Night Terrors and Miracles

nightmares

I love sharing insights that I’ve gained through sobriety, spirituality and parenting and I admit that I like to wrap things up in neat little packages. I don’t usually post until I’ve come to some sort of conclusion that I (and hopefully others) can learn from. I like finding meaning, lessons and most of all, closure.

That’s probably why I’ve never written in detail about how I suffered for nearly 30 years from severe night terrors. I no longer have them and while I’d love to be able to give you a list of bullet points describing how I overcame them, I can’t.

I can only tell you the story about how I was miraculously healed. (That’s another reason why I haven’t written about it. People tend to get a little squeamish when folks start talking about miracles.)

If you’ve ever had night terrors, you understand how debilitating they are. My night terrors were rooted in abuse that I suffered as a child. When I first learned that people who suffered abuse sometimes developed PTSD, I looked up the symptoms. Night terrors, anxiety attacks, being painfully triggered by reminders of traumatic events, unable to be touched in certain places on my body, depression, substance abuse…I’d experience just about all of the symptoms I’d read about. Although I was never diagnosed by a professional, I’m convinced that I had PTSD.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I had night terrors 3-7 nights a week from about the age of 8 until I was almost 38. I screamed like I was being murdered, ran into walls and furniture, tried to and sometimes succeeded in running out of the house, threw things at walls, tried to physically move my bedmates (humans and pets), and woke up physically and mentally exhausted for nearly 30 years.

It was also disruptive for anyone who slept in the same house as me. I scared my friends at sleepovers but eventually, everyone got used to it. It got to the point that my parents wouldn’t bother coming in to check on me and later, when I was married, my husband would roll over and go back to sleep.

It was a very different experience for me. I always woke up with my heart beating out of my chest, sweating profusely, shaking and filled with a foreboding sense of shame. I’d feel such embarrassment over waking people that I’d rise in the morning with a lingering sense of humiliation. And I did this for 30 years.

I tried many methods to stop the night terrors. I slept with a healing crystal under my pillow, I smudged our yard with sage to ward off negative energy, I begged and pleaded with God to make them stop. I researched sleep disorder clinics, talked to a therapist, took herbal remedies and I got drunk. Since the night terrors usually happened within the first 2 hours after I fell asleep, drinking helped me pass out through the danger zone. Certainly not something I recommend as a coping mechanism but that’s what I did.

When my husband and I were trying to get pregnant for the first time, we talked about the night terrors and how they could affect our unborn child. To say that I was stressed about how I could damage our baby is an understatement. I wasn’t going to be able to drink and I had no other plans or ideas.

The night terrors stopped as soon as I got pregnant with our son and have never returned. It’s been 6 years this month. This was years before I became a Christian but I knew even then that God had healed me. One night I had unbearable night terrors and the next night I didn’t.

It’s been suggested to me that maybe we play a role in choosing who we are to become before we’re even conceived, that we have a pow-wow of sorts with God to go over the possibilities. I like that idea. I can just picture God throwing his hands up in the air at my attempts to make the night terrors go away until he has to take the drastic measure of healing me so that we can get on with the plan. Smudging with sage, Karen? Seriously? (God chuckles knowing that I’m going to paint my kitchen that color years down the road.)

Night terrors were one of many things keeping me from progressing in my life. If they had continued, I imagine my road to sobriety would’ve taken longer and my struggles with anxiety would’ve been that much harder. I can painfully imagine how difficult motherhood would’ve been with chronic night terrors and I don’t know how I would’ve coped. I’m eternally grateful that I didn’t have to.

Skeptics would say that my pregnancy permanently altered my biochemistry. Those averse to the idea of a “wish granting” God might say why would you be healed and not others? I don’t pretend to know how our creator works, but what I feel is that what happened to me has something to do with my personal, unique journey and my bigger story with God.

I could’ve chosen to see this as something completely arbitrary, a random and glorious coincidence like winning the lottery. But my heart knows differently. I don’t expect miracles to happen every day (Ok God, you healed my night terrors but left the hemorrhoids. What’s up with that?). But knowing that they can happen gives me comfort that I’m part of something bigger than myself.

I don’t want to make light of human suffering. People are in horrible pain every moment, many die too soon and we can be such a cruel species. I understand why some people have trouble believing in a loving God. What happened to me – not just the healing but the abuse, my alcoholism, everything – makes me think that the way we understand time and space is so incomplete. I believe there’s a big picture that we can’t even conceive of.

And I know that the end of my night terrors was not of my own doing.

20 Comments on “Night Terrors and Miracles

  1. My husband suffered for years from exactly what you describe and, like you, his spiritual growth and the easing of his night terrors have been linked very closely. I think, when our minds our quiet our spirits cry out in all sorts of wild ways. I think it’s very brave of you to share your experience!

