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Archive for the ‘Sleep’ Category

 

I have a sleep disorder called Night Terrors. I’m pretty sure I’ve had it all my life. The fancy Latin name is Pavor Nocturnus. Although I’m the one with the disorder, it’s Buck who is the real expert on Night Terrors. He’s been dealing with mine once or twice a week for as long as he’s known me. He claims it’s how he’ll die, from a heart attack in the middle of the night, brought on by one of my Night Terrors.

To those who are lucky enough to have no idea what Night Terrors are, they are NOTHING like nightmares. I’ve read a lot of misinformation regarding NT on websites supposedly run by doctors; the misinformation I”ve found claims NT occurs in children and that they grow out of it, or that it’s difficult to wake the child up, etc. This is incorrect, and I prefer to go by the American Medical Association’s information. According to the AMA, NT is triggered by a chemical in the brain that causes it to misfire. I saw a show on PBS back in the 1980s that suggested this sleep disorder works much like epilepsy and could possibly be some form of it.

But I don’t read about it very often, and as a matter of fact, I don’t even think it about anymore. It’s just there,  I live with it, and as a result, Buck lives with it too.

In a Night Terror, you’re wide awake — you could drive a car if you had to — except for the fact that your eyes are seeing something surreal. You can’t be woken up from a Night Terror because you’re already awake, but you can (usually) be reasoned with until your brain finally abandons the idea that whatever it thinks it sees isn’t really there at all. Then whatever it is your seeing slowly evaporates. I often think that the callers on Coast to Coast AM who phone in about things or people in their bedroom are actually just victims of NT and don’t know it.

 My experience with it is this: I wake up, open my eyes, and see something that is utterly amazing or bizarre right there in my bedroom, or wherever I happen to have fallen asleep. Sometimes it’s terrifying (like a stranger in the room), but more often it’s just bizarre: a giant Redwood tree branch hanging from my bedroom ceiling; my little Pomeranian in two places at once; a swirling purple cloud dipping around the room and then being sucked up into the ceiling fan. Sometimes I just watch these things until they slowly fade away, other times I’m startled and freaked out by them and I scream.

  Unlike a person who’s having a nightmare, a person who is in the middle of an actual NT is wide awake and cannot be easily convinced that what they’re seeing isn’t really there. It’s hallucinating, is what it is. And hallucinations always suck, but what we argue about, that is to say Buck and I, is for whom does it suck the most? The person who is hallucinating or the person who isn’t hallucinating?

Me: As you know, I couldn’t do this Q&A yesterday because I had to spend the day in contemplation, willing the Red Sox to win the pennant.

Buck:  And praying. You spent most of the day praying.

Me: Willing and praying are the same thing. To me, anyway.

Buck: What prayer did you say? And to what god?

Me: Naturally, I can’t tell you about the process as it’s extremely personal to the extreme that if I were to tell you, you might be struck by lightening or suddenly be covered with boils, etc. But I will say this: Jesus is a Red Sox fan. He proved that early in the season by once again smiting the Evil Empire and officially signing Johnny Damon’s one-way ticket to Hell  But enough of Johnny Damon’s sucktitude, it’s off-topic. Let’s get started with Q&A Sunday even though it’s already Monday and I probably won’t get this posted until Tuesday. I thought this week we’d talk about sleep disorders. Because I have one.

Buck: Oh, you have one. Yessir. You certainly have a sleep disorder.

Me: Well, my view of my sleep disorder is totally one-sided and it pretty much means nothing to me. You’re actually the expert at this point, which has made me less qualified than you to discuss Night Terrors.

Buck: You may not be qualified to speak about them but you’re certainly qualified to cause them.

Me: True.

Buck: As a matter of fact, some might say you’re a professional.

Me: I am. I’m a professional of I don’t know what.

Buck: You’re cutting edge on the sleep frontier.

