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On my extremely vivid night terror

Oh, hey blogosphere.  It’s been awhile.  I apologize for my brief absence, but I’ve been low on inspiration lately.  Until today, that is.  The horrific episode that interrupted my otherwise peaceful slumber last night should suffice as inspiration enough.

Let me set the stage for you – be forewarned, my dreams have a tendency to favor the inexplicable and bizarre…: It’s 3:30 a.m., and I’ve just made my nightly trip to the restroom.  Yes, sometime between my 25th and 26th year I developed the inability to sleep through an entire night without relieving myself.  I am a five year-old.  Or an elderly person.  You decide.

Anyway, I crawl back into bed after this intolerable yet inevitable ritual, which usually ends in me colliding with a wall or door frame, whispering an expletive and waking my disoriented puppy who gives me a disapproving stare, confirming her deduction that I am a bumbling buffoon.  My husband does not wake, but rather rolls over with a grunt and a snore.  In minutes, I have returned to dreamland.  I find myself in my childhood bedroom, with its bubblegum pink walls and set of twin beds, Barbie dolls strewn about the floor.  I’ve just barely registered my surroundings when the walls melt away and the beds rise up, transforming into massive sand dunes.  What was once my whitewashed bookshelf has folded itself outward into an oversized sandy staircase, descending from the height of the evaporated ceiling.  The stairs are the width of doors and become presently inhabited by a multitude of tanned spectators adorned in black tunics, the women’s faces barely visible through headscarves.

“Where am I?” I wonder.  It would appear I am accidentally in attendance for some ancient foreign hero’s entombment.  “Am I in Egypt?  The Middle East?  India?”  The sobs of the mourners are deafening and distracting to the point that I almost miss the sight of a bejeweled altar materializing at the foot of the stairs.  Atop this altar is a long golden silk pillow, on which rests the lifeless body of said hero, wrapped in shining cloths.  I am at first too mesmerized by this curious scene to be afraid.  The man looks so majestic in his death garb, and those grieving around me are teeming with passion.  Then it occurs to me: there is a corpse in my desert bedroom.  This is going to be a problem.  During my moment of realization, the mourners file down to the altar, now carrying fiery torches.  They encircle the body and proceed to touch their torches to his cloth wrappings.  In seconds, he is engulfed in flames.  I begin to plan my escape, but, as is often characteristic of dreams, as soon as I’ve figured out my next move, the scene has dissipated.

I am once again in my childhood bedroom.  The walls have returned to their original pink.  There is no giant staircase.  The beds are beds again.  Everything is normal.  Except for one thing: to my horror, on one of the twin beds lies the corpse, its cloth wrappings scorched and slowly unraveling to expose charred, decaying flesh.  I am terrified.  I inch my way to the door, willing myself invisible, only to find that I am locked inside.  Suddenly I am overcome with fatigue and, to my own confusion, I find myself walking toward the other bed and collapsing onto it.  I am an arm’s length from the now uncovered, smoking body of a nameless, ancient man, the sight of whom repels and unnerves me.  My instinct tells me to run, but I feel a heavy weight on my chest preventing me to do so.

In my paralysis, I witness the corpse morph into the figure of my own sister.  Clouded by smoke, for a moment, I fear that she too is deceased, but she eerily rotates her head on the pillow to face me, revealing frightened eyes.  Like me, she is unable to move, and I sense that she sees something behind me – something horrible.  Her gaze is intense, and she becomes abruptly wide-eyed.  She vanishes.  In that moment, I feel a firm grip on my wrist and an even heavier weight on my chest, prompting me to scream, but no sound emerges from my mouth.  I begin to panic, trying furiously to move my body and make myself heard.  Finally I am able to muster a “Help!” which leaves my lips much louder than I anticipated, waking me with a jolt.

I awake to my husband’s hand nudging my wrist, whispering to me to wake up and telling me that everything is okay.  I am drenched in sweat and shaking uncontrollably.  I pant as if I’ve just been chased.  My eyes glance around the darkened room half-expecting to see an unwelcome image from my dream.  My husband, of course, has fallen back asleep immediately, though I continue to tightly grip his hand.  The following morning he has no recollection of my nightmare.

This is one of the several times that I’ve experienced a night terror accompanied by sleep paralysis.  While the dream itself was frightening, it was my inability to move or speak that caused me to panic.  In the past when this has occurred, I’ve realized that I’m dreaming and managed to bring myself out of it, but this time reality brought itself into my dream.  When I thought I’d been gripped by a ghost, it was actually Scott gently holding my wrist, causing me to scream aloud, thus ending the paralysis.  I’m no expert on this phenomenon, but I’ve been affected by it frequently enough to have done a little research.  While fascinating, it can cause some serious anxiety!  If you’ve ever experienced an episode like mine, I would love to hear your story!

 

Photo courtesy of http://neuroticthought.tumblr.com/post/34053225722/neurosciencestuff-scientists-read-dreams

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On my absurd fear of the zombie apocalypse

*Warning: scrolling down will expose you to graphic photos of the zombies to which I owe the onset of my absurdly irrational fear.  Read on with caution.

