The Adventures of Sleep Paralysis with OCD

About 3 years ago I was taking an afternoon nap. I woke up staring at my Periodic Table of Elements poster, and quickly realized I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even sweep my eyes back and forth. This moment probably lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. It felt suffocating. I eventually gasped myself officially awake and thought to myself, “fuck”.

Before that, I was wondering why I was having dreams that I couldn’t breathe. I was actually waking up gasping for breath, unaware of my paralysis. The funny thing about sleep paralysis is that you are breathing, but the pressure on your chest makes it feel like you’re not.

It happened about once a month. Waking up gasping.

Currently, it happens almost every night. Taking a nap guarantees an episode.

I tried a lot of things to help this, lifestyle changes, sleep aides, etc. I did more research and saw one of the causes: anxiety.

Anxiety’s favorite time to show its face is at night, when I’m falling asleep. There’s nothing to listen to but my own loud thoughts.

I’ve always had issues with REM sleep. When I was a kid, after the symptoms for OCD were showing, I was very active at sleep talking and walking. I would hold conversations in my sleep, make decisions if asked a question, and argue. I ran across the house in my sleep once, and dramatically threw open a bedroom door. According to freaked out friends, I’ve jumped off the top of a bunk bed with a superhero landing Deadpool would be proud of. Occasionally, I would set a booby trap to catch myself so I didn’t wander outside the bedroom. Currently, it’s rare for me to sleep walk and I’ve apparently traded it for sleep paralysis.

With OCD along for the ride, this is where being high O really sucks. My hallucinations during sleep paralysis are often focused on my obsessions. It’s like watching them in real time.

I wake up in REM to my apartment empty. I snap awake to see my furniture again.

I hallucinate the sound of my door opening, I rip myself out of paralysis and door check. 

I hallucinate a shadowy figure in my doorway and freak out enough to come out of paralysis. I walk around and check for a hiding intruder. 

I pretty much can’t rest when I’m supposed to be resting, and when I’m awake I’m often confronting my obsessions. I usually get enough sleep but it’s interrupted and an adventure of “what will I see this time”. It feels like I cross between two realities when I sleep, and it used to be fascinating until it became annoying. And then there’s the intrusive thoughts, ready to chime in right after I realize it was all a hallucination, “you’re losing your mind”.

At the moment, I’m trying to relax as much as I can before sleep. If I can’t fall asleep easily, my brain gets filled with ideas and memories to write about. I’m often writing stuff around 1-3 AM. 

This all might involve a future trip to a sleep clinic. It’s a work in progress.