High school is when it started- the nightmares where I truly feel like I’m taking my last breath. Every so often, I have an episode in which I feel as though I’m being dragged- most times someone has me by the arm or leg and is dragging me across the ground. It’s always dark and I never see any one. It’s just the feeling of being moved. The terrifying part is that is always feels so real, like I am living in that moment but at the same time I know it’s just a dream. No matter how much I try to force myself to wake up and breathe, the overwhelming fear takes over that I might not wake up this time. It’s called sleep paralysis.
For those unfamiliar with the term: Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking. (via www.WebMD.com )
For a long time, I have believed that certain things triggered these episodes. I never once considered this might be related to the trauma I experienced in high school. I got my “Ah-ha!” moment recently after I began to see a therapist.
I described to her the memories of going to a party in the woods, getting drunk to the point of blackout and being found lying in the woods alone hours after I had walked off with a guy I knew. I told her that my friends had discovered me as they were leaving the party that night- luckily for me that had seen my legs sticking out from the side of the path before they ran over me. One of the guys pulled me up and began asking me what had happened. I could not give him an answer. All I could remember is that I had to go to the bathroom and the guy who offered to help me through the woods. Hours had passed and I had no memory of the missing time.
My therapist then asked me to describe the recurring nightmares I had during a sleep paralysis episode. I told her about being dragged across the dark ground. The similarities of both the paralysis and the events of that night have finally began to make sense. The re-experience of that night and the memory loss all play into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- something that I had not been “officially” diagnosed with up until this point.
In my research on PTSD and sleep problems, I’ve found that there are several options for treatment. Reaching out to professional for cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups, and discussing medication options is a major step. PTSD is not just a veteran’s disorder- it’s a disorder stemmed from traumatic experiences. Self-medicating by use of drugs and alcohol can numb the pain for a while, but in the end it can cause triggers for episodes of sleep paralysis. Find recovery by treating the underlying issues and remember you’re not alone.
M.L. Flickinger is the lead Book Manager with Gravity Imprint of Booktrope Publishing, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.
She is working on an upcoming thriller for Gravity Imprint and her marketing articles appear on BadRedHeadMedia.com. She also co-hosts the weekly live Twitter chat #GravityChat.
M.L. studies Creative Writing and Human Relations and is a lover of all things pumpkin. She enjoys long walks along the Mississippi River and black coffee. She lives with her family in Southeastern Iowa.