Me: Okay, now that we’ve established my qualifications, or lack thereof, let’s talk about your qualifications. My Night Terrors are not really terrifying most of the time, but you  —

Buck: [laughing] You’d never know it. But they’re definitely terrifying to me.

Me: Yes, you’re the one getting terrified now. At this point in my life they no longer terrify me because I know —

Buck: Because you know I’m there to talk you down.

Me: No. Because I know that what I’m seeing is not real.

Buck: NO YOU DON’T. No you don’t. You still insist that what you see is real. Not as bad as it used to be, but it’s still pretty bad.

Me: Well

Buck: Okay, you want my introduction into the world of serious large-scale sleep disorders? The first time was still the most terrifying. For me.

Me: I’m sure it was.

Buck: My introduction to Night Terrors was the very first night that I slept with you, and of course you have to have a room absolutely pitch black in order to fall asleep — if there’s the tiniest strain of light coming from anywhere it apparently goes into your eyes like a laser beam.

Me: Well it does. It effects my sleep pattern, which is probably part of the problem —

Buck: In other words, it was so dark I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face at that point. That’s how dark it was. So in the middle of the night, I wake up to you STANDING ON THE BED and whispering, Sssh! Quiet!

Me: [laughing] That’s disturbing in itself.

Buck: So I start scrambling around in the dark trying to find my glasses — not that I could see anything anyway — but then you whispered loudly, or sotto voce if you will, THERE’S SOMEBODY IN THE ROOM THERE’S SOMEBODY IN THE ROOM 

Me: [laughing]

Buck: [laughing] And then you go, He’s right behind you! And I’m in a full on panic and you start yelling, HE’S GOT AN AX! At that point I almost peed myself. [laughing] I was just waiting to get hit by an lunatic wielding an ax —

Me: Well it just so happens I remember that particular incident, probably because you made such a big deal about it, and the guy was in a total suit of armor from the Middle Ages, and the ax was one of those battle axes that —

Buck: It doesn’t matter what kind of ax he had, I was just expecting to get hit with it.[laughing] I was reaching around in the dark because I didn’t know where anything was, and I finally made contact with a lamp and turned it on and there’s nothing in the room but you, standing on the bed looking at me with some strange look on your face, some otherworldly look. AND YOU HAD NO IDEA WHO I WAS.

Me: [laughing]

Buck: You really didn’t know who I was, it was like you’d never seen me before in your life. And that’s when I realized that when you’re like that you really can’t I had to bring you back. When you’re like that, you don’t know who to trust.

Me: It’s true. That is a problem for me. I don’t trust anyone when I’m like that, I couldn’t even trust my own mother at that point, because things are shifting and changing and what you thought was one thing turns out to be something else entirely.

Buck: When you’re like that, I feel like I’m just a voice to you, a disembodied voice. I might as well be a voice coming out of a UPS package. [laughing] You look at me like I’m a talking package telling you, It’s okay, it’s okay —

Me: [laughing]

Buck: The thing is, afterwards when it was over, that first time? You were very nice and explained to me, Oh by the way, I have night terrors and I-wake-up-screaming. [laughing]

Me: [laughing] I don’t know I suppose I forgot to mention it.

Buck: And that’s when my hair turned gray.

Me: [laughing]

Buck: Seriously. That’s when my hair turned gray.

Me: I’ve since given up on it but when I was younger I used to think every episode was the last. For like, twenty years I considered each episode to be isolated. It wasn’t till I grew up — mentally grew up — that I realized these night episodes aren’t going anywhere, they’re here to stay. So, looking back  … I suppose I didn’t think to bring it up … because I still wasn’t expecting it to happen. At that point in my life,  I didn’t know myself yet. Not very well, anyway.

 

Buck: We’ve gone through a lot of them where you didn’t realize who I was, and that makes it harder. You didn’t recognize me. You’ll look me right in the eyes, you’re totally wide awake, but you’re in some other parallel universe looking back at me in the real world. It’s very hard on me, because I have to try and bring you back down to earth, but the whole time you don’t know me or trust me.

