Yesterday, Sassy asked what realizations put us into a panic, what causes us to wake up screaming. I don't think she meant that literally, not like waking up from an actual dream. But I do literally wake up screaming from actual dreams. Well, it's not an actual screaming, it's more like a deep gasp full of panic and dread, like taking in a breath so deeply people across the street can hear you filling up your lungs. And it's not an actual dream that causes it--it's more like a sense of danger and the need to flee from it.
I used to have these "don't-eat-me-you-scary-monster-dreams" when I was a kid. I would be in some level of sleep and would feel myself shrinking, and then I would sit up in my bed and scream, or gasp. Sometimes I would run across the hall and jump into my parents' bed, or if I was sharing a room with a sister, she would have to calm my fears.
But then I started having the "don't-eat-me-you-scary-monster-dreams" a few years after I was married. I remember seeing a Tom Selic movie called Runaway with these little mechanical robots with spidery legs. They would crawl up and down buildings and inject their victims with poison. Soon afterwards, I was asleep, minding my own dream business, when I saw one of these mechanical spiders crawl into our room (it was the size of a beagle) and make its way around the foot of the bed. It turned and was headed straight for me. So, I did what any normal person would do when faced with impending death by poison, I sat up and screamed/gasped. My husband woke up in a panic and grabbed me, trying to wake me up. But in my panic stricken state, I was sure he was strangling me, so I screamed/gasped even more. Finally, I woke up and realized there were no spidery critters with injection devices, and my husband was not choking the life out of me. And I was exhausted. It took me a good hour to recover.
I have these bouts with night terrors from time to time and will sometimes find myself jumping out of bed to turn on a light, to see for myself if there is a giant spider hanging from the ceiling or if there is an ominous villain standing in the corner of the room. Or maybe there is a snake coiled around the door knob or a hand reaching for my throat. There is never a scenario that culminates in my demise--no chase scene or plot to follow--just the threat. And sometimes the threat doesn't even have a shape. It just is.
I have a theory that it's all related to sugar, but then I think everything is related to sugar. If I have too much, I have "don't-eat-me-you-scary-monster-dreams." If I keep it under control, I sleep peacefully, dreaming of lilies and puppies and babbling brooks instead of crawling things and choking things and things with forked tongues and glowing eyes. It's just a theory, though.