My journey as a writer began well before I ever considered myself a writer. As a child, I loved books. The ones that were a little twisted and scary held my attention the most, with characters in turmoil and pitted against odds that you could not imagine they would find reprieve or an escape from. It may not come as a surprise that the Goosebumps books were my favorites with all their monsters and creepy tales. But perhaps, the reason I was drawn to them might surprise you…
As a child, I suffered from night terrors. If you’ve never had them, and I hope you haven’t, let me explain. Night terrors, in my case, were a form of nightmare that would occur most nights after I went to sleep. In these nightmares that I started having from toddler age, I feared for my safety and, more often than not, my life. I would be trapped in places or hiding from monsters and even people that were after me or wanted to hurt me. Sometimes I would be running for my life from a weapon-wielding man, other times I would be hiding from a monster that had already slaughtered someone I loved. Part of what made these nightmares so traumatic was the fact that everything was so realistic. In these dreams, I had no awareness of the fact that none of it was real. For all that I experienced, it was like being trapped in an M or R-rated movie (which my parents would never allow me to watch) all the while believing it was real. Every night I ran for my life or hid while a killer skulked so close by with a deathly sharp weapon, knowing they wanted me dead, knowing that at any moment I would be their next victim.
And the worst thing was…I couldn’t wake up.
During my night terrors–which so accurately describes how I felt (terrified)–I would be screaming and crying out loud. My parents, when they were still together before separating when I was 4, would hear my distress and come to me. Each night they would try to wake me…and each night they would fail. Nothing could save me from my vivid nightmares, so all they could do was take turns to hold me and carry me as they walked up and down the hallway until I finally calmed down while asleep. I was trapped and helpless. A child with no one and nothing to protect me.
I learned from a young age that to survive I had two choices. Run or fight.
To this day, I don’t know what caused my night terrors. My horrific dreams continued throughout my childhood, lessening and returning without warning as I grew up. To this day, I still occasionally have these nightmares…but these days, I don’t cry out for help anymore. These days, I fight back and take charge. I refuse to be a victim of my mind.
And these days, all that I suffered and endured through these realistic night terrors has given me a depth to understand what it takes to survive. It has given me an experience I would never wish for, but that has shown me a side of the world that actually exists in the real world. And this insight, in changing me, I guess was one in a number of accumulative steps that lead me to take parts of my life–real or otherwise–and turn them into words on a page that tell a story of danger, trials, and through being strong, finding safety, peace, and love.
~ J.L. Myers