Image by Thomas Lieser, under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
I had a rather horrible sleep-paralysis-fight this morning.
Occasionally, I have full-blown sleep paralysis – I’m wide awake, aware I’m awake, and I can’t move, at all. It can be accompanied by the feeling of a great weight on my chest. It’s one of the more scary experiences I’ve had in my life – psychologically, the idea of having my agency removed is right up there on the fear scale – so being *completely* immobilised physically makes my heart go from 0 to 60 in a second. Thankfully, I can count the number of times this has happened to me, on one hand.
What’s far more common is this odd, half-dreaming struggle.
I want to get up. Start my day.
I’m not aware that I’m still asleep, or that there is such a thing as ‘awake’.
In my dream, I move, or I try to. There are varying degrees of success in this endeavour, but all take an enormous, grinding effort. Physical effort as represented on a mental, dream level.
It also groundhogs. I’ll achieve something – moving my head off the pillow, rolling off the bed (sitting up is tantamount to lifting a car off me), crawling a few inches, and then-
I open my eyes. My actual eyes. And I see a curve of white duvet, a flash of mahogany bedside table, a sliver of shiny, silver Mac case – all without actually *waking* – and I realised I haven’t moved a millimetre.
And the journey starts again.
Every time I open my eyes it’s the same view, and every time I open my eyes, I don’t realise that I’m seeing the real* world, or that there is a thing called the real world, or that I’m dreaming. I just feel pain, frustration, and ice cold fear. Inside my head, I’m screaming “Move. MOVE! Move move move move move move.move.move.move….”
This morning I struggled for what felt like hours, but was probably 1, maybe 2. Finally, I’d done it enough times that I began to realise – in a real world sense – what was happening. And when my alarm went off for probably the 22nd time, I heard it, and clung to it – my phone was actually already in my hand. I think I’d been trying to get my fingers to call someone – and didn’t turn it off, letting it jangle and bounce and bang around my head, using the noise to hit at the dream.
I wiggled my toes. I was pulled back into sleep. The alarm kept going. I wiggled them again. The drugged state pulled back at me. I flexed my fingers. I opened my eyes, and picked a spot and refused to close them.
I moved my whole foot, and it felt like pulling myself up from the deep of the ocean, extracting myself from the greediest quick sand. I remember thinking “One day, I’ll be able to move my legs.” and it just seemed a laughable goal.
But I kept on wiggling, and I moved my wrists, and I rolled my eyes and the alarm kept on going, and gradually, gradually, I slid one leg out of bed – and the cold air did what I’d hoped it would, and cleared some more of the fog clinging to my brain. At which point I took a deep breath in, which is when I realised that I hadn’t, for a long time. This let me slowly move my other leg, long stuck to sheets and skin with the sweat of a massive, immobile, non-existent struggle.
And I moved my arm. And lifted the sheets off me, swung my other leg over the edge, and rose. And almost cried with relief.
About 30 mins later, after I’d cried in the shower, and washed the fine sheen of sweat off me, unclumping my hair and stretching my clenched neck, stopping the nose bleed that started as soon as I stood up, I went downstairs – and discovered I’d left one of the burners on the gas stove lit, all night.
I don’t think they’re related – it’s an old house, with lots of free flowing ventilation, and I’ve experienced this fight before, many times – but it scared me a bit. If the pilot light had gone out for any reason, and the gas had built up enough, all it would have had to do is reach the living room, and the still smouldering coals in the fire, for things to have been a lot worse. Melodramatically, my first thought is “That would suck for my host” rather than “Glad I didn’t die”, but honestly, how would you know it was me writing, if this post *wasn’t* emo as fuck?
Going in search of doughnuts now. If in doubt, sugar. Right?
*leaving aside all kinds of philosophical discussions about what’s real, please.