I write this with a curiosity as to what others reactions will be, for I have read the comments and so many are quite harsh - don't worry I won't be offended. However, I have always wondered if more people are of the opinion that night terror are not just dreams gone wrong.
When I was about nine or ten, living in Caracas, Venezuela (a neighborhood called Alto Prado) I suffered (per my family - I have barely any recollection) from night terrors. I would wake up the whole house almost every night, sometimes twice, screaming at the top of my lungs but never actually waking. The only way to calm me down was for my father to hold me in his arms and rock me back and forth. I would often be shacking and sweaty, though I was quite cold to the touch. This went on for nearly a year and my parents tell me that they were seriously considering taking me to a shrink but for some reason never did. Then after my grandfather (Grand Dad) passed away it all just stopped - but that is the second part of my story.
I do remember having a re-occurring nightmare that scared the hell out of me but, as for all the screaming and the things my parents say I said (once apparently I was insisting that someone was poisoning my brother) I can't remember any of it.
I can only remember one event: I simply remember hearing myself scream, seeing the light of my room turn on and all of my family (Mom, Dad and two older brothers) come in to my room. My brothers stood at the foot of my bed looking rather annoyed and amused at the same time, while my mother called to me to wake up, putting her hand on my forehead. I saw my Dad sit next to me and pick me up to hold me. I could hear my own voice screaming out side of me but it was not me. My own inner voice was screaming for help because I could not control anything. I could not move, I could not feel my body, I was not sure if my eyes were even really open. "I can't wake up, I can't wake up" is what a mostly remember saying. As my Dad rocked me and held me tight I could feel the tension going away and I just drifted off. When I woke up the next morning I asked my Mom if I had had another episode and she confirmed it. I told her I saw it but, I don't think she believed me, she said that as usual my eyes were clamped shut with tears rolling and screaming irrational things - sometimes I did not even scream words.
Then there was the re-occurring nightmare that I believe was tied to the "night terrors" (this is kind of long - hope it is worth the read to you): The dream would start in cartoon format. I saw a little blonde girl in a pink dress skipping happily down a side walk, with a single strand of long golden hair in her hand, but there is a looming feeling of someone watching her with hate and malice. She arrives at a house and sits in a large blue chair; meanwhile the presence of this malice, this negative feeling, intensifies. Still she just sits there looking up at someone, the very person from whom this hate seems to come from. Above the girl's head is an oval shaped mirror and I see the face, a mean face, grey and blurry - except for the eyes. I cannot bear to gaze at them. I close my eyes.
All of the sudden I was no longer in a cartoon world but a feeling of abandonment and rejection is there and I am in some kind of school yard. It has the feel of fall for the sky is a brown grey color, full of heavy clouds, and the all cement playground is littered with brittle brown leaves. The leaves rustle but a single one is moving. It is very cool. There seems to be a strange sort of cage elevator against one of the buildings that flanks this place and though there is no one around, I can hear the laughter of children, as a sort of echo, as if the playground was filled with children playing. Suddenly the elevator starts to move and is coming down slowly, making a horrible creaking metal sound, and I hear a scream coming from underneath it - a panicked scream. The overwhelming sense of panic comes over me and all of the sudden I am under it. It's coming down on me and I cannot seem to get away. The children's laughter has turned into the sound of squealing pigs and the squeals become more frantic the lower the elevator descends. I scream and close my eyes crying.
Suddenly I am back to a cartoon format. I am viewing everything from a high up corner. It would seem that the little girl in pink has grown up and is wearing a long gown. She is walking in to a grand hall with black and white checkered floors, and again she is being watched with a deep feeling of hate and disdain, when all of the sudden she is hurled in to a dark place and now I have become her, I see and feel and hear what she does and the dark space is becoming smaller and I am being pressed against a corner. When a turn to run and get out I see a tall, thin, "mother" like figure walking away and closing me away in the dark shrinking space. I scream to her for help, beg her not to leave me (I call her Mommy), not to close the door, but the corner of the room keeps encroaching on me and the doors are closing behind the figure. I feel tighter and tighter and the sight of that encroaching corner terrifies me. It is pure PANIC and HYSTERIA. When I finally wake from this is would be morning and my eyes would be red from crying.
Needless to say I was the type of kid who was afraid of the dark, of my closet, under my bed and strange noises - not to mention closed spaces! So, on one particular evening I had finished watching TV and was going to my room to sleep and, as was my routine, I turned on the light to my room before going in (the switch for my room was just outside my bedroom door) and walked in. The moment I walked in the light turned off. I jumped back out of my room to find that the light switch had been turned back off. Feeling silly and not wanting to get picked on by my brother, I said nothing, turned on the light again and went in my room. I ran to my night table and turn on that light too (only after running and jumping on to my bed so as to not have my feet exposed to whatever might be under there).
My Mom came in to say goodnight, turning off the bedroom light as she left, and I proceeded to make my little pillow fortress, making sure every inch of me is safely tucked in. I reached out and quickly turn off my night light, tucking my arm back in leaving only my eyes exposed. I must of looked silly to the outsider, but I was truly scared. I could not fall asleep any other way.
However, in the early morning (when you are the first to be picked up for the bus route your wake up time is 4AM) my night table lamp turned on and a large yet soft soothing hand caressed the side of my face down to my neck and I heard a gentle voice say "wake up". Not afraid at all, and having slept REALLY WELL, I slowly open my eyes to see a tall figure walking out of my room. I figured it was my Dad, so I got up to say good morning (I did not even think about what was under the bed!) but, when I get to my doorway there was NO ONE THERE! The house is completely dark and I can hear both of my parents still snoring. I looked at my clock and it was about 5 minutes 'til four. Still, despite all of this I was not afraid. I simply went on with my day, wondering what had happened but the fear was gone. I went to school as if nothing. I just felt good really.
When I came home, my Mother sat my brothers and me down and told us that Dad had to go that same day to the US (Arkansas) because early that morning Grand Dad had passed away.
From that day forward I did not have another night terror nor do I recall having that re-occurring nightmare ever again.
My Oma (Grandmother) later told me that one of the last persons Grand Dad spoke about was me, said he was going to miss seeing me grow up. It is so strange to me. He was always such a quiet man and I saw him only a few times in my life, I wonder what it would have been like to know him as an adult. Still, I credit him with ending those dreams and I will be forever grateful.
Well, I must admit I do feel like I am looked after and taken care of, and I hope that to pass this on to my baby. It is amazing how much "braver" being a parent makes you. For even if you feel fear, what ever it is, it is going to have to go through you first before touching your child. I hope he is never haunted in his sleep like that.
Thank you again for your comments. I think my next post will have to be my Mother's experiences. She has had a few very interesting ones.
There is a saying in Venezuela "Yo no creo en brujas, pero de que vuelan, VUELAN" - loosely translates to: I don't believe in witches, but they really do fly. A way of saying that there are just things in this life you can not explain. What is life without some mystery?
Take care everyone