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Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Recover From a Nightmare

Finding the light switch is the hardest
when you are frightened.

Today, this post is a essay that my oldest daughter wrote many years ago. I have always loved it and received her permission to share it in this blog. I hope you enjoy it too.

If you're under the age of seven and don't share a room, the answer is obvious.  Waiting is not an option
although you feel paralyzed from the fright you've received, While your little heart is still pounding, you must
leap out of bed, (taking great care to clear the edge, avoiding monsters) race past the closet, (another
plausible spot for danger) and burst in the hallway where you swiftly flip the light switch into the on position.

From there you shuffle cautiously down the stairs, turning on the lights as you go, until you reach the door of your parent's room. At this point I cannot stress how important it is to move carefully here, because you CANNOT turn on the lights.  Waking up dear mom and pop with a bright light is a surefire way to be grumpily sent back to bed without a hug or reassurance. Instead creep silently up to the bed and choose the side with the parent most likely to allow you to enter the sanctuary of their bed, you must tearfully
report that you've had a bad dream, and could you please join them in their bed because your room is too scary for sleeping?

None of these feet belong to us.
Once admittance is permitted into their warm bed you can safely drift back into dreamland, not worrying about the nightmare that send you there because mamma and papa are there to keep you safe.

On the other hand if you are older than seven it immediately becomes difficult to sneak into bed with the parents based on size alone.  And if there are younger siblings, they also effectively contribute to this
unwelcome state of affairs by usurping the warm hollow between your sleeping mother and father.

You may try the above mentioned method, but just know that it's more likely to receive a "you're too big for our bed dear, go back up and borrow your sister's nightlight" than a "come on in darling." Rather than suffer that indignity I present this next method of recovery.

Upon waking from the nightmare, turn on the light, and if at all possible don't get out of bed to do it. With the lights on you can choose a book off the shelf, but remember to avoid stories that involve creepy crawlies,
evil stepmothers, hungry witches or trolls, and of course angry animals. With the proper book in hand burrow under the covers and proceed to read until either memory of the dream has passed or you conk out.

The real trick is to avoid certain adventure thriller stories because of the understandable drawing power they have.

If you are not a reader another option is coloring (but let it be said that marker, color pencil shavings,
and crayons are difficult and not to mention messy in bed) or waking the closest sibling and bothering them
for a while.  Either path will produce restful sleep in one way or another.

As your age further increases options decrease, as is the general case in life.  Now it seems childish to you and your parents to run to them, your siblings can't be bothered, and reading yourself to sleep is a lengthy process (when truly frightened even the most boring of textbooks has no effect).

This is when you try to apply reason, explaining to yourself in a calm manner that broccoli never attacks in real life unless provoked. Repeating "it's okay" and "it was only a bad dream" may strike you as silly now, but wait until you jolt out of a particularly nasty reverie, breathing heavily.

Moving out of the house introduces new hoops to jump through.  When at home there were other bodies around and while they didn't always offer comfort it was at least heartening to know that if there really was a psycho in the house, he would get them first.  In a new home, apartment, or dorm it's likely you'll have a roommate. And what's even likelier still is that you will have no idea who this person is, and they don't know you either.

These sorts of living arrangements often encourage one to rid themselves of strange mannerisms.
Out goes talking to yourself in the middle of the night, as you reach out to a new, but vaguely familiar behavior.

Last week I awoke with a startling nightmare of something so dreadful I'd rather not say.  It was precisely 3:24 a.m. and my roommate was fast asleep.  I listened to my rapid heartbeat as I carefully felt around for  the phone and dialed a number I know by heart. After three rings the sleepy voice of my mother answered and I told her my distressing nightmare. Her tired voice placated my fears and put at peace my worried soul.

In effect, the ideal way to recover from a nightmare never changes; the greatest way always involves a voice of someone you love, lulling you back to sleep.

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