sleep paralysis

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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