Wednesday, April 19, 2006

In The Darkness of Night...

"Easy is the descent to hell; Death's dark door stand open day and night..." Virgil

So, for most of my life, I’ve suffered from various sleep disorders. When I was a kid, my parents used to have to tie me to the bed because I would sleepwalk so badly. It got so bad that I once awoke on a tree lawn four streets away from my house. It was especially freaky because, growing up in the ‘burbs like I did, all of the streets in my neighborhood had identical, post war bungalows. I woke up, scared and in my underwear with no idea where I was. I had to walk to the end of the street, onto the main business district drag, to find a street sign to figure out where I was.

The sleep walking still sometimes happens, but the real fun began when I turned 10 or 11. That’s when the night terrors started. If you’ve never had night terrors, you can’t understand how bad they can really be. Imagine your worst nightmare. And I mean the absolutely most terrifying, wake up in cold sweats and don’t move because the monsters might see you nightmare. Now multiply it by a hundred. True night terrors are so terrifying that you blank them out. You wake up in mortal terror and your mind, to cope with the horror, represses the memory of the dream. All you know is that you have just been through the most terrifying, panic inducing dream you’ve ever had - - until the next one.

The thing with my night terrors is that I can feel them coming. I know that they are triggered by outside things, like stress or anxiety. But often they just come in cycles. I can tell they’re coming because I start to have nightmares. The nightmares build and build, getting worse and worse, until I’m not having normal dreams at all. Just nightmares. Heartstopping, agonizingly horrible nightmares. So, I become sleep deprived, my stress levels go through the roof, and they get worse and worse until they shift into full blown night terrors.

When I was in college, I would sleep in my car because my roommates threatened to throw me out if I woke them up with my screaming again. I used to try self medicating. That and drinking a lot of liquor when I knew the night terrors were coming. The only problem with that was that I would sometimes fall so deeply asleep I couldn’t wake up and I’d descend deeper and deeper into the twisted darkness that is my dreamworld.

My nightmares and night terrors are compounded by a rare disorder that makes them that much more jolly. I inherited it from my mother, who suffers as much as I do. You see, I have a rare form of epilepsy that is directly connected to my sleep disorders.

I'll tryto explain. When you're in deep REM sleep, the nerves and receptors in your eyes vibrate at a certain pitch. What happens is that, when your mind is dreaming, your eyes and optic nerve are still working as though they’re seeing what your mind is projecting. That’s why your eyes bob around in REM. Makes sense, right?

So, when you come out of REM, your eyes shift into normal sight mode and you go on with your waking life.

Not so in my case.

What happens is, the nightmares and night terrors cause an overload of this function and they cause a small seizure in my nerves and receptors. Hence, when I wake up, my eyes don’t shift into 'normal mode'; they stay in REM. This results in a juxtaposition of my dream world with my waking world.

Let me give you an example. Say you, the average person, has a nightmare where you are being chased by a serial killer with a stereotypically sharp and pointy instrument of death. The nightmare awakens you and you sit up; gasping for air, terrified, and covered in a cold sweat. After a few seconds you realize that you’re awake and it was only a dream. You calm down and eventually fall back to sleep. That’s how it works for most people. For me, though, it goes to a whole different level. I wake up from the same dream, screaming and in terror. Unfortunately at this point, my condition kicks in and my eyes stay in REM sleep. So where you might wake up to a darkened room; I wake up and my mind superimposes my dream.

I wake to find a serial killer standing at the end of my bed.

So why am I telling you all of this? No reason, other than I can feel my night terrors coming on. I’ve had some really bad dreams lately and they’re getting worse. Soooo, I may be doing some late night posting because I’ve found that not going to sleep is sometimes the easier way to go. Sleep deprivation and the resultant loss of sanity is better than the ghastly hell that is my own mind.

The funny thing is, people always ask me why I’m the way I am when they find out about my dreams. And it does seem counter intuitive that I’m such a horror movie and gore hound, especially considering the obvious effect they have on my psyche and dreams. Short answer; I dunno…

Maybe I’ll start a short dream journal and give some glimpses into the dark corners of Doctor Zombie’s mind. I’ll share the wealth so to speak…

Truly unpleasant dreams, dear friends…

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