Me: Yeah. Like I said, it’s a problem.

Buck: You think I’m trying to fool you.

Me: Yeah, I do. It’s because when you’re in that … realm … you’d believe anything is possible at that point, because the stuff that you’re actually seeing is so un-be-lievable, it’s just surreal is what it is, so you can’t trust anybody because anybody could morph into somebody else, or something else. You honestly don’t know what’s real and what’s unreal. When I’m in a Night Terror, I honestly feel I can only trust myself. As misguided as that may be.

Buck: Well, luckily I was already familiar with Filipino Nightmare Disease prior to meeting you, which was backed up by that one episode of St. Elsewhere that featured it. But before seeing it on St. Elsewhere, I’d already read in the New York Times about Filipino Nightmare Disease —

Me: In Thailand it’s called Nightmare Death

Buck:whatever. It was Filipino Nightmare Disease when I first read about it, and that’s what they called it on St. Elsewhere. The New York Times was reporting that some Vietnamese Boat People had died from it, which was news because up till then it was only known to occur in the Philippines. Basically, people would die of fright in their sleep. The article I read said they weren’t classifying it as heart attacks, it said they died of fright, and they had physically aged overnight.

Me: I believe it.

Buck: They’d actually aged over night. Much like what happened to me with my hair after I met you.

Me: Listen, I did not turn your hair white. Your hair did turn white over night, but it didn’t happen till you were in your forties and I remember exactly when it happened, and Max saw it too, but it was when we were on vacation in the Grand Canyon and I am not getting into this now. It is completely off-topic. Besides, I’d need Max here to back me up because the story of your hair turning white is so —

Buck: Anyway. The problem with Night Terrors is that you’re awake. You’re wide awake. That’s where the problem is.

Me: I know. And because I’m awake, it’s so hard for you to tell me I’m not seeing what I’m seeing. And it’s not always terrifying. I think the reason you may think that is because I don’t wake you up for a lot of them. On the easy ones, I don’t wake you up.

Buck: They all wake me up.

Me: No. Since we’ve lived here in this house I’ve had a few involving that purple swirling thing that dances around the room and disappears up into the ceiling fan. That one’s actually quiet beautiful. Disturbing, but beautiful. And it doesn’t make me scream, and that’s why you don’t wake up

Buck: Don’t say you don’t wake me up. You’ve had a lot of episodes that you don’t even remember the next day.

Me: That’s true. I hate those the most. The ones I don’t remember.

Buck: When I tell you the next day, it’s news to you.

Me: I hate when that happens. ‘Cuz when you tell me the next day, it certainly sounds like something I’d do, it rings a very faint bell in my head and then I sorta remember it. The way a night of heavy drinking slowly and unfortunately comes back to you throughout the morning. Which, combined with a hangover, is just hell. That’s why I don’t drink. Stuff that comes back to you slowly, like drunken memories and the nocturnal shenanigans of a Night Terror, just suck. It sucks.

Buck: But after all of your Night Terrors, the ones you remember and the ones you don’t, you just lay back down and fall into a deep sleep while I lay there with my heart pounding and my eyes wide open. I lie there and wonder what the hell just happened.

Me: Right. Right. I could see where that would suck also. And I’ve never bothered to get any help for it, but the only help I was offered involved driving up to Boston and staying at a sleep clinic. That didn’t interest me. So I just load up on sleeping pills or cough syrup instead. Sometimes that works for a few hours, so I can stave off the Night Terrors long enough to get some rest. But, you know, I’ve developed such a tolerance for sleep aids over the course of my life, that they very often don’t work. But they’re still better than a sleep clinic. What the hell could a sleep clinic possibly do for me?

Buck: A sleep clinic would kick you out. [laughing]

Me: WHY?!  [laughing]

Buck: Because you’d frighten them, too.

