I Was Told My Childhood Night Terrors Would Stop – They Didn’t
I'm gonna tell you a scary story. It's scary because it's true. I had night terrors as a kid and they've only gotten worse as I've gotten older.
I rarely talk about really personal stuff like this. But, I have a feeling I'm not alone in what I'm experiencing and I'm hopeful that me being transparent about the issue might help someone else. I'll be blunt. I have night terrors. What began in childhood has only intensified as I've gotten older.
If you're not familiar with what a night terror is, here's how the Mayo Clinic defines it. In my opinion, they're only partially right:
Sleep terrors are episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep. Also known as night terrors, sleep terrors often are paired with sleepwalking. Like sleepwalking, sleep terrors are considered a parasomnia — an undesired occurrence during sleep. A sleep terror episode usually lasts from seconds to a few minutes, but episodes may last longer.
They go on to state that 40% of kids experience something like this, but it normally stops after teenage years.
For me, it didn't.
When I was a kid, I slept in my parent's basement. My mother was a doll collector and they lined the walls. Probably one of the main reasons I detest dolls to this day. Trying to go to sleep at night was...a challenge. I would hear sounds that I couldn't explain on the stairs going between the basement and the main floor of our home.
I once had what I guess would be considered a waking nightmare. My parents were having a BBQ in the backyard and I was asked to go get some plates. That involved walking inside the house through the basement and up the stairs. It was daylight, but I was suddenly terrified that something was chasing me. I ran up the stairs and actually dove out of the screen door of our house. Funny, right? Now I can laugh about it, but it sure wasn't funny then.
After I got older and left home, I thought whatever tormented me then would be gone. That was true until a summer night in 1990. At the time, I worked a night shift and would arrive home after midnight. I was alone trying to go to sleep one night when I heard footsteps in the home I was renting. The house had wooden floors, so it was easy to tell when someone was walking on them. I was in my bedroom trying to go to sleep with my face turned away from the door leading to the hallway. The footsteps got louder as they seemed to get closer to the bedroom. I had no weapon, so I decided I would try to slowly turn over to face whatever was coming down the hallway. I tried to be subtle so as to not alert whoever (or whatever) it was that I was awake. Once I finally rolled over to see what was in the hallway, I was terrified.
No one was there. Or, I should say no PERSON was there.
It was then that the footsteps began circling my bed with the most evil laughter I've ever heard. I was so scared I couldn't even scream. I finally uttered a prayer to God in my own mind and immediately the laughter and footsteps around the bed stopped. I got out of bed to check the house and make sure I really was awake and wasn't just having a nightmare.
A few weeks later that summer, I was once again trying to get to sleep after midnight. This time, I distinctly heard the back door of the house being shaken violently. I turned on the lights as I walked through the house and grabbed a knife as I was walking through the kitchen toward the back porch where I could still hear the door shaking. The porch was dark, so I slowly crept closer to the door so I could quickly turn on the light to see what was shaking the door so bad. It was a large old wooden door that wasn't easily moved. As I got closer, the shaking continued...I reached to flip up the light switch and the shaking immediately stopped. I quickly opened the door and was shocked at what I saw.
No one was there. Nothing.
In the years that have followed, I will still occasionally wake up in the middle of the night with the unmistakable feeling that something is trying to suffocate me. It feels like someone has a pillow on my face and I can't breathe. Again, only prayer stops it. This phenomena continues to this day. I never have a warning it's gonna happen. It just does.
You won't hurt my feelings if you laugh and shrug this off as a ghost story from a radio dude trying to freak you out. But, this is one of the rare times I am being serious. Night terrors continue to be a part of my life and I fear that I'm not alone in this experience.