Over the years I have acquired a serious number of techniques for dealing with nightmares. Many have come from well meaning and caring family and friends. As with most of the difficult things in life, unfortunately the only ones that worked are the ones I found through trial and error over the course of decades.
My first attempt was to cower under my blankets and hope it all went away. Cowering meant pulling the blankets up precisely to my nose (so the vampires couldn’t get at my neck – no, seriously), staying still as a statue, and wandering the room with my eyes, checking every dark and inconsistent shape for movement, disorderliness, surprises, or hallucinations. Shockingly, I did not develop a need for eye drops.
Technique two involved whispering, “Mom? …Moooom?…Mommm?”, progressively getting louder until a result was achieved. I was scared out of my skull, and at the same time too worried about waking people up to actually solve the problem. This meant my calling and waiting could go on for well over 15 minutes.
After failing to elicit a parental response, technique three involved actually getting out of bed, and heading into my parents’ bedroom. I would walk around to my mom’s side and begin the whisper routine, with occasional poking. My mom is a heavy sleeper. My dad, not so much. He woke up the moment I got out of bed, but let me do my thing. Apparently I was really creepy and would stare at my mom for ages before beginning the whispering. Again, apparently terror did not overcome my desire to be polite. I was hoping my parents would just wake up out of the blue and know I needed help, and come and help me. This mentality, I might add, continues in a charming fashion in BPD today.
Technique four – parental involvement. Option one, for Younger Christina, meant putting me to bed and having mom rock in the rocking chair until I fell asleep. She usually beat me to it, but I assumed her animal instincts were amazing nonetheless, and that she was pounce like a jaguar on my terrors if they came. So I was comforted. Four B was my mom having hot chocolate with me downstairs, and having a heart to heart on how my demons really were mine, and we had to come up with a solution. Thank you, mom, for being patient.
Technique five – relaxation. Tense all your body muscles! Starting from your toes, pass a wave of relaxation bit by bit up your body. The words are said, “I’m relaxing my toes. I’m relaxing my toes…my toes are completely relaxed. ..I’m relaxing my ankles, I’m relaxing my ankles…my ankles are completely relaxed.” Etc. To as specific a body part as you desire. This worked fairly well except that my eyes kept flitting around the room, worried about intruders.
Technique six was given to me by a friend. She said she pretends that she’s kicking the ass of whatever is scaring her. So she becomes a lethal kick boxer, smashing out the jaws of whatever beast comes her way. While this was fun, it didn’t deal with the more ethereal fears of ‘torture in general’ or ‘nuclear bombs’ or ‘fire’.
Number seven is my most used method, although it isn’t perfect. I love Beauty and the Beast. Obsessively. I can recite the entire movie from start to finish, and could probably do it backwards. I began to play the movie in my head, with surround sound and big visuals.
To cover the fifth sense, smell, I have tried the using aromatherapy. I haven’t gone so far as to use pillow sprays, but moisturizer with various scents, applied late at night, has had a calming effect.
Number ten is prevention. I refuse, foot down, to watch anything that has any potential to be scary. I’ve skipped out on the Scream movies, left Youtube parties, gone off in a corner to play a game or do Sudoku when evil-themed video games take over…My family has actually gotten in on this one, too. My dad has become a remote control ninja, prepared to change the channel or lunge for the mute button whenever a creepy commercial airs. (P.S., little children watch sports games at 8pm, TV producers. You should be ashamed of yourselves for putting horror commercials in there. Your insensitivity and callousness deserves a lawsuit.)
Unfortunately, I am not clairvoyant. When I saw a Facebook post of ‘Nicholas Cage going apeshit’, I thought it would be funny. The only things I knew him from were City of Angels and National Treasure. Little did I know that he had been in countless horror movies. I will never be able to remove the image of him being tortured with, well…I won’t write it down. It’s not fair to anyone reading this. Please have the fortitude to ignore your curiosity if you think it might be scary. You don’t have to have that information in your life.
I’ve tried leaving the door open, and closed. I’ve tried going to bed before anyone else in the house so their voices downstairs provide security. I’ve tried sleeping on the couch. I’ve done white noise and music tapes. I’ve slept sitting up, and under pillows. I’ve read before bed, watched TV, done yoga, meditated, played card games by myself, and lined my bed with stuffed animals.
There are only two surefire methods that I know. Number one, sleep with a dog on the bed. Or a person. But a dog doesn’t judge you, ever. And it’s more vicious against monsters, as it has bigger teeth. Number two, develop a routine.
My routine has grown to be very long, meticulous, and un-interruptible. Clean house, take pills, have glass of milk, brush teeth, wash face, stretch, change, turn off lights, get comfortable. Then start any of the above techniques. Yippee! I’m like a computer program. I will produce errors if any aspect of the program is changed. Not to mention that the coding and compiling took 10 years of research and development.
Oh, and thanks goes out to Jane Austen. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice over 50 times as a nighttime lozenge. It is delightful, charming, and rhythmical. Couldn’t have done without it.