Tag Archives: vivid nightmares

Night Time Horrors

I love children’s books. When my son was young, I delighted in introducing him to all my favorites, but I especially loved seeing his reaction to Maurice Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen.”

The story features young, adventurous Mickey who stirs from his bed and embarks on a strange adventure. Young Mickey is thrown into cake batter, flies across the sky, and ends up right where he started — safe in his own bed.

I always thought fancied myself to be like Mickey: brave and curious, eager for new experiences and unafraid of where they might lead. But during acute withdrawal, the world was filled with monsters. Where I once appreciated Sendak’s idea of an ever-changing landscape over which one had no control, suddenly that lack of control wasn’t fun at all.

One of the monsters I battled was insomnia. Not only was I terrorized while I was awake, but I couldn’t escape my demons even when I closed my eyes. If I was lucky enough to fall asleep, I experienced horrifying vivid nightmares, causing me to jolt awake, my heart pounding in my chest.

Click HERE to see more amazing art by Morgan Huneycutt @behance.com.

Click HERE to see more amazing art by Morgan Huneycutt @behance.com.

One night, I journaled about my nightmares, detailing them in my black and white composition notebook. The next morning, I looked at my scribbles:

A fat, yellow caterpillar with a woman’s face writhes in a thick puddle of mucous in the middle of a dark room.  The creature wears a blonde wig perched crookedly on its head. I open my mouth to scream, but no sound comes out. I try to run, but the stuff on the floor is sticky, so I cannot move. The caterpillar-woman gurgles as she moves in my direction. Her mouth is no longer a mouth; it is a dark swirling cavity. I am surprised when she stabs me, since I hadn’t noticed her huge spiny bristle filled with some kind of clear fluid. Feeling my flesh burn, I realize I’ve been poisoned and, as my clothes melt into my skin, I can do nothing but wait for the creature to devour me.

You know how you feel when you wake up after having a single nightmare? That disoriented, terrified moment when all you want is to hold onto something solid. That moment where you look for reassurance from a person sleeping next to you?

That night, I recounted 9 separate nightmares.

I read about a man with pointy teeth whose fingers turned into knives. About dark, swirling water: the place my son drowned while buckled in his infant carrier. I read about fires and hurricanes and war and plagues and famines.

Each nightmare was darker and more catastrophic than the one that preceded it.

Even scarier? I barely remembered writing about them.

I spoke with my therapist many times while I stayed at my parents’ house, and she reassured me that I was on the path to healing, that my neural pathways had to learn basic things — even things like sleep — again after having been dulled for 7 years. That my healing would take time. She was encouraging, and I was prepared to wait it out.

But after nearly 3 weeks of little to no quality sleep, the exhaustion was killing me. Though I was terrified with the idea of taking any medication to help me rest, my parents convinced me to try some of the pills my doctor had prescribed.

I should have known better.

That night, I had a rare paradoxical experience. Much like the horror in many of my nightmares, I experienced a kind of “locked-in” syndrome, where I was completely awake and yet utterly unable to move or scream. On the outside, my body was still; on the inside, I writhed and buzzed with electricity.

When the effects of the medication wore off the next day, I wandered into the kitchen to find my parents. My father greeted my brightly. “Did you sleep last night?” he asked.

I looked at him with wide eyes. “No more pills!”

• • •

{This week, I express gratitude to Monica Cassani at Beyond Meds. If you or someone you know is hypersensitive to medications, check out her blog. You are not alone! I also need to thank Val Erde, who offered support from across The Pond, and to Marna Meltzer & Michelle Goldstein for offering me hope during my darkest hours.}

What monsters have you been battling recently?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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