My name is Edward Nulnick and I suffer from sleep paralysis.
I’d be surprised if anyone here hasn’t heard of it but for the uninitiated it’s basically like being paralyzed except that it’s only temporary and happens while I’m sleeping. Most sufferers of ISP (which is what I have) maybe only have it once or twice in their lifetime however I’m a lifer, or at least that’s what my doctor says. For others it usually comes when they’re about to fall asleep or when they’re about to wake up but in my case it’s always during the night. I say always but it isn’t something that happens every night, really it’s maybe once or twice a month at most. All in all on the spectrum I’m actually quite lucky to be honest, some people have never had a good night’s sleep.
I live in a small apartment in West London – by myself, no girlfriend, wife, family or friends really to speak of. Sometimes I’ll grab a pint with my co-worker Eric but I doubt he’d call me a friend. I’m relatively anti-social but I prefer it that way if I’m being honest. With people around, you have this obligation to do things; to head out, go to parties, go to dinner etc. I don’t deal with any of that. I really do what I want, when I want to and that suits me just fine.
Though admittedly it can get lonely.
I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t enjoy being with someone.
Especially at night I can feel quite down, wishing someone was beside me in bed, someone to share a look with or feel the warmth of. There is this girl at work, Jenny, who I have to admit I fancy just a bit. She’s got long black hair that she brushes almost completely flat, her eyes are vivid blue and she has an absolutely adorable smile as if she’s got a secret – you know where it goes up a bit on one side? Like that actress from Game of Thrones? There have been a few times I’ve thought about asking her out with Eric and I to grab a pint.
I do miss being with someone.
Actually it was around the time I started really yearning for companionship that this all began.
With it comes to sufferers of ISP some have visions when they experience their paralysis; I count myself amongst these really unlucky sods. It’s an indescribable terror really, waking up and seeing something in your room, I won’t do the description justice but I’ll try as best I can;
Imagine dreaming of whatever it is you dream of; ponies, puppy dogs, falling, whatever…and all of a sudden the dream stops. You open your eyes and your chest feels like it’s about to collapse. You go to move your arms up to rub your chest but you can’t. Nothing you try to move does. You just lay there and as your chest feels tighter and tighter you realize your eyes are open. Suddenly you hear it, in the dark corner of your room – that corner you always hated – you see a figure rise from the darkness. With elongated fingers and wispy hair it steps out of the shadows and begins crawling towards you. It doesn’t move quickly either, it takes its time because it knows with every step it takes you’ll try to fight more and more and yet nothing happens. The only option you have is to give in to your indescribable fear and lay there with your eyes open watching your impending doom.
That’s about as close as I can get to the feeling.
I remember the first time this happened I was just…I just wanted to die. It was the worst, oh my god it was the worst. I remember once I could move again and the creature had faded from my mind I was up and out of the house as quick as possible. I just sat in the car for the rest of the night. It wasn’t until I googled it and saw the symptoms that I realized what I had. I spoke to doctors who told me that it’s usually a one-time occurrence and that there wasn’t anything I could really do. Half of me wanted to tell the Doctor to fuck off and give me some drugs but the other half just hoped that it was the one and only time in my life I would experience it. Sadly I wish I had done the former.
Not that it would’ve helped.
After the third or fourth time it happened I realized that this was not going to be a one and done type of thing and that I needed to prepare myself for the reality that this may never stop. Each time felt more and more real, the same creature would appear from the shadows, each time getting a bit closer before I woke up. The only thing that got better was that eventually after it had ended I no longer got up to turn on the lights and sit crying for an hour or two – now I could wait until it wore off and then get back to sleep. I guess you can call me desensitized but it didn’t make the main bit any easier.
See the thing is when you’re woken up from sleeping, no matter how use you are too it, you’re still convinced whatever you’re seeing is real. It’s like having a dream where your parent died or something and you wake up thinking they’re dead. The sleeping mind is easy to fool.
Part of me also felt that, for some reason, maybe my lack of companionship may be part of the reason.
