Never, under any circumstances, intentionally forego sleeping. Do not mix a lack of sleep with unaccomplished tasks, imminent deadlines, anxiety, and a big energy drink. The result? One of the most frightening experiences of my life. I’ll tell you not only about seeing true dark, but how I underwent sleep paralysis. Five years later, I hope to faithfully describe what I thought, at the moment, was the gateway to the abyss.
Anxiety is giving you a hard time? Check this article.
“Why not tell others about it?”
Said a dear friend to me. I guess I should, yeah. It might help someone who’s been through this and couldn’t explain it to themselves. Or it might entertain a few of you. Let’s dial back to 2015, one evening of May.
Picture this: you’re the best student in the 2nd year of high school. You’ve got a few bad grades and the teachers are saying there must be a mistake when it happens. Suddenly, however, you’re just having a teenage crisis. At least, that’s what happened to me. You have had enough. And I’m sure everyone knows that moment. “I want to do what I want, when I want, I’m sick of doing what I’m told, sick of school.” And you start doing precisely what you wanted. I started going to the gym, played a lot of video games and procrastinated studying for exams.
The big biology final was knocking. Two days of studying would have been more than enough to pass it with flying colors, but of course, I had procrastinated. It was 10 PM, the evening before the exam day when I decided to start studying. I ended up reading and trying to remember complex definitions for 5 straight hours, with a 500ml energy drink by my side and down the esophagus in no time.
10 PM became 3 AM when I closed the final book.
I closed the final book and decided 4 hours of sleep would have to suffice. I was sleeping on the couch, alone, facing up. The room was all dark, my TV and wardrobes mere silhouettes sparkling a little in the light of the streetlamps outside. I usually sleep without curtains so I can gaze at the spider web branches of the trees and the flicker of stars.
Slowly but surely, I slid into a heavy and deep sleep. I don’t remember much about what happened in those moments. The next thing, however, feels as real as it felt back then. Suddenly, I opened my eyes. I was laying on my back, arms on either side. Something was feeling off, somehow. I tried moving my hands, but they would not respond. Then, I tried using my back muscles to raise myself to a sitting position. Still nothing. My eyeballs refused to move from their frozen state. And then I saw it.
Before my motionless eyes, something had materialized.
At the end of the couch, in front of my feet but slightly to my right, the darkness took shape. Back then, I had been in love with a curly, raven-haired girl. I would dream about her, sometimes. Now, before my dead body, a tall being stood there in silence. Imagine the shape of a person, but with no facial features, just an endless sea of black. The ghost was standing there in a neutral position, its curly locks hanging approximately to the chest. The locks looked similar to my crush’s, only they were longer and more menacing. Its hands were dangling to either side, and it was not moving, not speaking, not doing anything, just watching. This demon appeared to study my cadaver.
The mere stillness shook my every core. I was terrified. I tried to command every single neuron inside my body to send a signal to the eyes, to the tip of my fingers, to wake them up! My body was still asleep, but I felt the brain signaling alarm after alarm, its temperature rising. Then, I tried pumping force into my chest to inflate it. I could feel the blood rushing to the area, trying to fire up every single muscle, but nothing wanted to move. All this time, Death was looking, patiently, at my desperate attempt to fight back. I could feel pressure mounting in my brain, likely from all the futile efforts to kickstart every single organ and limb.
Out of the fear of dying from too much blood pressure, I decided to stop resisting and wait.
I stopped fighting, stopped revolting. I just stood there, a conscience trapped in a motionless body, looking at the harbinger of my doom. You need to understand that I was scared to hell and back. It was truly the most terrifying experience of my whole life. To be forced to look at your executioner, while not being able to do a single thing. I couldn’t possibly count the time, but I would say that those seconds or minutes felt like an eternity to me. An eternity of hell.
And then, the sleep paralysis slowly went away.
First, I felt tinglings in my fingertips and could move my eyeballs again. Gradually, my neck started to move. Then, vitality started flowing into my arms again, then my legs. The moment when I could feel my chest inhaling and exhaling again, I could physically see how Death was vanishing into the darkness of the room, and all hallucinations were going back to their maker.
Finally, my brain convinced the chest muscles to start, and all of a sudden, I rose to my feet, my breath uncontrollable, and cold sweat flooding my face, originating from the head. I opened the phone and looked at the clock. It was 4:34 AM, in less than 3 hours, I would need to wake up and go to the exam. I didn’t go to the exam in the end, because I couldn’t fall asleep out of fear until 8 AM. Instead, I took the exam a week later, with those who had failed previously.
Today, I know that what I went through was a medical phenomenon called “Sleep paralysis”.
It happens when during falling asleep or waking up, a person is aware of their surroundings but unable to move or speak. Sometimes, it causes hallucinations, and I was face to face with what internet dwellers call (and make memes out of) the “Sleep paralysis demon”. It was the first and only time when I went through Sleep paralysis. What my doctor (and the internet) told me was that I should avoid stressing too much and shouldn’t deprive myself of sleep. Honestly, I’ve been more careful with my schedule since then, because, although not real, it felt like I had one foot in hell. It felt like I was looking Death in the eye.