Waking up in a panicked and fearful state is never the highlight of anyone’s night. Night terrors are much like nightmares, but I am going to just call these night terrors to keep it simple, are rarely explained from a first-person view. Everyone will experience something a little different, but the principle remains the same. We won’t see the exact same things, but we will all feel that level of “terror” during the event span of a few minutes.
I have done a lot of outside research but have been unable to pinpoint an exact “name” for night terrors. It seems to be a rather unexplored topic in general. What goes on after my eyes close at night, is so much more than the basic definition of a night terror. It is a mix of terror and hallucination. I would imagine there is a very wide variety of definition per individual as well. Based on our mental and emotional set up.
What Is Included in My “Nightmares”?
- Heightened panic
- Triggered fear
- In-body experience
- Full-scale hallucinations
- Ability to hear, feel, see, smell
- 1-4-minute window before coming out of it
- Awake physically, but not consciously
We’re going to start with
- (1) The heightened panic. I will abruptly “wake” to instant panic, unable to calm myself or think rationally, the panic will persist till the window has passed.
- (2) The fear accompanies the panic instantly upon jolting into the darkness. The things I’m witnessing are pushing my fear levels to their max, regardless of not having any “real” fear of what’s going on if I were fully conscious.
- (3) An in-body experience is what I like to call being in your own body or being “you” while the nightmare is occurring. You aren’t looking at yourself from an above view or out of body view, you are right there in the middle of it.
“The fears we don’t face become our limits”-
- (4) Full-scale hallucinations are one of the most terrifying things a person could experience. It will be something presenting itself in such a manner that’s so “authentic”, you won’t be able to tell which the true reality is.
- (5) Senses is a big factor to comment. Many who describe night terrors associate it with loss of senses or paralyzation. Not the case with mine! I can get out of bed and move, all while feeling things exactly as I do in reality.
- (6) The window at which the nightmares occur and last, is usually within a 1-4-minute span before I fully “come to” and realize I was in the midst of a hallucination.
“Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.”-
- (7) This ties into the senses. It’s being awake but mentally not fully being conscious enough to discern reality from the nightmare. This is the worst kind of nightmare.. as nothing is scarier then thinking horror is real.
No Rhyme or Reason
There is never any real logic to the things that occur in my nightmares. Everything seems completely randomized. Waking up to see dead bodies carpeting the floor around my bed or opening my eyes to find I am buried outside in the forest beneath a pile of scrap metal and unable to get out. I often can’t pinpoint why I have the specific hallucinations that I do within a nightmare, but this does not make them any less traumatizing during that time frame. We may never fully understand what causes us to see the things we see in a nightmare. Studies have been done but the human mind and it’s subconscious is far too large and unique per individual to really grasp much understanding of the “why’s”.
How Often Does It Happen?
It used to be an every night kind of thing for me. Anytime I would manage to close my eyes and drift off for a moment, I would awake to horrors. Paired with my insomnia, I really began fearing ever attempting to closing my eyes to rest. I have managed to cope with and make progress through the abrupt nightmares, but they are not 100% gone and may never be. For many years it was a constant every single time I closed my eyes, years later of learning how to manage and work through it, I’ve reduced that number to once every few weeks. Sometimes I can even go a whole month now without it! Progress is possible, you just need to be dedicated and determined to overcome.
What Triggers Them?
Over my years of studying my own nightmares, I can conclude a list of many things that could possibly trigger them. My constant battle with my CPTSD has spawned many ghosts in the attic of my mind. Stress can trigger them, discomfort, emotional distress, the feeling of instability… I found it made a huge difference by changing my environment. I had been living in a basement apartment for years, it was always dark and lifeless. I could never open my windows because the car bumpers blocked any air or sun. I felt more cut off from the world in the basement unit like that.
Last fall I finally secured a top floor apartment in another apartment building! I had been wanting a top floor unit for years after realizing the basement was causing more issues than I originally anticipated. It was difficult finding another apartment that would allow Hank due to his size, but I feel as though I lucked out! It was the 4th floor, full of windows and plenty of sunshine. It was a warm summer-like fall when I moved in to the new apartment, I opened all the windows for the first time and remember how good the breeze felt, and the warm sun on my face. I could see the rooms filling with sunshine, and it was just such a good feeling. My nightmares have decreased since moving. It is a powerful aspect and critical to be in an environment that empowers “you” and “your” mindset.
Being able to feel safe and content in your home plays a large role in how your mind transforms when you close your eyes at night. It will require a lot of hard work and patience to overcome them, but I firmly believe it’s possible for any degree of nightmares. Finding the root causes and fixing what you can is the first step to coping with them. You’re stronger than you realize, despite the horror you may experience daily, you can do this. You deserve terror-free rest just as much as anyone else.