Last night I experienced the minutest amount of weirdness as I was dozing off, and it brought back all the fear and horror that I experienced years ago when it seemed like almost every night I was having night terrors, false awakenings, and sleep paralysis.
So last night I posted Vacancy very late, like 11:48 late, but I had to get it out on Monday! I’m a terrible procrastinator, I know, but because of that I went to bed much later than normal. My sleep schedule has been a little fucky lately, but for the most part I go to bed pretty early, so I’m under no impression that that didn’t have something to do with what happened to me last night.
You know how sometimes when you have your eyes closed and something moves in front of your face you can still see its shadow? Since our eyelids aren’t blackout curtains, some light gets through. Well, this is what happened to me last night just as I was drifting off at around 12:15. A black shadow, blacker than the rest of the blackness, like vanta-mother-fucking-black passed through my eyes-closed vision. I immediately opened my eyes because my first thought was “Oh, no, the cat’s on the headboard and he’s trying to claw my nose off.” I wasn’t scared, just annoyed. But the cat wasn’t there, and then I got a little nervous: What was that then? I thought.
It got worse though when I realized that the light trick wasn’t even possible. I was struck with that realization in a heart-sinking way. It was just too dark in the room. My eyes had adjusted to make out the outline of things, the end of the bad, the doorway, the clothes basket, but when I closed my eyes again and waved my hand in front of my face, there was nothing.
I felt immediately very nervous. However sleepy I might have been moment earlier vanished, and I was on high alert. The shadows in the room started contorting in my mind, my breath got a little shorter, and my discomfort level was through the roof. I then told myself to chill: obviously I was just falling asleep, that was a shadow of a dream, it was ultimately nothing, and after who knows how long I eventually fell asleep.
And in comparison to 2014-15-ish, it was nothing. That would have been a night I would have considered a success.
I used to suffer from a whole host of horrifying sleep issues a few years ago. When I was in high school and even more so in college I had borderline insomnia. It didn’t help that I’ve always been afraid of the dark and used to sleep with the TV on, and I’m sure glimpses of whatever plays at 2am sneaked their way into my sleeping brain back then. I’d stay up freakishly late, pass out for a few hours, then get up at an ungodly hour when my mom would start rattling around in the bathroom about an hour or so before I really needed to get up myself. But the teen/early 20s body is a marvel and I survived.
A few years went by where I was mostly okay, and then I put on some weight (and I’m sure some kind of apnea came with the weight gain), spiraled into a little depression, and my sleep went to total shit. I was working at a job I hated, and I was tired a lot, and we all know sleep is this vicious cycle where you can never really catch up. I napped in my car at work on lunch, and I tried to go to bed early, but basically did nothing because of my hours, commute, and chores. Dinner was the only time I relaxed, so I overindulged, put on more weight, and my sleep just got worse. Lather, rinse, repeat. Oh, and because my diet was such a mess I was having leg cramps that also woke me up in the middle of the night. I was a mess.
I was sure during the time that I was experiencing paranormal activity of some sort. Now, I’m not positive, but at the time, in the thick of it, I was terrified. Every night I’d wake up at some point with my heart racing. Sometimes I’d sit straight up and start screaming–those were Husband’s favorites. Other times I’d wake up pretty peacefully but groggily, get out of bed, start getting ready for the morning, and just be ready to go out the door when I’d find myself back in bed with my alarm going off. Those mornings were particularly unnerving because I started distrusting when I was awake, and I’d be extra tired when I’d finally actually get out of bed because I’d already done all this and just wanted to sleep.
But the sleep paralysis was the worst. I didn’t know there was a name for it back then, but I knew I was experiencing something not normal. Most occurrences involved a black, shadow figure at the side or foot of the bed. I would be unable to move or scream, but I tried. Sometimes the figure, usually freakishly tall and hooded with no discernible features, would start in the corner of the room or the doorway then would move closer to the bed in flashes. It neither glided nor stepped, it was just in one place and then another until it was close enough to touch me.
I don’t recall ever being touched or hurt beyond psychologically, but I had the knowledge (as you do in dreams) that this entity wanted something from me. I couldn’t tell you if my mind was conjuring a ghost or a demon or something entirely different, but it felt very wrong. Not even like when you’re in a potentially dangerous situation in real life and you you know something’s off, but wrong in the sense that the world around you is broken somehow.
Possibly the worst thing about sleep paralysis, and similar to the false awakenings, is that the rest of what you can see is so real and correct. When I recall most dreams, I can remember how a house I was in wasn’t a real place I’ve ever been or how a person I was talking to was an amalgamation of two or three people I know in real life. But with sleep paralysis, you look around the room and everything is exactly as it should be, the lighting is correct, even the sounds are right, but then there’s that one element, and it’s such a distortion juxtaposed against everything else that you’re sure it’s real, the world is broken, and you’re gonna die.
This went on for a couple years on and off. I became used to it, in a way, and I think that’s when I accepted it as paranormal. I never wasn’t afraid during these events, but I wasn’t afraid in anticipation of them. I hoped I’d have a dreamless, normal night, but was resigned to the fact it wasn’t likely.
The cycle broke a couple years ago when my job and health improved. I got a hold of my life and got my sleep back on track. I ate well, worked out, forced myself to be happy, and everything sorted itself out. We also moved from one house to another, and my issues dropped off significantly after that move, so as much as I realize my issues were likely biological, I can’t help but think there was something else afoot during that time. I was clearly depressed, so I was open to negative energies and discordant forces, and maybe that house–which I knew came with a bit of a history of misery–had something to do with it.
I’ll never know for sure, but I’m very happy to be free of that nonsense now, shadows be damned.