Yes, blogosphere, it’s true.  While others reserve their (perhaps unspoken, but undeniable) end-of-the world, doom and gloom theories for nightmares involving, I don’t know, nuclear war or global warming – something as plausible as alien invasion, even – time and time again I unfailingly choose zombies.  For reasons unbeknownst to me, my painfully vivid visions of global destruction always include a graphic scene of one of my friends – undead in this case, obviously – launching his decaying figure in my general direction before I go all Rick Grimes on his ass with a crowbar.  Well, in the good nightmares.  In many instances I wake up in a cold sweat, frantically checking to ensure all my appendages are intact and bite-free because, moments before in dreamland, my Dad or sister, grey-eyed and ravenous, had lunged at me from behind and…well, I’ll spare you the graphic details. [insert any given Walking Dead attack scene here]

Jeez.  That’s what I get for breaking curfew all those years.

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Oh, hey Dad.

“Why zombies?” you might ask.  “Why pick the most illogical, improbable scenario – and probably one of the most gruesome – to embody the fears of your demise?”  Valid question, blogosphere.

I could go into a long, drawn out analysis of my childhood woes and their possible influence on my worrisome daydreams of death-by-zombies.  I could try to assemble a timeline documenting the escalation of my distress.  A fancy one with bullet points and arrows, theories and deductions.  But, no.  I’m pretty sure I can chalk it up to one thing.  Television.

There once was a time before zombies ever posed a nightmarish threat, fantasized or otherwise, to society.  Our go-to zombie flicks and Halloween costumes were non-existent.  There was no Zombie Survival Guide, Abraham Lincoln was just a regular president, and Pride and Prejudice remained untarnished and zombie-free.  One could go about his or her business worrying about ordinary, legitimate apocalyptic travesties, such as a massive, world-encompassing natural disaster or a lethal airborne pathogen.  Or the human race just simply destroying itself.  No zombies.  But then a few writers and filmmakers got wind of some gnarly Voodoo legends over in Africa and Haiti, and Poof!  Enter the undead, forever changing American horror culture and the nightmares of its followers, myself included.

I should clarify: I was never – and still am not – a horror buff.  Let’s face it, while I carried them around in my backpack to seem hardcore to my peers, those Goosebumps books were a little much for me, and Are You Afraid of the Dark was completely out of the question.  The slumber parties I hosted did not include ghost stories or Ouija Boards.  Basically, after experiencing the terror that is The Exorcist, I figured I was good for life.  I was perfectly fine staying at home watching Hallmark movies with my mom rather than accompany my friends to the latest box office nail-biter.  I am not brave.  The number of scary films I have endured willingly without trickery or coercion is exactly zero.

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Yes, yes I am, actually.  Thanks for asking.

So when The Walking Dead hit the scene and the zombies returned to the spotlight, I feigned disappointment at my inability to afford cable and carried on unfazed.  That is, until I stumbled upon the realization that the show’s protagonist was none other than Andrew Lincoln.  Oh you know, that beautiful specimen from Love Actually.  Thus prompted my thought process: Love Actually –> heartwarming romance –> Andrew Lincoln –> yes please –> Walking Dead –> heartwarming zombie romance?  Mmmk.  I can work with that.

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Hello gorgeous.

And oh, dear blogosphere, it all spiraled downward from there.  Sure, there was some romance.  Sure, Mr. Lincoln played a handsome, heroic, order-restoring, zombie killing machine in a sheriff’s uniform.  And, yes, the mildly stimulating plot line held my interest well enough.  But the zombies.  Heavens.  There should have been a disclaimer: Oh, hey viewer, if you enjoy the luxury of sound sleeping and pleasant, zombie-free dreams, watching this program is probably a bad idea.  Just saying.  Maybe change the channel.  Okay, back to the show.

But it was too late.  I was hooked.  And since my husband had also developed an affinity for the show, there was no turning back.  Every Sunday night we got our weekly dose of gore, and, like clockwork, that night I could expect a recap as soon as I drifted into dreamland.  Only this time I would be the main character.  Oh boy.

As time went on, I became accustomed to my nighttime battles with the undead.  I suppose it became second nature to associate fear with zombies, so, upon any mention of an impending apocalypse, my mind continues to instinctively produce images of barren fields, abandoned cars and homes, and flocks of walkers migrating from one rotting corpse to the next.  Sigh.  Why can’t I imagine the end of the world as some sort of peaceful occurrence instigated by a higher power who transports us safely from the earth’s demise to Heaven or its equivalent?  I mean, at the very least, couldn’t I picture something that takes me out quickly rather than forcing me to live in fear until I am inevitably devoured alive before awaking (assuming there is something left of me to awake after the feast) to shuffle about, slowly deteriorating, until someone smashes my head in or blows my brains out, ending it all for good?

You tell me, blogosphere.  What’s a girl to do?  I suppose the damage is done.  My absurd fear of the zombie apocalypse will continue.  And as for the dreams?  Well at least I can say my subconscious self is a bad ass, at least half the time.  Because, chances are, if there ever actually was a zombie apocalypse, I’m pretty sure not even my copy of the Zombie Survival Guide (Yes, I own it.  Yes, I’ve read it.) would save me.  I’d probably end up looking like this girl:

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She looks like she used to be cute, though, right?

