I thought for a few months that I was going crazy or something.
I’d have these dreams wherein I was paralyzed…in a hospital bed, in the back seat of a car, on a couch at a friend’s house during a party. Then I started waking up during the dream ( or what seemed like during the dream) and I’d still be paralyzed. It’s like those stories people tell about being awake during surgery, except that nobody is operating on me. I’m just lying in bed with my limbs frozen, joints on fire and unable to move or speak.
Sometimes it’s only for a minute, but other times it lasts as long as five. Believe me, five minutes of being in pain but also being completely immobile can seem like an hour or even an eternity.
It’s gotten to be so bad that I’ve been afraid to go to sleep. Last week I had one stretch of fear-based insomnia that lasted almost three days. (If you want to know what my sleep-deprived mind looks like, just go read the posts from last Thursday and Friday. They’re slightly unhinged.)
Finally I figured out that this must be a thing–surely out of the billions of people that have habbed on this planet over the millenia I’m not the only person this has ever happened to. I may think I’m special but honestly I’m not THAT special. So I gave in and googled “dream paralysis” and “sleep paralysis”.
Turns out that yep, this is indeed a Thing. In fact some people have the added joy of having hallucinations thrown in to the waking paralysis stage. Some doctors are theorising that this is what is behind some tales of alien abduction and recovered memory/child sexual abuse syndrome. When I read that I thanked God that my only problem is being trapped in a body that can’t move or speak. I can’t imagine also being forced to hallucinate aliens, demons or other horrors.
The mechanics of the problem seem to be that everyone is paralysed during the REM cycle of sleep. But if something (say, arthritis pain) is strong enough to wake you during that REM cycle your body retains the paralysis until the chemistry can right itself. I must say that knowing that it’s just a “someone forgot to flip the switch” thing helps me remain calm. When it happened again early this morning I spent the 45 seconds or so just repeating “the switch will flip…the switch will flip” like a comforting mantra. Sure enough, the switch did eventually flip and I could unfold my limbs into the day.
Still and all, I’d rather this little quirk NOT be included in my bag of tricks. I foresee a chat with the doctor coming on.