First-hand account on the horrors of Sleep Paralysis
|My purpose for this writing is to encourage awareness of this widespread, yet largely unrecognized sleeping disorder.
I relate the subject’s episodes of this living hell in the hopes that someone may recognize their own unexplained sleep disturbances, or those of a loved one. As this disorder has become more widely accepted, the days of insane asylums and witch burning have matured, now offering medical help for such ailments as a very real catatonic sleep-state.
Subject: Dawn is a healthy woman in the prime of her life, no history or findings of cause.
This is a point that needs to be made clear; Dawn's Spiritual aspect of her story (which runs deep) has been 'intentionally' omitted from this paper, as it will be published in its own form, and in its own time.
Attempting this interview 'without' addressing Dawn's beliefs was not functional, so select comments have been "saved for later".
I repeat the following verbatim:
“It is believed worldwide that many people who have brought God back into their lives, did so after going through a near death experience or life-altering trauma.”She paused, nodding, knowingly.
"I have been asked if this were true for me, and my response has to be “not exactly, at least not in medical terms”, though as I recall my episodes of sleep paralysis, one thing is clear with all of them, I die a horrific death, choking to my last breath from one form of suffocation or another.”
“Forgive me if I forget to use the word ‘vision’ or some other dream-state descriptive, but
"I use the terms, “I had, and I was,” because it seemed as clear and real as our current reality, one was not foggier than the other.”
Dawn ended this introduction with a powerful statement.
“As every moment of my death experiences are permanently embedded in my mind, body and spirit, yes, I can honestly say that I have suffered at least four NDE’s, though my episodes do not show me life after death, only up to and including my death.”
The following are four of Dawn’s Sleep Paralysis episodes:
“My first episode was in the fall of 1987.”
“I was just about to drop off to sleep (when most occur), having relaxed my body head to toe (as I’ve always done to fall asleep), until I reached my head, that’s when it happened; I heard an explosion.”
“As my conscious mind could not explain this, or the experience to follow, an out-of-body-like state lent its plot to a scene played out in my minds eye.”
“In this episode, I ‘froze’ as boiling water rose quickly above the bed, drowning me in the most agonizing pain imaginable.”Dawn tapped two fingers against her temple.
“My mind determined that the hot-water tank had exploded, go figure.”
“But I couldn’t explain the fact that I was completely unable to move even my eyelids, even my subconscious was hard pressed to explain that one, so it didn’t, nor has it since.”
“I recall looking out the window, (yes my eyes were locked open) and wondering if I could escape through it in time, if only I could move.”
“I found that I could see just enough of my cat within my peripheral without moving my eyes, to realize she hadn’t budged.”
“How could she have not heard and reacted to such an explosion and why wasn’t she running from the water?”
“As I struggled in vain to move my body, I was consciously in tune with current reality while attempting to save myself from what had to be a nightmare.”
“I was experiencing a horrible death, far more real than any ‘dream’ I had ever experienced.”
“My final moment of awareness was of conceding to the water and blacking out as my lungs filled with the burning fluid.”
“My second episode, which, thankfully, did not occur for another twelve years, was to be the most volatile and ultimately the most dangerous of all to date.”
After a slow deep breath, she continued.
“I was under a great deal of physical and emotional stress at the time.”
“Only six weeks earlier I had survived uterine cancer by way of a complete hysterectomy, so putting myself back to work that soon, was dumb, but in my defence, I did it for my mental health.”
“Anyway, go back to work I did, and my first assignment was long hours and hard work.”
“By the end of the week, I was spent, too tired to even imagine doing it all over again in the morning, my final thoughts that night were of my dropping onto the small feather bed in my hotel room.”
“The trip had turned out to be exhausting work with little rest, as a result, I was about to drop into a deep sleep, though right at the edge of ‘drop off’, I heard it; a loud crack!”
“My mind went with a scenario in which the old thick paned windows were cracking under the pressure of the gale-strength winds in the area.”
“I felt as if the wind had sucked me out into the night.”
“At first, dust was clouding my sight, though I felt my head tossing wildly from side to side.”
“In our reality, I hadn’t moved, but the hoards of dust I was choking on tasted real and the blindness seemed too gritting to be unreal.”
“All of a sudden, I was aware only of the ground striking me repeatedly as my body was dragged by the neck, my bloody hands clawing at the noose, I was choking on the acrid dirt thrown by the horses hooves, and my arms weren’t strong enough to do any good, so I just let go.”
“The course rope tore into my tender flesh as I prayed to die quickly; then, all went black as I heard (and felt) my neck snap.”
Dawn, leaned forward to make sure I heard her correctly, for this time, upon wakening, there was more to the story…
“When I awoke to one of the teachers I was travelling with, knocking at my door, I was blind!”