Great.

Pictures taken from:
http://www.blogs.amctv.com
http://www.dailydead.com
http://www.aintitcool.com
http://www.thewiseguise.com
http://www.polyvore.com

This is a story about a girl who is not me

“My whole life is a delicate cycle, a delicate cycle…” -The Uncluded (Kimya Dawson/Aesop Rock)

This is a story about a girl who is not me.

This girl was your typical, regular sort of little girl growing up in American middle class suburbia.  She had a mother and a father who were married and lived together and loved each other, and who had children whom they also loved very much.  They loved their children so much that they worked hard to provide for them.  These children wanted for nothing.

The little girl grew up in a nice neighborhood of a quiet town, with trees and houses and people who were friendly and trusting but not trusting enough to leave their doors unlocked while they were away.  This was not Mayberry.  Her house had nice furniture, and her bedroom was pink with a white bookshelf that her Daddy built, full of books with pretty pictures of girls who looked like her.  And she and her sister played outside together on the swing set that their Daddy also built, and they slid down the big yellow slide and made sandcastles, and everything was normal and everything was good and they were happy.

And eventually the girl got older and went to school with other girls who looked like her, and some of them had long hair and pretty dresses and she wanted to be friends with them.  She became friends with the girls, and they played house on the playground and chased the boys around the jungle gym and they laughed and laughed and laughed.  And everything was normal and everything was good and she was happy.

Suddenly the girl was twelve years old and she was in middle school.  She noticed that her friends were getting taller and leaner and more grown-up looking, and she was not very tall and not very lean and her face was round.  And her friends began buying dresses from the fancy stores where grown-ups bought their dresses.  And she learned about money.  And they let her try on their grown-up dresses during P.E., and many of the dresses did not fit her, and her round face turned red and she learned what skinny was.  And she told her parents she had decided that she wanted to be skinny so she could buy pretty grown-up dresses and look like the other girls.

And her mother told her she was beautiful.  And her father taught her how to play tennis, and she played tennis with her father and her sister.  And she became good at tennis and joined her school’s team and won many of her matches.  Her parents told her they were proud of her like they always did, even when she didn’t win her tennis matches because they loved her very much, and they told her that, too.  And everything continued to be normal and everything continued to be good and she was happy.  But the dresses still did not fit her.

And in 7th grade she went to tennis camp in the summertime and her friend from school went with her and they shared a room.  And she and her friend thought the boys at camp were cute, and they sat with them in the cafeteria.  But the boys made fun of her when she ate cake for dessert, and they told her she shouldn’t do that or she would be fat.  And the boys did not like girls who were fat and ate too much cake.  And the boys were not very nice boys.

So the girl decided she would not eat cake anymore.  And the friend of the girl asked her if she wanted to know a secret about being skinny, and the girl said yes.  Her friend told her about a television program she had seen where girls who did not want to be fat did not eat very much.  And sometimes these girls would eat more than they wanted to, but it was okay because they had learned how to “fix it.”  The girl said this did not sound like a very good idea, but she wanted the boys to like her so she tried it.  And she became good at it and she became leaner and she did not want to stop.  And she could not stop.  Still everything was normal and everything was mostly good and she was mostly happy.

Then it was time for the girl to begin 8th grade, and finally she grew as tall as the other girls and her face was less round.  And at lunch they would eat sandwiches together and talk and laugh and the girl felt happy.  But after lunch her stomach would hurt and her heart would pound and she would begin to feel very bad inside if she did not “fix it.”  And the girl did not like feeling this way, and she began to become afraid.

And one night after supper the girl went upstairs into the bathroom and her sister followed her, and she did not know it.   When she came out of the bathroom her parents were there with her sister and they were upset.  And she became angry with her sister and they did not speak for seven days.  The girl’s parents took her to a doctor in the city who told her if she did not stop this she would die.  And the girl cried and her mother cried, and she felt sorry and afraid and she did not want to die.  And nothing felt normal and nothing felt good and no one was happy.

And for the whole year the girl’s mother drove her to the city to meet with the doctor.  And the girl took a pill every day that the doctor said would help her feel better.  And after awhile the girl began to feel better.   She went to school and she played tennis and her stomach did not hurt when she ate sandwiches in the cafeteria with her friends and they laughed and laughed and laughed.  And she was no longer angry with her sister.  And everything began to be normal again and everything began to be good again and she was happy.

And the girl continued to feel better, and she did well in school and she played sports and the boys were nice to her, and eventually she went to a good college and her parents continued to tell her they were proud of her, like they always did, because they loved her very much.  And everything was normal and and everything was good and she was happy.

But every now and then when the girl looked in the mirror she would remember what the boys at tennis camp had said.  And she would fix it.

This is a story about a girl who is not me.

For more on this topic, check out this brilliant blog: http://beckysaysthings.com/2013/07/30/becky-says-things-about-the-epic-fail-of-an-eating-disorder/