EPISODE 19 TRANSCRIPT
05 | 07 | 18
So what is sleep paralysis and is it possible you’ve already experienced it? NHS.UK defines it as ‘a temporary inability to move or speak that occurs when you're waking up or falling asleep. It's not harmful and should pass in a few seconds or minutes, but can be very frightening.’ And WebMd defines it as ‘a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking.’ So what is it exactly? Well in a word, unpleasant. I’ll tie this topic into OCPD towards the end of the video as that’s what some of you are here for, but I’d like to dig into sleep paralysis itself a little further. The definitions I mentioned are accurate to my experiences, so I’d like to share some of those with you in order to paint a more vivid picture as to what sleep paralysis is. Prior to my having experiences with this phenomena I wasn’t aware it existed, although I’d been hearing about it for years. Once you become aware of this condition it can clear up some pretty horrifying experiences you may have had. If you’ve ever seen a celebrity being interviewed and heard them tell a ghost story, or if you’ve ever had a friend or family member recount a creepy experience or if you yourself have ever experienced a strange presence in your bedroom, see if it bares any resemblance to what I’m about to tell you.
My first experience took place probably around seven years ago. I’d never had an experience similar to this prior and I’d never really played around with lucid dreaming. I’ll make a long story short and cut to the part where I was sleeping in my office due to losing my keys at the mall and struggling to find them because my Spanish is more terrifying than this story. My desk was in the corner of a large room with many other desks in it. Next to it was a couch on which I decided to crash. The couch faced a doorway that opened into another large room. So in my line of sight I was viewing quite a large area. Admittedly once I turned off the lights it was a little creepier than my tastes lean. I was lying there with all sorts of thoughts swirling around my head as is always the case with me and I eventually drifted off. Not long after, something woke me up. It wasn’t a noise or a touch, just a feeling. I looked into one of the darkened corners in the room and could sense something was there. I decided to get up to turn on a light. Now here’s where it gets weird. I couldn’t get up. Not only could I not get up, I couldn’t move at all. Within a matter of seconds I had scanned the room to try and determine if I was sleeping. But everything was exactly how I remembered it when I was awake. Not a desktop bobblehead or stapler out of place. Still I somehow determined I was asleep and did what I could to force myself awake. This time there was movement and I had a really sick to my stomach feeling. Same as before, I was starting to become really fearful and the more I tried to move the more stiff my body became. Just as panic set in I woke a third time to find myself covered in sweat and actually awake. I flipped the lights on and didn’t try to sleep the rest of the night.
Since that first time, I’ve probably experienced sleep paralysis 25 to 30 times. It is easily the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced and I can’t believe there are people out there that suffer with this on a more regular basis. I’ll talk about a couple more just to illustrate some typical experiences. The first time it happened was relatively mild in comparison to each consecutive incident.
The next example took place while I was sleeping in my actual bed in my actual bedroom. As has always been the case, the initial sleep paralysis episode starts mild and gets progressively worse. I usually ‘fake’ wake 2 or 3 times during the whole process. This particular time on the second go round, a dark faceless entity stepped out from the corner. As is always the case, everything in the room is exactly as I left it aside from this new presence. Sometimes with the entity, there is only an approximated shape of a human. Like black smoke in the general outline of a very tall and very thin person. You get the sense that this is an evil being. Sometimes there is a face, a very distorted face. But I can never be sure how much my own imagination is filling in. The line between reality and make believe becomes paper thin. During this particular night the creature (sorry I keep using a different word to reference the thing, but I don’t know what to call it really), anyway, the creature is wearing a hat. Turns out that this is a common occurrence and there may be some connection to the reason Freddy Krueger wears a hat in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies as Wes Craven researched sleep paralysis and the hat shape is similar to what people usually explain seeing in this nightmare scenario. All of a sudden it grabs my legs and starts spinning me. I’m spinning as if I have a rotisserie skewer through me top to tail and it’s getting faster and faster. The blanket is floating above me. I want to grab onto something or push this force away from me, but again I’m paralyzed and can do nothing to stop the sensation. I’m screaming but no noise is coming out. This time I awaken to find myself actually screaming and covered in sweat. This time though it’s as if someone has thrown an entire bucket of water on me. The person next to me in bed may just have been as terrified as I was.
The third and final example I’ll give you was similar. I’m mentioning this one only because it plays into some common themes that people experience. The first is that this one was longer than others I’d had before it. The sensation of not being able to move took hold before I noticed anything in the room. On this occasion I came in and out of the sleep and fake awake states 3 or 4 times. I kept feeling something grab me and I kept seeing a dark figure in the corner as my fear built and built. During the last phase of this cycle, a tall dark distorted demon like figure crawled up onto the bed from the base of the bed. It moved across my body and sat upright on my chest and lowered its head down to meet mine. I’ve used all my adjectives up to describe the intensity of this fear but needless to say it’s a nice mix of horror, dread & distress. I awoke in a manner that woke up the person next to me. They were nice enough to try comforting me, but there was no going back to sleep after that experience. For two days I feared sleep as thinking about the nightmares can actually bring them on.
But what I came to learn, aside from the facts about sleep paralysis, is that many people have at least experienced this once. And for the people that have only experienced it once or a handful of times, they walk away from the experience thinking they’ve witnessed something paranormal. There’s a million different ghost stories out there, but this particular ‘ghost’ story is one that’s frequently told. Millions of people have gone through what I went through. Some of us have done the research and understand that what we are experiencing is in our brain, but as I’ve learned through other people’s stories, many people see this experience as something else entirely. Then you have people like Joe Rogan that believe that there’s no way to prove who is right. Maybe we’re all seeing the same thing because it is really there and we’re the only ones able to tap into it. However, I’m going with science on this one, which leads us back to OCPD.
So what is it that made me ponder a connection between obsessive compulsive personality disorder and sleep paralysis? Well this comes in when you look at potential causes of sleep paralysis. It is believed that some of the causes are lack of sleep, stress, depression and some medications. All of these are things that are commonly experienced by those with OCPD. But there is one that always stuck out to me. That would be the inability to quote/unquote ‘shut ones brain off’. When I go to sleep at night I have a million thoughts running through my head. Thus far I have been unable to develop a system that allows me relax once I hit the sheets. I think about the next days tasks, the next weeks tasks, the next months tasks and mistakes I made three years ago. Normally as you fall asleep, your body slowly relaxes. Usually you become less aware, so you do not notice the change. So part of what’s happening with sleep paralysis is that if you remain or become aware while falling asleep, you may notice that you cannot move or speak. So this inability to slowly release my brain is something that is a catalyst for experiencing this nightmare scenario. As I’ve discussed OCPD at length now with many different sufferers, I know that insomnia and persistent negative thoughts are something that keep many of you up at night.
So I’d love for you to tell me in the comments if you have OCPD and if you also have experiences with sleep paralysis. My research did turn up some connections with obsessive personalities, perceptual dysregulation & vivid dream states. I also uncovered some research linking various states of depression and sleep paralysis. But the research is minimal and I’d say the evidence linking the two is statistically irrelevant at this point. So although for me the connection remains just a theory, I’d love to hear your take on it.
As a bonus I’m including a link to artist Nicolas Bruno in the description of this video. He is a photographer that recreates the images he’s sees while in the state of sleep paralysis. It’s powerful stuff and I get chills every time I look at his work. But for now I’m still Darryl, I’m going to avoid going to sleep and you’re still experiencing my life in debris.