Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Terror in the Night

Time required to go from in bed dozing but not asleep at 3 AM when the child start screaming hysterically, to finding the child petrified but physically unhurt in the hall: 5 seconds

Number of distinct scenarios this mother can imagine in those 5 seconds, ranging from mundane to absurd to horrific: 6 (along with about 50 refrains of "oh my god, please be okay")

I am quite sure those were the longest 5 seconds of my life. I'm still shaking from the adrenaline buzz, and highly doubt that I (or the child) will be getting any more sleep tonight. He is convinced that there is some purple thing coming through his bedroom window. Neither DH nor I can see anything new that hasn't been there for the month we've lived there. No new lights, nothing unusual outside. DH even laid down on the bed with the lights off to see if he could figure out what happened.

Luke had been up just a few minutes before asking if it was time to get up, so he could not have been asleep very long, if at all. But there is no faking the visceral terror he clearly feels at the thought of going back in his room without the lights. We could get him back in bed, but once I turned the light off (he has a nightlight, same one he's always had in the same place he's always been), even with both DH and me in the room with him, the thought of laying down again in his bed was too much and he physically pushed off DH who was trying to hug him and calm him so that he could leave his room and go out into the hall.

Despite clearly remembering being scared like that, both as a child and an adult, I have absolutely no idea how to help him. I, at least, now have DH to huddle up with in bed, but having Luke sleep in our room (which was his request) is not a precedent we care to set. He and DH are tucked in the den right now with the lights dimmed. I'm trying not to add any additional unusual elements to the environment by sniffing every 2-3 minutes, so I'm back in our bedroom (wide awake now, of course). It's been about 45 minutes since I tucked them in, and I've heard Luke fussing every 5-10 minutes, which is probably about how long it takes him to start dozing off. I can hear the fear in his little voice all the way down the hall, even if I can't make out his actual words. Clearly, he is still "seeing" whatever it is whenever he closes his eyes, and I can completely sympathize (the movie SE7EN, anyone?). I see many long nights ahead.

Part of me feels like this is my fault. DH almost never remembers his dreams, maybe once a year at most. I'm the one who has nightmares like that, and I'm the one who, when being perfectly honest with myself, is still more than a tiny bit afraid of the dark. Another part of me simply cannot shake the feeling that there could have been something (someone?) out there. At least at the old house, there was no chance of someone being outside his 2nd story window, but here? It is possible. I find that to be the most fundamentally disturbing aspect of this whole ordeal. I may sleep with the light on myself tonight.

Currently feeling: exhausted


  1. ((Erin)) I'm so sorry you're dealing with this - there really is not much you can do but be as reassuring as you can once he wakes up. :(

    Alex went through a phase when he was about 7-8 where he would have horrible night terrors. In one of the dreams huge M&Ms were trying to tear him apart and eat him. Sounds really silly in retrospect, but he was completely terrified at the time. We never did figure out why the dreams were happening, but they eventually went away on their own. We tried to teach him to remember the dream, but to change it in his mind so that it ended with him squashing the M&M (or eating it) or "winning" somehow. That seemed to help him some because the next time he'd have that same dream, he'd dream it the new way. Didn't make it stop altogether, but it helped.

    I remember well the feeling of helplessness though and how much he dreaded going to bed and how upset he'd be in the night after one of his nightmares. ((more hugs)) for you and I hope this is the last of them for Luke for a LONG time.

  2. My DD fortunately never went trhough that phase as I recall, but I do remember myself being absolutely *terrified* of the overhead light at night when I was about 4-5. In retrospect, the lights from a nearby parking lot made the shadows shift and so the light seemed to "move" and it scared the pants off me.

    If he feels more comfortable in the hall, perhaps letting him sleep on a sleeping bag or mat in the hall (or folded up comforter) might work?


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