The source of my sleep paralysis fears

I started reading Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming by Clare R. Johnson recently, and it was just what I needed to, ironically, jolt me back into reality again after a long period of nightmarish PTSD (and possibly something else) symptoms. It reinstated my passion for studying dreams and dreaming, and it further made me appreciate the strange and often horrific dreams I have again. Having a nightmare disorder, I’m used to the dark and scary imagery my sleeping brain produces, but upon analyzing my dream journal entries that date back many years, I found another meaning in them that could explain so much.

I noticed a few symbols in more than a few of my dreams that were recurring. Dead, undead, or sick animals and animal corpses. I’ve realized the meaning for this symbol, but it’s not something I’m ready to share. Likewise, a lightbulb went off in my head when I finally realized why I was so afraid of sleep paralysis episodes. It hit like a ton of bricks when I finally came to the conclusion, as it’s the same reason I always fear I’m going to die in my dreams — for real — or my sleep paralysis entity is going to keep me there, as he’s said before. My first thought when fighting my body’s natural sleeping paralysis is, ‘I’m never going to wake up again.’

It may trace back to when I was first born. I had a near-death experience out of the womb that left me in the NICU (intense care unit for infants) for the first month of my life. I was hooked up to life support, getting regular doses of phenobarbital to paralyze me since I kept having seizures due to the lack of oxygen from having the umbilical cord around my neck, and I imagine I saw some very strange things during that time. Ever since, even as an infant finally out of the hospital into my toddler years to the present, I’ve had chronic night terrors and nightmares. I’m not very familiar with good dreams, as I rarely have had them.

I’m not sure when I started experiencing sleep paralysis episodes for certain, but I had the first memorable one in 2015. That was when I met my sleep paralysis entity for the first time, and I’ve been curious about him ever since. I wrote the entire lucid dream beforehand into a short story called Void of Everything, creative license added for storytelling at the end, but in the original dream journal entry I’d originally spoken into a recorder, I recounted the moment I came out of the dream and it was very intense:

“It was a human-shaped bundle of darkness. A shadow figure. I ran through hallway after hallway, and every door opened only to lead to one other that faded off into darkness. I was trapped. I knew I couldn’t go down the dark path because it always ended up badly in horror movies, didn’t it? Instead, I turned around to face the entity again.

That was the last thing I remembered before I was lying in my bed. It was then that I realized there was something crawling over me — pressing against me. It felt sexual and I was afraid, but I also welcomed the advances due to being hypersexual from trauma. My mind tried to create a pleasing image instead of the frightening face that I still couldn’t see, but I could feel it. The only clearly visible parts were arms that held me down. I tried to shake myself. I still couldn’t see a face. I fought and kicked, and I looked around the room to try to ground myself. It was dark, but my familiar dresser came into view and my old dinosaur of a television, but the room seemed wider than it was before. There was a desk near the corner, and I’d seen that desk before, but no, that wasn’t right.

I fought harder. My eyes finally started to open but everything was blurry, and I was pulled back in again. The dark entity held me down and it did not want to let me go. It would not let me wake up. I couldn’t stop fighting. My room came into view once again. An orange tint of light that I knew wasn’t really there — but existed in my still half-dreaming state as a symbol of the waking light that is reality — came into view.

My vision finally showed signs of coming back. I tried to open my eyes, but everything was too unclear. I struggled. I needed consciousness.

At last, I shaped that thing into something comforting. I tried with all of my power to imagine that this thing was not a creepy shadow creature that did not want me to wake up. I imagined it as the face of someone I cared about. Someone, just anyone, who would bring me comfort.

And then I woke up.

It was gone.

I rolled over in bed and looked around. I felt a presence. Something was still there. My skin crawled at the memory and my hair stood on end as I searched all of the dark corners of my room, even the faces of the porcelain dolls staring at me from my dresser. In the dull autumn light pouring through my window, I felt it. I still feel it. It’s tormenting me — whatever this thing is. This nightmare — this lucid reality that it had drug me into. I’m not even sure if it was a dream anymore. I was too conscious and too aware of my actions and my fears. This thing was too sentient. It fought back with all of its might and did not want to let me go. It wanted to bring me back into the darkness where it said I belonged. I belonged to it and not myself. Not this reality. It was going to claim me and not let me go until it finally had me.”

From my dream journal, January 2015

I have a few theories as to what or who this entity is.

Around that same time, I slept with a haunted doll nearby I’d acquired a few years previous that gave me problems off and on. I would sometimes wake up with my eyes already open, staring right at it. This was not usual for me. Could something have latched onto me that means me harm? Or is it a mere trickster just causing mischief through manipulating my fears?

Did I see something as an infant near death? A figure that meant to guide me into the afterlife, but I can’t possibly have a proper recollection of it? Is it still watching me because one, I shouldn’t have taken its memory with me into waking life, and two, was I supposed to die? Is it something from a darker plane where the dead cross over, and it’s merely interested in me because I was often suicidal for years and deal with chronic suicidal thoughts to this day? It would make sense since the common phrase it mentions, in the few times I have seen it, is that it wants to keep me there — where I belong. To take me away. To not let me go. Something to that effect.

Either way, I am feeling a stronger conclusion is the one relating to my birth and near-death at the time of it. If that’s the case, it would explain my irrational (because they’re irrational) thoughts of living on borrowed time. Oddly enough, despite all of this, I’ve become intrigued with my sleep paralysis entity. I’ve taken to calling it ‘he’ because he gives off a masculine presence. At times, he’s manipulated my hypersexuality in dreams and mixed erotic imagery with the disturbing, and I know he’s doing it to make me weak. And I am mostly attracted to masculine people.

I’d like to say with my whole heart I don’t believe he can actually claim me or take me away in my sleep, but I can’t convince myself to believe that one hundred percent. Part of me is on the side of it being irrational thinking, the other part of me is piecing together the circumstances of my birth and near-death experience, and truly wondering.

No matter the reason, I am intrigued. I want to know this entity and who he really is. He’s far too interesting to try to block out or ignore, despite the frightening circumstances (and possible consequences) he brings with his very presence.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

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