As a child I used to suffer terrible nightmares. I’d wake screaming and my parents used that old adage, say it out loud and it won’t happen again. Which isn’t true. My nightmare was always recurring and I’d wake terrified and screaming. Most children grow out of nightmares or night terrors and of course most nightmares are innocent. A normal part of brain processes.

But nightmares have plagued me my entire life. To extent I became somewhat of an insomniac learning to survive on less sleep, until falling into an exhausted sleep where I suppose my brain was literally too exhausted to dream.

This has been a problem for me, backpacking around many different countries, I’ve been confident but I’ve been worried about waking in a dorm flailing around screaming – not exactly shared dorm etiquette. Fortunately as any seasoned backpacker will tell you, rarely are hostels deadly quiet and pitch black in the night!

Now as I am older I no longer stay in hostels but when I go away for my weekend breaks or have been away for work I have routines in order to help. Like keeping the television on silently for that soft light, I know that if I wake in a panic in the night I need to be able to identify exactly where I am. It’s funny because this is my life. This is normal for me. I don’t like to sleep at other peoples houses because I’m not familiar with their security routine, what if they’re not as security conscience as I am? Typically, I must sit awake on guard. Also, power cuts- always a worry. Fortunately major hotels have generators. And at home I know where all of our torches and candles are.

I was a conference once in Hamner Springs (South Island) beautiful place. But power was low that year and in order to conserve power they were cutting electricity between certain times in the night. A town plunged into darkness. Fortunately, although my colleagues had taken a shared bus, I rented a car. And for those hours in the night, I sat in my car!

I wake in the night and I can be in the past. I’m terrified. Fortunately these don’t occur too often, just at the moment there has been a spike. Sleep is very important, integral to mental health. I can see or hear something so minor and that can be what is called a ‘trigger’ which sets the motions for a bad night.

People associate nightmares with kids. But the truth is, as an adult, it’s an embarrassing affliction. How can you explain an irrational fear to your peers? How do you explain that the monsters in your head are far more terrifying than any other perceived threat imagined under the bed? Waking up gasping for breath, feeling that loss of control, for a moment, not knowing where you are, heart beating wildly, eyes only seeing fragmented memories, a fear so raw, so child like, flight or flight – but from what??

So the brain tortures you, day and night. The demons, they never give up. It’s a battle, it’s tiring.

But, the medication, now at 300mg I hope is hitting its target. The nightmares are coming. I’ve spent most of the weekend hiding away – I’m not going to deny it. But I’m still fighting. Still going!


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