After reading several First Fright posts on the always wonderful Just Dread-full site, I thought about my first fright and how I could write about it. Some of the previous posts have been lighthearted in looking back at what scares us as children, but in my case it is somewhat misleading as my first fright is an ongoing issue with me. I am a sleepwalker who nightmares regularly. To say I have sleeping issues is an understatement.
I have always been a sleepwalker, starting when I was a preschooler. Within the first hour of sleep, I would be up and walking. I never went far, or did anything foolish, but I sometimes moved out of my room to sleep on the floor elsewhere and would have odd stories to explain why. My parents would escort me back to my room and that was that. But then my dreams took a detour as I got a bit older, and creepy creatures invaded.
Thus, my first fear relates to my dream state – and what my mind sees. Spiders and rats are what I saw then and unfortunately, my first fright remained with me for decades. I would wake up screaming and jump out of bed to escape the creatures that I was sure were in my bed. My parents learned how to come in and move my pillow and blankets around to show me there were no spiders. Talk was useless, I had to have them go along with the charade before I calmed down, but then I fell asleep again within minutes. How my family put up with me is anyone’s guess. Luckily for everyone my sleep problems would wax and wane, and I could go quite awhile without a problem.
So with those issues firmly in place, when the original movie A Nightmare on Elm Street came out, I was horrified when I saw the movie poster. My name was on the poster- what insidious force was behind that?! I reluctantly saw it with friends (on VHS tapes!) and Freddy Krueger became my personal boogeyman. I knew all about dreams that didn’t end when I awoke, so the film Nancy’s troubles were mine too. The continuing sagas ruined any chance of a sleep clinic ever helping me in real life, after what I witnessed in the movies 😉
Stress is often the key ingredient to my nightmares, and in college, life smoothed out for me and I hardly had any nightmares, much to my relief. I had roommates that might not be as accommodating as my family had been, and I didn’t want the embarrassment. The one time I did have a night terror was memorable. I joined a sorority and lived in the house with fifty other young women. A group of my rowdier sisters had stayed out longer than I had, and as they came upstairs the sound they made must have triggered something in me as I was newly asleep. I ran out into the hallway shouting to them that rats were in my hair and they must remove them for me. As I was a bit more straight laced than some of them, they were shocked that I seemed to be on an acid trip. One of them came up to me, poked my hair, and told me they were gone. I calmly said thank you and walked straight back to bed. Surprisingly, I never got teased about this episode.
Now my darling husband is the one who has to put up with my first and enduring fears. Now my dreams are no longer filled with spiders and rats, but filled with worries about my children. I jump out of bed, on a mission, because my dreams have told me that I need to check on the whereabouts of my children. I usually start to wake up as I climb the stairs, but I still will continue on to look in at them- just to be sure. Luckily, none of them have inherited my sleep problems, but they don’t mind teasing their dear mother about it.
Thus, my first fears have mysteriously stayed with me, but altered as my circumstances in life changed. First fears are not something to be laughed at, and adults should keep that in mind when dealing with children with fears. And whatever you do, don’t watch a movie that just exacerbates the problem!
Kalie’s Note: I was super excited that Nancy, co-author of Graphic Novelty² , contributed her first fright to my site. Be sure to check out Nancy’s exuberant prose on her blog, full of personality and extensive pop-culture knowledge. And, if you’d like to contribute to the my first fright series, shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.