The key to change... is to let go of fear. Rosanne Cash
I use to wake up in the morning... unable to move. I could hear what was going on around me, occasionally, I even had my eyes open so I could see. I was fully conscious of everything around me... but I could not move... I could not talk... I could not scream for help. The feeling of feeling of helplessness was overwhelming... It was a nightmare that followed me into my waking moments.
I asked my mom about it, trying my best to hide the fact that I was experiencing it frequently, and she told me it was demons... and that praying would help. Years later, I found that this is not an uncommon belief¹.
I became terrified of sleeping, something that to this day affects me. I would spend my nights fighting myself, trying to convince myself that I could live without sleep... Sometimes I went days without sleeping, but I knew eventually I would drift away... I was fighting a losing battle.
I hated talking about it. I grew up in an environment that made me feel weak if I discussed how terrified I was. I am a man after all (or, at least, I was told to act like one when I was 7). I could deal with it, I was a man. So every once in a while, I would wake up, unable to move, for a minute or two... terrified... and when I regained my ability to move, I would go about my day. Everyone who knew about how often I would stay up through the night just thought I was a 'Night owl,' and I put on a fake smile and agreed. I told no one that the reason I stayed up, is because when I went to sleep I feared that when I awoke that I would be unable to move... and that inside my mind I would scream for help.
But as I said, it was only for a minute or two... until it wasn't.
As I got older, it got worse... around the age of 9 it got to the point where I would get up but be unable to move for upward to a hour. A hour that you can not control your body feels like an eternity. Begging for help within my mind did not help... praying did not help... so to calm myself, I counted my heart beat... something I still do when my anxiety gets the best of me.
I fully intended to suffer silently, committed to just praying then counting my heart beat. But then a case happened... Terri Schiavo. Not many people remember her name, but they do have, at least, some vague memory of the case.
"The Terri Schiavo case was a legal battle involving prolonged life support in the United States that lasted from 1998 to 2005. At issue was whether the husband of Teresa Marie "Terri" Schiavo had the right to terminate life support for his wife, who was diagnosed by doctors as being in a persistent vegetative state. The highly publicized and prolonged series of legal challenges presented by her parents and by state and federal legislative intervention effected a seven-year delay before life support finally was terminated."
It got National attention when I was in 6th grade (that would be around 2003). I kept hearing terms like 'vegetative state,' having no knowledge of what they meant. When I asked my mom, she said something along the lines of 'she is alive, but she can not move or talk.'
She was like this for years... I couldn't image, if I was mentally capable, counting my heart beat for that long... be aware of my surroundings, but unable to move... or worse, being technically alive, but not aware.
I told my mom, that if that every happened to me, I don't want to live like that. It was around this time that my family got Internet (... kind of hard to call dial-up internet). One day, I decided to research it. The entry for 'Sleep paralysis' was among the top links.
As it turns out, I was not the only one who suffered from this... there was a reason this was happening... beyond a demon-haunted world... Years of silently suffering... fighting invisible demons... and the way to prevent this from happening was as simple as not sleeping face up (the supine position).
So, to this day, I sleep on my side... and since I have never woken up unable to move.
¹ Such sleep paralysis was widely considered to be the work of demons and more specifically incubi, which were thought to sit on the chests of sleepers.
But the damage of these experiences has already been done... I still have problems going to sleep and staying asleep. On a good day, 5-6 hours; on a bad, none. From time to time, a family member tells me that I need to get my sleeping habits fixed, not realizing how insensitive a statement like that really is. The closest and most accurate thing I can compare it to istelling a rape victim to simply 'get over' his/her own trauma.
But these experiences have also shaped my beliefs about other things, in a direction which I think is positive. I am not longer fearful of a demon-haunted world, knowing that the only demons that exist are within us. I believe that knowledge is a candle in the dark, to be shared with all mankind. That it is our duty to our fellow human beings to stomp out the folklores of old, and help light their candle with knowledge, not with ignorance. I believe that proper understanding of the world around us can save millions, if not billions, of needless suffering, not just for mankind, but all living creatures.
I like to begin every blog I make with a quote. This time, I like to end with one as well from Carl Sagan
Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.