Night Terrors, Fever Dreams, Waking Dreams, and 8 Legged Things:

It is chasing me. No matter how fast I run, the beast is just on my heals. It starts in my childhood neighborhood. It’s in the neighbor’s back yard. It almost has me. It will consume me when it gets me. Not eat me, no: that’s not enough. It intends to devour my soul. I try to catch glimpses of it, but it is hard to look back while I’m running. I can see a hairy leg here, or a massive pincer there, but mostly I can see the shadow. This is shadow unlike any caused by a lack of light: it defines the lack of light, it destroys light. It is true darkness. I can feel the evil emanating from that darkness, and it wants me. The faster I try to run, the slower my legs move, and it is going to get me. In my heart, I can feel the eight legs moving, but the beast makes no sounds as it moves at the speed of the wind. It’s almost here! I fall! It has me! I’ve been awake for minutes, but the paralysis still holds my arms and legs! I can’t breath! No, I can breath… Can I move? What will happen to me?

We have a rule, unspoken, I think, that the person who has to work the next day doesn’t stay up with the kids who don’t sleep. Normally, that rule has worked in my favor (though not always)… tonight, however, it falls on Julie to sleep, and me to get tortuously woken up every time I’m on the verge of sleep.

Ezra had a few night terrors as a younger child, he still gets nightmares. We didn’t know what was going on, at first. I think they were as scary to us as they were to him. We’ve grown accustomed to them (fortunately they aren’t all too common), but they are no less disturbing. Once we had a name for them, it helped to explain what I experience.

Nathaniel’s are different. His, more like mine, are waking dreams as much as night terrors. He’s had his eyes open and is aware of what is going on for the last several hours, but there is more happening for him than for me. “Daddy the spiders are behind you!” He screamed as he dives into my arms. His fever makes him uncomfortable to sooth on a night this warm. “Daddy, their trying to eat me!”

It seems, as he’s described it, that his terrors involve spiders as well – (though he did mention a particularly terrifying octopus as well) – it is the spiders both big and small that are surrounding him and trying to get him.

Unlike the defenselessness involved in my dreams, the poor boy is exhausted for another reason: He’s been forcefully pointing his arms and making shooting noises all night. At first I thought he was playing, but, while his eyes are open, he is clearly asleep. He’s terrified, but he’s fighting the monsters of his dreams. And every once in a while he gets one (“I killed it!”).

I hope that his waking fever dream doesn’t create in him the phobia of all things arachnid that they have for me, but I take some hope in knowing that, no matter what, my son won’t go down without a fight!

The Tickling Sheets and the Boy Who Didn’t Sleep

One of my first memories of sleep was that I hated sheets. Especially thatdarn top sheet. It… tickled. No, that’s not right, but it was the closest I could come up with in my young age to describe the sensation. All night I’d kick and wiggle. It had to be the sheets that where tickling my legs. The darn flannel sheets where so hot that I wanted to cry, and the lighter the sheet got the more it… tickled. But tickling is generally a pleasant experience. Not from my sheets. Those hurt. And the lighter the fabric, the softer the touch on my skin, the more uncomfortable it became, even to the point of being painful. I described this as a child to my mother as tickling, and I remember being so frustrated that she didn’t understand that it wasn’t a good thing. I didn’t have the language to communicate what was wrong, but I persisted to refuse a top sheet even into my late teens. I don’t think I really used one until I was in my early twenties and I had a wife who wanted one. But I didn’t begin to understand WHY until I was a missionary.

One of my companions had a doctor’s appointment. Dutifully, I waited in the waiting room while he got his medical treatment. We missionaries where supposed to avoid television, so I sat sneaking occasional glances at whatever daytime show was playing in the lobby. I remember once finding myself entranced by a commercial: “do your legs itch? Every time you try to relax, does it feel like you’re legs are ready to run a marathon? Does this make it hard to sleep?” “Yes!” I remember almost audibly saying to the television in the crowded lobby, “Yes, that describes it perfectly!” “then you may have restless leg syndrome…” “Oh…. that explains so much of it!” I finally had a name to apply to what was going on with my legs! Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS is… bad. I am convinced that the punishment in the lowest circle of hell is RSL. I wish I was exaggerating. I didn’t sleep well, even as a young child because of the nightmare.

Yesterday I was introduced to a term called allodynia… that with the RLS really does explain what I described as tickling sheets from my youngest years, but even now I don’t know how to describe it to someone who doesn’t experience similar misery, so generally I don’t.