Sleeping with the enemy

Last night something happened to me that hasn't happened in a very long time. No, I didn't meet a hot man (chance would be a flippin' miracle, never mind a fine thing) but I did feel as if someone visited me in the night... 

If you’ve heard the term ‘sleep paralysis’, then you’re one of the unlucky ones who knows what I’m talking about. A phenomenon that can occur as one falls asleep or wakes up, it involves an inability to move, speak, or react, and is typically accompanied by hallucinations and the feeling of a presence in the room - or worse, in your bed. 

If you asked a scientist about this, they would no doubt describe this as something along the lines of it being a natural part REM (rapid eye movement) sleep; the mind is awake yet the body has shut down. As the terms suggests, symptoms of sleep paralysis includes an inability to move, therefore when you envisage a dark figure standing at the bottom of the bed, there's bugger all you can do about it. To many of the afflicted, an episode of SP can be one of the scariest things they've ever encountered.

Me, I’ve experienced sleep paralysis since about the age of ten. I remember the first time clearly: I was lying in my ten year old self's pink bedroom, when all of a sudden I heard breathing on top of me, and it sounded as if my alarm clock radio had turned itself on. I couldn’t move and was absolutely terrified, with no real understanding of why. It felt as if something evil was in the room, sitting on the bed beside me. I tried to call out for my parents for what felt like an age, but in reality was only seconds. That's just one of the horrid things about SP - it feels like it goes on for an eternity, yet in reality it ends almost as soon as it starts. At the time all I could think was, ‘As soon as I can move I’m running out of this room as fast as my legs will carry me’. Thing is, once the inability to move let me, so did the intense feeling of fear. It was as if nothing had ever happened.

During my teens these experiences never went away, nor did they lose their intensity. I remember once, when I was around thirteen years old I decided to take an afternoon nap, only to ‘come to’ and see a pair of feet in a red cloak running frantically before me as if possessed, while a faint, sinister whispering swirled all around me. Another afternoon (I napped a lot, clearly) my body paralysed once more, the fearful feeling returned and I just knew 'something' was standing over me. I shut my eyes the tightest I ever have, with no desire at all to see the form of whatever I was hallucinating this time. To this day I often wonder what I would have seen had I been brave enough to open my eyes.

Honestly, half the time you feel as if you’re being thrown around the bed, only to come to and find you haven’t moved (and you definitely didn’t enjoy it) or the opposite happens and you feel pinned down by an invisible entity, unable to move at all. Look up 'The Nightmare', a famous painting by Henry Fuseli, 1781, and you'll see what I mean by the latter. Sometimes I think this is why I'm so choosey with men – I’ve already had my quota of unappealing things in my bed.

As SP continued into adulthood, a girlfriend once said to me I should be happy about this status quo. After all, whenever I don't have a boyfriend, at least I will always be able to say I have a bed that vibrates and someone who takes me in hand through the night. Hell, who knows, maybe if I ever dare open my eyes and look into its face, once or twice it might even resemble a young Robert Redford. That said though, while I might enjoy a risqué conversation or two in the bedroom if the mood is right, I wasn’t that turned on the night my 'nocturnal visitor' appeared and pinned me down as per usual, only to start whispering the word 'slut' over and over in my ear. The same girlfriend said I had been dating a lot more than usual at that time, so maybe it had a point.

Before I go, I'd like to stress that - honestly - if you google this in detail you will find that none of the above is unusual. I promise I'm not crazy. That said, while 95% of me believes in the scientific explanation, I’m still not entirely convinced that there isn’t a psychic element to all this too. Maybe it's why I'm obsessed with ghost stories and horror movies. If this is a natural occurrence, then why doesn't everyone experience it at some point? Why do I mention it in the presence of some people and they say, “Hell yes, this happens to me and it's scary as hell”, while others look at me like I need sectioning? One ex-boyfriend, for example, looked at me as if he thought my next trick was going to boiling his pet in a pan.

Whatever the reason for my sometimes seeing and feeling things that others don’t understand, be it the ghosts of granddads (another story for another time) or things that make me go bump in the night, on the whole I happen to like the fact I’ve had experiences of the twilight zone. At least I always have a bedtime-related story to tell. Having said that, I’m hoping to find my own version of the beautiful Edward Cullen soon...

After all, not knowing what’s going on is fun for a while, but be it dating or the dark side, there are only so many demons a girl like me can take.

One of the girls?

Pretty as a peacock