Maybe loneliness was part of my paralysis.
Therein lies the rub: I thought that maybe, just maybe my sleep paralysis could be cured by having someone to sleep beside and yet I was too self-conscious of my ISP scaring the other person that I wouldn’t pursue relationships.
Last month after a few too many pints with Eric I really opened up to him. I hadn’t told anyone about my ISP and for some reason I was telling him about all my feelings of loneliness, my unhappiness at my job and Jenny. When I mentioned Jenny he coyly smiled with an “I knew it,” grin plastered on his dumb face. It turns out however that this was the best thing for me because three weeks ago Eric asked Jenny to join us at the pub.
An hour into our drinks he made like he had to use the toilet and never came back, jaunty prick. At first I was dead nervous when I realized he had bailed on me but Jenny…..Jenny coaxed me onward. I don’t know whether Eric coached her or she really was that brilliant but she made me completely forget about everything that I was worried about and just…be.
This went on for a few weeks and I can honestly say I had never been to the pub so many times in a month but Jenny kept saying yes.
I really opened up to Jenny.
I’m not sure if she knew about my ISP from Eric but I told her and without batting an eye she pressed me for more. Something about the way she would lean in at my stories made me smile and even though I hadn’t even told Eric about the creature, I shared my waking nightmares with her. With a hand over her open mouth she held to my every description of the imaginary beast that lived in the shadows of my bedroom and after breaking the tension with a sharp joke we moved on to better, more lively subjects.
Eventually I didn’t even invite Eric and just Jenny and I would head out together. Before I knew it we were eating at the pub, then out to a better restaurant and then to dinner and then…well…to now.
Last night Jenny and I had decided not to deal with the sub-par food at the pub and headed down to a nicer restaurant. When we got there and sat down there was this look of realization on her face and with a dumb expression I asked her, “what?” After a brief pause she looked to me and in the most adorable way you can imagine said, “I think you and I just stumbled into a relationship.” At first I thought she was saying it in a bad way until she leaned across the table and softly kissed me.
After dinner we came back here and well…let’s just say it had been a long time, for both of us as it turns out. Before I fell asleep I told her again that I am so sorry for any insane rantings and ravings I may have in the middle of the night and with a knowing look she kissed me until I stopped talking.
As I fell asleep I was quite conflicted; part excited at the possibility of my new relationship with a woman I was crazy about, part nervous to the night and how she would react at my ISP, part hoping that it never even came up again. Maybe just maybe this would be the end of it.
It was not.
In the middle of the night, as Jenny slept next to me I woke with that pressure on my chest and in the darkest corner of my room the creature rose once again. With a laboured breath it drew closer to me; it’s elongated fingers hanging down in front of it like an animal, it’s wispy hair swaying softly in the moonlight. As it grew closer the dead eyes and pale white teeth came into view and with all the serenity I could muster I closed my eyes until the rapid beating of my heart slowed.
And then…..it passed.
Without opening my eyes again I fell asleep.
When I woke this morning…Jenny was gone. Her clothes picked up off the floor where she had left them and for a moment as I sat up in bed I felt the overwhelming urge to cry. Slowly I stood and walked to the door to see…Jenny, sitting on the couch fully clothed waiting for me. With an overwhelming sense of relief I walked over to her, buck naked as the day I was born and sat down on my couch.
“I thought you had run off.” I said with a smile plastered on my face and my heart a flutter, that was until I saw her face. Tears ran down her cheeks streaking her makeup, bags were under her eyes and her feet were tucked up towards her chest. Immediately I realized I had frightened her in my sleep so I went to embrace her and with a cold hand she softly stopped me.
“Jenny,” I said as my voice began to crack under the emotion, “I’m so sorry, you must have been so afraid. I didn’t mean to scare you…”
With a quiet shake of her head she stopped me.
Silently with tears running down her face she leaned into me and whispered:
“Last night there was something in your room and it wasn’t a dream.”
As I sat on the couch with Jenny, the bedroom door creaked open.