, but not without my dad in the room where I can see him. The following day small fragments of what happened during the nightmare floated around in my memory like small pieces of paper that escaped a burning fire. However what was deeply etched into my brain, were the emotional and mental scars of an eerie experience that has changed how I slept ever since.