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    • Thank you Elizabeth! I’m glad your husband has found relief too. I wouldn’t refer to my pregnant mind as quiet back then! I was filled with anxiety but I like what you say about our spirits crying out.

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  2. Pingback: Why Bloggers Are Happier People | themiracleisaroundthecorner

  3. I believe, Karen. 🙂

    I am one of the most logical, pragmatic persons out there, and yet, there is a part of me that knows without a doubt that, for lack of a better term, divine intervention is a real and true happening. I can’t even verbalize it, and yet, I just know it in my cells. (Like Jodi Foster in Contact.) Maybe it does have something to do with choosing our lives before hand, or maybe we keep coming back to work on what we didn’t get right last time. Or maybe people come into our lives at certain time, for certain reasons … why shouldn’t our children be any different?

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the night you conceived was the night your terrors stopped. Because your cells knew there was another life you were now responsible for. YOU knew on some level, because some level was telling you.

    I loved this story, you gave me chills.In a good way! – C

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    • Know it in my cells – I love that! Having my kids healed me in a way that I never expected and I do believe that God knew the night terrors couldn’t be a part of that. Thank you Christy!

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  4. Karen, I loved reading this. The piece felt like it was filled with grace, and it totally moved something inside me that I cannot describe. And then when you got to the miracle part – I am ALL about that! AND the contract (or whatever) we create about our life before we were even born. So so awesome! Blessings about, and so glad that you get to experience and share them, and that I get to share them through your writing.

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    • I love that idea too! It just feels true that we’re connected deeply with the creation of our story. I’ve experienced too many odd connections with people for there to not be a grander scheme. You’re someone I was thinking about when I was writing this. I’m so glad it touched you!

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  5. I never realized night terrors were that bad (d’uh…..the word is “terror” Paul, can’t be rainbows and bunnies with a name like that). I am so relieved to hear that they were removed from you. And I believe, like you, that they were removed. Like the obsession to drink – that time you were in that bathroom (that is correct, isn’t it? I was pretty sure you shared that story). The obsession to drink was relieved of me as well. There is no other reasons. 25 years of drinking like a booze pig and then one day it’s gone? C’mon – that’s Divine Intervention, y’all. For me. People talk of neuroplasty and I do understand breaking connections, etc. but that initial no drinky for me…bigger thing at work. Again, that’s for me.

    And why people suffer when God is busy removing these things from us…that shows that, as you said, we have no conception of all of His world. I can only go so far in my own mortal, limited mind. Free will is a curse and a blessing. It’s how we use or abuse it, yeah? Anyway, I love this.

    Signed,
    A fellow sage smudger

    Paul

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    • Thanks Paul. I’ve never experienced anything like the removing of my night terrors. Even the obsession for drinking required some effort on my part but this was completely out of the blue. I think the big take-away for me on this is the need to be grateful for everything that has happened to me, the good and the bad, because it’s all so inextricably linked. I love what you say about free will. So true.

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  6. I guess my David Bowie poster forgives you the transgression of ripping him off the wall and screaming (whilst my father ignored us)…. I’m glad you are no longer plagued by night terrors because I do remember how scary they were for you and your family/friends.

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    • It was such a great poster! I remember climbing someone’s dresser once and those parents ignored the screams too. Thank you my friend!

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      • That was at Mary’s house – we were all amazed at the strength you had when you were in a sleep terror(izing) mode.

        Obviously, I skipped right over the miracle part (but thinking about it) – not for needing to agree or disagree – but more how to process it. I like that you feel that you received that miracle/gift/peace of mind regardless of your beliefs at the time of your pregnancy. I would like to hope that blessings of any form – from God, the universe, nature etc come about regardless of what we believe to be true or not.

        I still struggle with miracles for all the reasons you laid out- from my point of view, about the cruelness of what is seemingly ‘chance’ and ‘random acts of unfair’ … but I can accept belief in others and at the end of the day, another’s belief system (mine to yours, for example) should not impact what the other persons believes. Whatever we call ‘it’ – it seems to happen independently of its name or whatever reason someone might put behind it. Does that make sense? I don’t even know – but accepting the happening of ‘it’ seems to be the crux of it – maybe not so much the ‘why’. I am always stuck with the ‘why?’ – getting past the ‘why’ is hard. At least for me. And I’m now completely rambling…

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        • You’re not rambling at all and I think I understand what you’re saying. It seems to me that what I call miracles happen all the time, big and small, whether we know about them or acknowledge them. I don’t think the “why” can be answered for other people, only ourselves if we’ve experienced something like this. People always want to attach bigger meaning when they hear an amazing story but I’m the only one that really gets what happened to me. I don’t understand the “why” but I know in my heart that it’s between me and God and not understanding is ok. God loves everyone equally, even my abusers. Once I accept that, the why isn’t so important to me.

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