Night Terrors

I slept outside in a tent near a creek once, with my husband. I became terrified in the Shining Rock Wilderness due to a random man who wandered up to our camping spot. He reminded me of the skin-suit man in The Silence of the Lambs. He said he had wandered up from town and was fishing for food in the creek. When he appeared, he startled me, and I immediately wanted him to leave. After he left, I could not shake the feeling that he would come back later and murder or abduct us. I could not fall asleep and I didn’t want the tent flap closed, I wanted to be able to see him as he approached so I wouldn’t be unprepared for my murder. I was exhausted and terrified by the possibilities in my mind. I remember the stars awash in the sky, like god had taken a broad paintbrush stroke through silver glitter across the blackness. Even feeling that close to the cosmos, I still felt separated in my small world of fear. Rationality could not coax me out of the terror I felt of this imagined story I had concocted about the stranger. My husband didn’t sense anything foreboding from him at all. He did his best to assure me of his innocence, he was an innocent stranger fishing in the area. When I couldn’t fall asleep, and the terror rose and choked me, I woke him up to keep me company. He was so comfortable and secure, he couldn’t stay awake to keep guard with me. I finally did sleep, late in the evening, as it became morning and the dew started to settle and the air became damp. Even the presence of our dog, who would surely bark if a stranger encroached our camping area, didn’t comfort me at all. I was what the DSM-5 calls psychotic. I was not in reality. The next morning I awoke sheepish and shameful at my foolish fear. Under the light of the sun, everything was friendly and beautiful again.

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