Me: It’s not always frightening. I keep telling you that. Sometimes it’s just plain run-of-the-mill disturbing and weird. Like that time last winter when you were right next to me reading, and I woke up and saw Timmy in two places at once. He was sitting by the window AND he was across the room standing by the bureau. That sucked. But I didn’t scream. I just rolled with it. I didn’t know which one was the real Timmy, so I just watched them both till one of them finally evaporated. But it took a long time on that one. It was like five minutes till the real Timmy was the only one there.

Buck: He does that all the time.

Me: [laughing]

Buck: He’s a remote viewer. You just caught him mid-viewing.

Me: The remote viewers on Coast to Coast don’t view the same room they’re in from two angles. They remote view a distant location. Like Bin Laden’s cave, or wherever.

Buck: Well, nobody ever said Timmy was good at it. He doesn’t have it down yet, you can still see him. [laughing] He’s working on it, though.

Me: The point is that whether or not Timmy was remote viewing, I didn’t scream when I caught him doing it. Like last spring when I woke up and saw a guy in our courtyard watching me sleep. He looked like Ben Vereen, and he was smiling at me like Ben Vereen smiles, but I somehow knew he wasn’t Ben Vereen.  I didn’t scream, I knew he wasn’t really there, so I got up and went out there to prove it to myself without involving you. I didn’t approach him exactly, but I got fairly close and I reasoned with myself that if Ben Vereen was really there in the courtyard the dogs would be barking. Since they weren’t barking — they were just looking at me like What the hell do you want? — I knew he wasn’t real. So I told him to leave, and he eventually evaporated. But that took a while too. Longer than Timmy’s remote viewing.

Buck: Well, I’ve probably helped you a lot with the whole thing. My bedside manner has changed drastically over the years. Before, I was very nice and tried to bring you back slowly because I was afraid I’d cause a brain hemorrhage. Now I just yell at you to stop it. And you always do. But when you do, you have a strange look on your face like, Oh, I’m back in this world, but you always look disappointed.

Me: It is disappointing, because in the Night Terror World at least there was a possibility.

Buck: Of what?

Me: I don’t know. That purple swirling things can appear and then disappear? That dogs can remote view so poorly that it’s possible to catch them doing it? I don’t know. But it’s disappointing to come to the sudden realization there’s no chance of that actually happening. Plus, I hate to be wrong. One thing that’s never changed about it is that each time I think this is the time I’ll be right Timmy really is in two places at once! Then one of him evaporates, and I’m wrong yet again. I hate being so very wrong. It’s embarrassing.

Buck: I’m thinking of starting a support group for people like me. I’m calling it Terror-Anon. Basically I’ll take people like me and make a reservation for them to stay at a Motel 6 for the night, so they can sleep soundly through the night undisturbed. [laughing]

Me: [laughing] That will be a club for nerds. Why don’t you call yourselves Nerd-Anon? Or Cowards-Anon?

Buck: What’s cowardly about wanting to sleep through the night?

Me: You’re all cowards, afraid of facing the aged break-out star from Roots and sweet little dogs who can be in two places at once.

Buck: You’re right, I am. I’m afraid I’ll die from you screaming about Ben Vereen coming at me with an ax. And the coroner will look at my white hair and the expression of horror frozen to my face and say, Must’ve died from Filipino Nightmare Disease.

 __________________________

Tomorrow: Analyzing Buck’s dreams, aka. a world of Snakes, Nuclear Holocaust & the last supper painting in which the disciples have all been replaced with Buck’s high school girlfriends and buck is forced to watch it all while  gagged and tied to a chair in the audience.

 

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Links:  A 1990 article on “Nightmare Death” in Thailand.  Although this is not the original article Buck read about Filipino Nightmare Disease, it does mention the mystery sleeping deaths in the Philippines in the early 1980s.

The International Remote Viewing Association To my knowledge, they do not have canine members.

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