I dread the night. I dread sleeping. I have nightmares. I used to have nightmares every single night. It may come as no surprise that I learned to get by on very little sleep. It may also come as no surprise that that was not exactly a contributor to my mental health. But at the time it felt like the better choice.
At the moment my nightmares are down to a couple of nights per week. That is still way more often than I care for, and I’m still uneasy about sleeping, but at least I get some good nights, too, now.
The nightmares are horrible. I dream I’m being chased and have nowhere to hide. Or that I’m locked in a room and someone’s coming for me and I’m unable to move. Or that my step-father comes after me with his shotgun. Sometimes I dream of rape and often my dreams involve blood. Blood that comes out under doors is a recurring theme, for whatever reason. But while those are bad, the worst ones are the dreams that start out good and I dream of my family (the one I have now), and then suddenly the dream turns terrible. They die. They turn evil. They are in the house, but the door is locked and I can’t get into the house anymore. We go to some unfamiliar place and I get lost and don’t find them again. I get taken away. Or the house becomes unfamiliar and mixes with the house I grew up in. Crap like that.
I usually wake up from those dreams either screaming or crying or just scared stiff and sweaty and shaking and with my heart beating like crazy. And I always, ALWAYS feel totally threatened by everything after waking up. By the darkness, by the silence, by whatever noise there might be, by being alone, by everything, by nighttime, by going back to sleep.
And I need my mom. Every single time. I feel guilty about waking her up and stealing her sleep and I hate myself for being such a baby, but when I wake up terrified, all I want is her. She isn’t mad at me about it and insists all kids keep their parents up at night, and that with their oldest daughter it was several years before she slept through the night, but I still feel awful about it. After all they were little at the time.
I’m also highly sensitive towards stuff that I find fear inducing. For example this pumpkin I carved today for the Halloween decoration on the front steps – I have a big mouth and like to act like nothing scares me, like I’m tough and the mistress of the creepy, so I carved a scary face. And I can look at it when it’s light outside, I can light it when I let the blinds down, knowing it’s light outside and I can just let the light back in, but despite my big mouth I don’t want to see it lit on our front step during the night. I also can’t watch movies with crime and blood and gore in them. Or movies where bad things happen to people. I absolutely hate the darkness and would never go outside by myself after dark, and even when I’m with someone I trust, I do so only reluctantly and if I have to. (One more reason why I hate winter so much – it’s dark way too much.) Another thing is that I can’t stand to hear the news, like on the radio, because I’m so afraid they will report something terrible, or because they do report awful stuff. There are a lot more things that frighten me, but I usually avoid all of it out of habit, so it’s hard to name them all.
When I got spooked by something during the day, it’s really likely I’m going to have nightmares during the night. I don’t know if that’s just because I expect it, or because the feeling from the day lingers around, but I hate it. Same when I talked about stuff from my childhood with my mom or during therapy in a way that was not emotionally disconnected. Then I’m afraid to even go to bed by myself. Which means I often try to stave going to bed off as long as I can and my mom will let me.
But even so, I’ve gotten better. I used to have no wake-sleep pattern at all, other than dozing for a while when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, especially during the day. Or when I got too tired of being tired, I drank or took a large dose of some drug so I could sleep for a while without dreams. But by now I get several hours of sleep per night. I have regular bedtimes and have kind of learned to get tired at those times. Or to allow myself to get tired, probably. And while I’m still scared of having nightmares, I can tolerate the risk better now that I know I won’t be alone with them. Even so, they suck and I hate them. I wish they’d go away for good.