Saturday, August 4, 2012

Night Terrors

I suffered from night terrors when I was a little girl. I must have been about 7 when they started because it was shortly after my kid sister was born, two weeks before my seventh birthday. That birth was one of the prime suspects among the psychiatrists and psychologists I was suddenly dragged to see.

I really don’t recall the terrors per se. I do remember being scrutinized by my mother and father every mother: “How do you feel this morning, Honey”? And looked at long and meaningfully. At some point my older sister filled me into the vibe change.

“You know you wake up screaming every night.” she said. And something to the effect of “What’s up with that”?

I had no memory of these episodes but apparently they happened every night and after responding to my screams my parents were at a lost how to assuage my delirious rants which went on for hours they tell me. After a few months of this unsettling state of affairs, everyone was exhausted.. They were pretty sure I lost it.

Thus began the parade of professionals. School shrinks, “How do you feel about your little sister”? Then outside shrinks: building blocks and ink blot tests. Then the real big shot mental health experts in Chicago (we lived in the suburbs). More ink blots, interviews, regular visits. Every night the screaming continued (I was told). I still remembered nothing, which they found suspect because I was conscious in some way through much of it. But with one exception it was all a blank for me.

I remember the one exception rather vividly since I was, as I say seven. I sat in one of the bathrooms fussing with my father. He was trying to reason with me but he wasn’t having much success and he was frustrated. I kept whining that I wanted a piece of cake; why wouldn’t he give me any cake. There wasn’t any cake. I would give you a piece but there is no cake. And I kept insisting there was cake. It was birthday cake and I wanted a piece why oh why couldn’t I have a piece. And I was quite over the top about it. Crying and bitter, and angry as hell. That’s the only fragment I have any memory of.

I remember their exhaustion, their frustration their helplessness in the face of no answers from the doctors. I had a vague uneasiness they thought I was crazy and might put me someplace. But the consensus seemed that I seemed pretty well adjusted, about the new sister and whatever else goes on in a young kid’s mind and finally the doctors decided to look for a medical answer to all this. They ran a battery of tests, and shortly had an answer. I had a kidney infection of some sort. They treated me with antibiotics and immediately the night terrors stopped!

All was well and peaceful and normalcy settled in our home. I did still have nightmares and recurring ones. But they didn’t cause me to wake up screaming, or if I did, my scream woke me up. No in between the conscious and unconscious world for hours on end.

That is, until a couple of years later, after I turned ten. My father woke me up one night and asked if I knew why the front door was open and I said no and went back to sleep. The next day after more questions, I remembered walking down the street, a dark empty street. For the next couple of years I wandered in my sleep. And was discovered sitting on the front lawn, sitting in the empty bath tub, taking several midnight strolls again. Again I had little recall except the first night I was questioned and then another peculiar incident. I woke up, sort of and found myself feeling my way along the wall in the hallway into the kitchen. I remember thinking, why am I fumbling about, like a blind person, when I can see, my eyes are open?

I made a right turn and turned the door knob to the guest room, where my parents had guests spending the night. A prominent business associate of my father’s. I regarded them lying in bed, sound asleep, and calmly pulled my finger out of my nightgown pocket and pointed it at them, as if it were a gun. Then I loudly shouted “Bang, bang, you’re dead!”

Which woke us all up.

I couldn’t go to camp that year seeing as the cabins sat a few hundred feet from a cliff over a roaring creek. And they put an alarm on the front door. Then one day the walking stopped.

And I started flying in my dreams. Most of the time there was no plot to my flying dreams; I was just flying around the neighborhood, looking around. I still fly sometimes, usually now it’s cross country. I live in New York; the rest of the family is in California. I go to visit them

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