It started with suddenly not being able to run, or move – feet were glued to the floor. In a dark basement with a long steep flight of stairs leading up to the light. Open backed stairs that something could reach through to grab your ankles.
I couldn’t run, walk, or lift my feet. Or move my arms. Or scream. I couldn’t see what was coming after me – to get me and keep me in the dark forever. It was getting closer and I tried so hard but I could not move any parts of my body to get away. It was so close.
I woke up with screams ripping out of me, in a puddle of sweat. Sore aching throat and neck muscles from straining while being paralyzed. Heart racing, lungs sucking air in. Eyes wide and bulging out.
What happened? Where was I? Was there something over in the corner? Was it crushing my lungs?
I was ok. Was I ok? What the heck had just happened?!
For three decades I lived with these nocturnal terrors. The scenes varied little but always involved terror, paralysis and desperation to flee. Finally I told my doctor that there was something very wrong with me and he sent me to a sleep specialist. First step – they wanted to watch me as I slept. Hmmm. Nothing creepy about that.
I went to the sleep clinic, had wires with electrodes puttied all over my scalp, face, arms, legs and chest. Was told to go to bed and sleep after being plugged in to the computer. Oh and the camera was there too in the corner. Comfy beds but how does one sleep with that getup on – how do porcupines sleep for that matter?
I was awakened at the butt crack of dawn and kicked out into the dark morning light. I looked like a demo reel for Something About Mary.
One of many trips to the clinic.
Turns out I have sleep paralysis. Holy smokes as soon as the doctor explained what what happening it stopped. My body had been going to sleep ridiculously fast in 5 minutes and I entered REM in 15. Problem was, my body was paralyzed as it should be but my brain had not shut down yet. Basically I had front row tickets to my worst nightmares. The paralysis aided in escalating them to terrifying heights.
I figure once I knew what was going on I was able to tell myself to be cool and relax when it began.
I came across this article recently and it brought back the memories and unpleasantness of the whole thing. I think it’s important to talk about in case someone you know is silently suffering and afraid to speak of it.
In the meantime, I still avoid basements and turn all the lights on when I do go down there.