Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A suspect emerges

Luke is still terrified of his room. Even with the full on 8 AM sun streaming through his bedroom window, he did *not* want to be in his room this morning. At. All. He went in with me long enough to grab a shirt, but he begged to be allowed to change clothes somewhere else. I left his door open, hoping that watching the kitties going in and out would help the fear subside. Instead, it almost seemed to make him more aggitated. "No, don't go in there, Cleo. There's nightmares in there!" (He picked that up from DH last night, who was convinced that it was a nightmare, even though I didn't think he'd had time to go back to sleep.)

As things have unfolded this evening, we may have finally discovered what really happened. As we were working through all of Luke's objections at bedtime, it suddenly came out that a cat may have been in his room. I don't think Luke was hiding that information or holding it back, I think he didn't realize it until he was "talking through" what happened. "But I saw it! I saw the hatch open, and then Bengal jumped on my bed." Ah-ha! As I mentioned in my previous post, Luke had come into our bedroom just before 3 AM to ask if it was time to get up (um, no). Knowing Luke, he probably left his bedroom door open, and being the Fluff of Opportunity that he is, Bengal likely took that as an invitation and waltzed right in.

I highly doubt that Luke had time to actually fall asleep enough to dream in the time that lapsed between tucking him back in bed and the screaming. That has been the most baffling thing about this whole ordeal. It was less than 5 minutes, and he takes after me in that respect (takes me forever go to back to sleep, too). Here is what we have surmised: either he was still awake, or he was just starting to drop off when Bengal decided he needed to look out the window. Imagine if you will: you are a 5-year-old child in a dark room that you've only lived in for a month, lit by a single night light, and you see the floor length wooden blinds to your left pulling away from the window all by themselves, with you laying in bed not 3 feet away, followed by a bang as the blinds slam back down against the window and a giant dark thing that you can't really see jumps on your bed. I know the thought gives grown-up me the willies; as a child, I'd have been screaming bloody murder, too. I can only imagine what it was like for Luke.

Now, knowing all of this (and putting a lamp with a low watt bulb on his chest of drawers) has helped him be in his room and lay in the bed without being as afraid. But as soon as DH or I leave the room (with the lamp still on!), he is petrified again. I am trying so hard to do what is right for him, but I have warring parental instincts right now. Part of me says we should stay in the room with him, but that is not a precedent I care to set. How many nights will it take for us to ever leave the room if we start that? But would that be faster/better than the constant up and down that we are having so far tonight? (We're at the 80 minute mark at the moment.) I don't think one night of successful sleeping in the room will cure it. It is going to take several nights for the fear to recede, and even longer for it to disappear completely (if it ever does). But is staying with him just validating that fear, telling him on some level that there is something to be afraid of because we wouldn't be staying if there weren't. I have no idea what the right thing to do is.

More than anything, I hate that even though I have experienced such feelings myself, I have no way to help him. Honestly, I never really got over it, I just learned to cope, to live with it. I had a bunch of stuffed animals, sometimes a flashlight, and occasionally resorted to sleeping with the room light on (once a year or so even now, as a married adult in my 30s, I still have an occasional "bathroom light on" night). DH is somewhat frustrated that telling him that it's not real and it can't hurt him is not helping. I know it won't help! But you still have to say it, over and over and over. The only things that got me through many a frightening night as a kid was squeezing my "friends" to death and chanting "it's not real, there's nothing to be afraid of." It didn't really make me any less afraid, but it gave me just enough of a grip on reality that I could stay in my bed until I was just too tired to stay awake anymore. But all of mine were either dreams or something frightening I had seen on television (or read in a book), and I always had that to fall back on. "It was just a dream. It's not real. It was just a television show, it was just a book, it's not real."

Luke's experience was not a dream. It *was* real, and he *was* awake, which isn't helping. Having a rational explanation after the fact is not doing any good at all. "Bengal was being silly. He just wanted to look out the window. He didn't mean to scare you. We'll make sure Bengal is out with us and that your door is closed tight so he can't get in. You're fine! There's nothing to be afraid of. It was just Bengal."

Nothing but empty words to a terrified child. I feel so helpless.

Currently feeling: miserable

1 comment:

  1. {{{Erin}}} As another sufferer of occasional night terrors, I remember that physical fear that grips you even when nothing tangible is happening...and I can only imagine if something actually did move!!! I think that it eventually will get better. If you do decide to stay in his room, I believe that if you tell Luke that you're in his room, not because he should be afraid or that there is anything to be afraid of, but just so that he will feel better, you won't be reinforcing that there is something to be afraid of. You're not there "in case something happens", you're there to relax him. I know it's a fine line...and also that he does need to learn to deal with it on his own. OK, I'm not really offering advice here, just commiserating with your tough decision. More {{{hugs}}}! =)


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