“I had merely a shadow of vision in my left eye, which too would fail me, for many months.”
“I have no doubt that the entire experience from exhaustion to blindness was brought on by stress, and perhaps somewhat deserved.”
Her eyes seemed to glass over as she gladly brought an end to the nightmare account.
“Experiencing such a horrible ‘sleep paralysis’ death was bad enough, but to have it effect you on the physical level is practically unheard of, I guess I always did have to be different.”
“I have two Neurologists, one claims it was a stroke that caused the blindness, which restored itself, hmm, and the other claims it might very well be caused from being in the catatonic state for too long.”She grinned and wrinkled her nose.
“Yes, I do have the majority of my sight back, I am very blessed.”
We changed the subject at that point, to allow her time to unwind for a few minutes. I could see that these recounts were difficult for her, but she insisted we continue. With a fresh cup of coffee in tow, we did just that.
“My third episode was in the fall of 2003.”
“Once again, due to stress (loss of a loved one), my mind overloaded, and shut down long enough for the paralysis to occur, in my opinion.”She shrugged, raising an eyebrow.
“This time I was on my right side, feeling strangely heavy.”
“I had just opened my eyes to see how long I had been lying there waiting for sleep, when a deafening rumble started in my head leading up to the explosion.”
“By now I was attuned to the non-reality of the episodes and tried to just flow through it without additional stress to my body, while the minutes ticked by.”
“This episode was less horrific than previous ones, but I wasn’t aware of that at the time, all I knew was that I was choking and could die.”
“Even more difficult than it sounds, willing relaxation while experiencing death, is near impossible, however I am learning to just allow the scene of death to play itself out as quickly as possible.”
“This time the imagery put me into a room full of people, all speaking in different tongues, and none of whom appeared aware that I was choking for air.”
“I gasped my last breath while those around me seemed unaware and granted the invisible ‘me’, no help.”
“I recognized several people, only they were ‘different’, and it was about the 1700’s.”
“I can imagine what a shrink would say about that one.”
She chuckled and rolled her eyes.
“My fourth episode occurred in the summer of 2005, immediately prior to my being prescribed a new sleeping pill, which also increases serotonin levels.I hate pills, especially those that mess with my brain, but I’ve resigned myself to these, for now.” She shook her head sadly, as she spoke. But then, with more hope in her voice...
“I've experienced only brief and less horrific episodes since since my sleeping patterns have changed.”
I'm not afraid to drop off to sleep anymore."
“Anyway, on this occasion, I was standing in a kitchen doorway when I felt an immense pressure on my chest.”
“I was leaning against a counter in a kitchen, and as I sucked for air I pleaded to the two women in the kitchen with me to help, my arms flailing, but they just took me into their arms and held me lovingly as I slumped to the floor.”
“I could’nt recall having seen them before, though I felt oddly ‘honoured’ that they appeared to be assisting me with my passing, as if they were expecting it.”
“As this was ‘happening to me’, I was aware, as usual, of my body and it’s current surroundings.”
“There are no words to describe the pure terror and confusion of these ‘episodes’, I mean, you are completely catatonic, it’s very scary, but people should know it’s not all in their heads, this is all too real.”
“I would like to add that my spiritual opinions are not addressed here, as that is another story.”
“I really hope that my story, and those of others manage to bring more awareness to this issue, for it is a truly mind-altering and very real sleep disorder.”
As told to me;
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I want to thank Dawn for her bravery.
Discussing such personally terrifying episodes of ones ‘life-and-death’ experiences was not easy for her, but I too, hope that even one person might learn from this paper, that they are not alone!
After several hours of researching the finer points of this subject, I add the following. These notes barely scratch the surface of information available on the Internet alone.
Sleep paralysis is now a well-documented and not so rare diagnosis for night terrors.
People from all walks of life have experienced these episodes of paralysis across all cultures, for thousands of years.
This sleep disorder renders its victim totally unable to move a muscle, which can last from several seconds to several minutes.
Stressful events or sleep deprivation can trigger a malfunction of normal R.E.M. sleep, enabling an intense sense of terror.
Commonly reported, is a sense of dire threat, or often, an evil presence, which seems to attack, strangling and/or exerting crushing pressure on the victims’ chest.The person's breathing slowing to a shallow rate is thought to cause the sense of ‘pressure’ and/or ‘strangulation’.
These episodes are found to occur more often in ‘back-sleepers’, so it is now recommended that changing ones sleep position can reduce the incidence of the paralysis.
In all cases I have found (including those patients of my G.P.), this catatonic state occurs, as the person is about to drop off to sleep, or just upon awaking from sleep. Although it can begin at any age, it most often has an adolescent onset.
Any persons experiencing these or any other sleep disturbances are encouraged to discuss them with their physician, as sleep deprivation opens doors to many ailments you can well live without.
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