Sleep Paralysis

I am one of the thousands of people afflicted with sleep paralysis. Most nights my sleep is undisturbed. I lay down, dream, and wake up. Night after night. But sometimes when I wake up I can’t move. I dread those times.

It always happens the same way. My bedroom door opens in my dreams and a dark figure watches me from the doorway. The fear is so intense, and I can’t move. My limbs feel like their made of lead. I struggle, I fight, I try to cry out for help. My heart beats, rushing through me as I struggle to move. And that figure keeps staring at me, hating me.

imagesAnd then, like I had broken the cobwebs that bound me, I could move and spring up. My bedroom door will be closed, the dark figure will be gone, and the fear will bleed off me. But I can always feel it lurking. I can’t go right back to sleep or I’ll slip back into the paralysis.

I can never predict when it will strike, but I can often recognize the signs in my dreams when an attack, for lack of the proper word, comes upon me. My bedroom door opening. If that happens in my dreams, I wake up before my body paralyzes.

So if you’ve never heard of sleep paralysis, it is a little understood condition. While either falling or sleep or waking up, a person can get locked into complete muscle atonia and often have terrifying nightmares of intruders in their rooms accompanying their complete helplessness. Some attribute this to demonic activity, and after experiencing it, I can understand why. When I’m in the grip of the paralysis, and the dark figure is watching me, nothing has ever frightened me more.

The ‘intruder’ as the figure is called in medical literature, is thought to be caused by a hyper-vigilant reaction in the brain caused by finding yourself unable to move while you’re still not fully awake and causing your dreams to react accordingly. It is thought that sleep paralysis is responsible for tales of succubus, incubus, demons, UFO abduction, out-of-body experiences, and host of other, similar tales.

Science still doesn’t fully understand the causes of sleep paralysis and there are numerous theories explaining it. Luckily, it doesn’t threaten your physical health, just your sanity. Something I try and focus on when I’m in the grips of it as I lie they’re helpless. But it’s hard to remember that the figure isn’t really there.

Last year, after a particularly bad incident, I wrote a poem about it. All day the figure had haunted me and writing down my fears went a long way in shaking off the experience.

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Sleep Paralysis Poem

Sleep Paralysis

by J.M.D. Reid

 

The Door opens, darkness enters
Paralyzed, I lie pinned before terrifying gaze.
A bug, an insect.
Why can’t I move?
Fear bubbling, clawing against leaden limbs.
Why does it watch?
Fear boiling, shouts caught in throat.
Leave me be!
No cry escapes my lips.
Desperate will, fueled by terror
Overcomes immobility.
Covers thrown, body moving.
Shout dies in throat.
Darkness is gone, the door is closed.
Why did it watch?
Why did it watch?

04-07-13

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Lesson From Writers – Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

51d5p9sav7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_No one who has read my blog should be surprised that I was big into D&D. So I read a lot of the D&D novels and none were better than the writing duo of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance universe. They were a league above the rest of the writing in the D&D universe with rich characters, great villains, and the willingness to take risks. I ate them up in my teenage years.

And soon I moved onto their non-D&D books. I loved them from the Darksword Trilogy (later Tetralogy) to the Rose and the Prophet series. But their writing that really blew me away was the Death Gate Cycle. It was fantasy like I had never read before. Everything else I was reading was quasi-medieval Europe with magic, but Weis and Hickman showed me that fantasy could be so much more. At first blush, the Darksword Trilogy is just another in a long-line of Europe with magic, set in a small world surrounded by a magical 29118barrier. And then you find out what’s beyond the barrier—our future. Humans have colonized the stars and driven everyone with magic to this one, remote planet where they buried their heads in the sand and forgotten all about the evils of Technology. Their Rose and the Prophet series was set in an Arabic setting which was lots of fun, but neither series compared to the Death Gate Cycle.

In our future, a war happened between two sects of spellcasters known as the Sartans and the Patryns. The Sartans, losing the war, did the most horrendous thing possible—they destroyed it. Then they rebuilt it as four separate worlds based around the four elements. Weis and Hickman lead you on an exploration of these four separate worlds. The world of Air, composed of islands floating in the sky and Elvish flying ships battle humans riding dragons. The 260230world of fire, is a Dyson sphere with its suns at the center and a jungle growing around the inside of the planet. A world of perpetual daylight where entire civilizations live on the treetops never seeing the ground. The World of Earth is a labyrinth of caves worming through a planet’s crust, where seas of magma provide islands of life for the inhabitants. And the World of Water where the seas can be breathed and the races live on small, living planets that float through the water.

They taught me that fantasy can be anything you can imagine. You don’t need to be limited by any of the constraints of our physics, or logic, or universe. As long as your rules are internally consistent, you can have a world of floating islands hanging above an eternal Storm. elven-starFantasy doesn’t have to be Medieval Europe or any other representative of Earth. You are the only person that can limit your universe.

This is why I write fantasy. To create places and universes and sights that are not possible to experience. To transport my readers to new worlds and unfurl them across the pages I write. To let my imagination free to create what it wants. That’s what I learned from reading Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

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Pain

Pain

driving my bus
head full of darkness
i cannot escape the Plague
of words Afflicting my mind
all I can do is drive
while my soul is Needled
by acrimonious doubt
and crushed
by bitter self-recrimination
would the world even miss me
if i was gone
or would it turn on
uncaring, unremembering
unfeeling

I wrote this poem on May 24th, 2014.  I had a bad day between work and getting rejection letters. I was tired and stressed and my nine hour shift just became an eleven hours. I was tired of driving my shuttle and I just pulled over and wrote this poem on the side of the road in a few minutes, pouring all my negative emotions out and when I was done, I felt so much better.

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What Should You Write?

If you’re one of us, a writer, someone that has that itch to put pencil to paper, ink to parchment, text to screens, you probably wondering what you should write. You see what’s sitting on the bestseller list and go, “Hey, I should write ______. It seems really popular.”

Not so fast!

You can fill in the blank, whether its zombies, vampire romances, YA female protagonist in some dystopian future, or avenging serial killers; right now your local bookstore shelves are full of the same type of books based on whatever was hot the last few years.

Do not write a vampire romance or a zombie story because it’s popular and will sell. Look to your bookshelf. See what you love to read. That’s where you should start. Tell the stories that you care about, and it will show in your writing. Take what you love to read and put your mark on it. Take, absorb it, and write your take on it, put your voice to it. So if your shelf is full of vampire romances or an avenging serial killer thrillers, than go ahead and write about it, because that’s what you are passionate about.

Writing, like all the arts, is grueling. You are in the for the long slog to become even modestly successful, so you might as well enjoy what your writing, because that passion will not only show through the words you write on paper or type on screen, but will also keep you going through the difficult times as you read your newest rejection letter or, for those indie authors, stare at your Amazon sales graph hoping that this time when you hit refresh there will be a magical sale.

That’s why I’m writing an Fantasy novel. I want to tell stories in an exciting world that can only be visited through the power of the human imagination. Maybe it will sell and join the plethora of Fantasy books at the bookstore, and maybe I’ll be carving out my territory in the indie world. Either way, I’ll be selling a product that I care deeply about and I hope it will show.

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