Night: Terror to Tranquility

The CD player clicked off, and my struggle began. For months went from mild anxiety to full blown night terrors. I would thrash back and forth in the bed, shaking, crying uncontrollably and paranoid. They started bringing me out to the nurses’ station every night. The rehabilitation hospital even brought in a psychiatrist from outside hospital staff to evaluate me. As things got worse they had an attendant stay with me through the night. Nothing worked. I was so scared I would do anything, use anybody in my effort not to be alone. The silence scared me, the dark scared me and being alone was more than I could handle. When the psychologist asked me how I could combat this, I said to use meditation and imaging. I had used both very successfully in my life prior to the accident, so I believed these strategies would work. I was ready. Then the CD player ran out of music, clicked off, and I went berserk again. It not only continued when I got home, it got worse. I threw myself violently back and forth in the bed screaming, crying and threatening to throw myself out of the bed. My wife was not a rehabilitation specialist; she was a fifth grade teacher. She had no support group to fall back on, just her and her out of control husband. Night after sleepless night this went on and on. We entered into a frightening nether-land, both of us close to exhaustion from the crazed, sleepless encounters. Eventually I ended up at the local hospital for a mental evaluation. I began seeing a psychiatrist for chemical intervention. It did little good. Finally, to his credit, he admitted to us he’d run out of drugs and could do little more. He recommended a Sleep Study be done in the local hospital. After my night in the hospital, they immediately put me on a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine and everything instantly changed the first night.

Recovering from a major disabling experience is a process, and it is critical for people to understand that. One of the doctors at Craig Hospital explained to my wife, that at first you will have more bad days than good. Then after a while the good days and the bad days will be about even. Finally, after another period of time you will realize you’re having more good days then bad, and this trend will continue as time goes on. After more than twelve years I can attest to the truth of this concept. I think it is hard for people in the early phase of recovery to believe that things will ever change, but they will. The other night I woke up at 3:30 am and could not go back to sleep. I sat up in bed, took off my CPAP mask and grabbed my iPad. I put on my headphones, hit the Favorites playlist and began playing solitaire. After several hours I started to get tired and, leaving my headphones on, laid back down and closed the iPad returning to the darkness. I was unable to sleep so I lay in the dark and was taken to a place of peace and tranquility by Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Lionel Richie and others. It was hard to believe I was ever so terrorized by the nighttime.

2 responses to “Night: Terror to Tranquility

  1. Thank you for sharing – for being so honest and letting us get to know you…and ourselves.

  2. While Dan never had night terrors, I understand well the many years of “recovery”, which of course does not include return to the old normal, but to something better than the time immediately following the worst times (and sometimes for Dan, it’s hard to pinpoint the worst – but likely that angry psychotic episode post-transplant, during the early stages of treatment for viral encephilitis, when we did not know if the meds would work…). For Dan, and I suspect for many others, recovery is not a straight line either, but a bit of a series of ups and downs, with setbacks along the way. So, 8.5 years post-diagnosis, 7.5 years post-transplant/encephilitis, progress continues slowly, year after year. Dan can’t really “remember” from day to day, so he has a hard time appreciating progress, making it a little more challenging. In this case, what he remembers are major milestones, like a recent conversation with his doctor when he was told he is officially “cured”…. He remembers images, colors, and extreme emotions, and in this case, it was his own extreme relief and pride, along with the fact that he saw both his doctor and NP (both males) get “choked up” as they delivered and witnessed the impact of this good news… For all the caregivers out there as well, I have noticed the importance of patience. persistence and hope, layered with humor, good friends, and time away as keys to your own “recovery” and sanity…

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