Sleep Paralysis – A (literally) rude awakening

A few months ago – I think it was towards the end of April – I had a pretty freaky experience.

It was early morning, around 6:00 AM. My husband had just kissed me good-bye on his way out to work; I was still in bed, in that half-asleep, half-awake state where all I want to do is surrender to sleep once more, but my consciousness is telling me my son is likely to wake up with the beep-beep-beep of the alarm being deactivated and reactivated.

Sometime in that in-between state, I start hearing a hish-hish-hish; I feel a presence near me and someone with a deep, male, husky voice is speaking to me, only I can’t understand what he’s saying. It sounds like parseltongue from Harry Potter! I go to move my head, and I can’t; I’m frozen in the bed, unable to move arms, legs, head or trunk, and I’m seeing but I’m not sure if my eyes are open. My chest thumps harder; I shiver and feel the prickling on my arms as the hairs rise. I try to move again, but it’s no use. Finally, I am able shake this thing off and move. I turn, sit up on the bed, and look around. I see nothing; I hear nothing. I want to go back to sleep because I’m still drowsy, but I’m too afraid what just happened. I feel lost, uncertain. What the heck just happened?!

After that “episode,” I called my husband and told him what happened. I sort of laughed about it, but the experience kept nagging at me. What had I experienced? Was there some other-world being in the house with me? Was it a spirit, a ghost? Was it a hallucination spurred on by the meds I was taking? (At this point, I was taking prednisone to help with the connective tissue thing I have going on). I didn’t google it then. I brought it up at my rheumatologist’s appointment and she wrote it down as a side-effect of the prednisone and ordered me to stop taking it.

Life went on as usual, and I didn’t experience that hallucination – or whatever you want to call it – again. I figured yep, that was the prednisone and that was that. Until yesterday morning. This time, I was in my son’s room. Again, it was in the early morning hours, but this time before my husband left for work. I was curled up, uncomfortably, at the foot of my son’s bed (he’s been having sleep/nightmare problems again – another story for another time). I remember turning over on my right side when it started happening again. I heard the hish-hish-hish sound (again – like parseltongue) but this time, a lower, childlike pitch. When I heard it, I tried to turn over, but like last time, I was frozen, stuck in that fetal position on my right. I felt the tightness in my chest, the fear swiftly covering me. There was somewhere there with us, with my son, and I couldn’t move to help either one of us, if needed. So what did I do? I started chanting, in my mind, my Our Father’s and Hail Marry’s and Glory’s I could fathom. I found it somewhat ironic that in my current state of crossroads when it comes to my religious faith, I should resort to the familiar prayers taught to me.

Like the last time, the sensation passed, and though drowsy, I was awake. I looked around my son’s room, looked up at my late-father’s crucifix over my son’s door – the same crucifix that had accompanied my father during his years in the priesthood, a present from his mother on his ordination – and heard nothing, saw nothing. My son was oblivious to anything and sleeping soundly. I returned to my room and told my husband what had happened. We both looked at each other with that “that’s weird” look, but said nothing. He left to work, and I sat in my bed, laptop on lap, and turned to Google.

I have to say what I found was interesting and had nothing to do with the spirits my mind was conjuring up. Apparently, there’s this thing called Sleep Paralysis that happens either right as one is falling asleep, or right as one is waking up. The symptoms are: inability to move limbs or trunk, a feeling of crushing or suffocating (didn’t really have this one), and sometimes, hallucinations, either auditory or visual. I definitely had the auditory ones! Here’s an article I found on About.com regarding this sleep disorder. Before the first episode, I’d never (EVER!) experienced something like this, though I did walk in my sleep when I was younger and I did (and sometimes still do) talk in my sleep.

I guess I’ll be bringing this up to my doctor, though I hope it doesn’t happen again. It’s not a very fun experience.

Has this happened to anyone else?

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