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  • There’s a dark figure coming towards me. I can’t move. I can’t scream. I can’t even breathe. This man is going to take me from my family and I can’t stop him.

    After an eternity, I finally catch my breath and sit up; the man disappears.

    While it may seem as though I have awoken from a dream, this is not the case. I have just experienced an episode of sleep paralysis, as I have most nights for the past four years. I am not alone in suffering from this condition; both my mother and sister also experience sleep paralysis episodes. The first night I experienced sleep paralysis I was 14 years old, and had overheard my mom and sister talking about the sensation earlier in the day. I had no idea what they were talking about at the time. I certainly do now.

    I feel every member of the sleep paralysis club experiences the symptoms in a unique way. My mom can’t move and can’t breathe. My sister can’t move, can’t breathe, and can’t speak. I can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t speak, and hallucinate visions and sounds.

    After awakening from another wretched night of sleep, I decide to do some research. I can’t take another sleepless night. I need to find a cure. Of course, I start by consulting the always-trusty WebMD.

    “I had never heard of anyone else with sleep paralysis, but it’s more common than I thought,” I inform my mom as I hone in on my researching. “It occurs in 4 out of 10 people. Who knew?”

    “That doesn’t surprise me,” my mom says while working at her kitchen-table-turned-desk. She always seems to know everything about everything. Especially medically, since she had been a nurse for 20 years.

    “Whoa, mom, this is freaky. Apparently when we’re falling asleep, our bodies temporarily paralyze themselves. That’s why we feel like we can’t move or call out for help.”

    My mom nods her head and continues working on her computer. She doesn’t seem as committed to my investigation as I am.

    I flip to the “Who Develops Sleep Paralysis?” section and discover it can occur from lack of sleep or inconsistent sleep schedules, sleeping on the back, bipolar disorder, and narcolepsy.

    “Hey, thanks a lot mom.”

    “What did I ever do to you?” my mom asks a little hurt.

    “WebMD is telling me sleep paralysis can run in the family. So this is all your fault!”

    My mom ignores my teenager-y comment, and I continue my research in silence.

    After exhausting the WebMD website, I only end up angry, because I haven’t found a treatment for my sleep paralysis.

    I decide to explore a website that can only be more promising, called “9 Ways to Wake Up From Sleep Paralysis.” Some of the suggestions seem silly: “3. Wiggle your Toe…4. Clench your Fist.” As if I hadn’t thought to try either of these options. I decide to keep number 9 in mind; “Write out the Plan,” so that when it is occurring, I have an escape plan.

    I assume I have finished the article but decide to scroll to the comments section when I notice a surprise 10th method that promises to break me of a sleep paralysis episode “IMMEDIATELY.”

    “Mom! I did it! I found the cure!”

    “Wow, I’m actually interested now,” my mom says.

    This is it. After suffering for the past four years, I’m about to get the answer to end my sleepless nights.

    With my mom hovering over my shoulder, I say aloud, “All we have to do is scrunch up our faces like we ‘just smelled something bad’ and we’ll snap out of the trance right away.”

    My mom lets out a single laugh. “Huh. All those nights we always spend hoping we don’t get sleep paralysis, I wonder if this will actually work.” Feeling optimistic, I am anxious to test my new method tonight.

    I am “lucky.” Just as I begin to fall asleep, I start to feel paralyzed…short of breath…there’s a loud, screeching noise ringing in my ears. I panic a little. It’s as though my eyes are wide open. Everything in my room looks exactly the same; the purple walls, the nightstand to my left with the idle lamp, the cluttered desk in front of my bed. I’m staring up at the same ceiling fan like I have every night for the past 15 years.

    I am becoming aware of what is happening. I made a game-plan for this. I attempt to wiggle my toes…I am still paralyzed. I attempt to clench my fist…I am still paralyzed. I try to calm myself and search my brain for the sure-fire method to wake myself “IMMEDIATELY.” I remember, and I eagerly anticipate my impending relief.

    I pretend to smell something bad and THE RINGING IN MY EARS BECOMES EVEN LOUDER AND SHAKES MY BRAIN. I can’t believe this isn’t working. I’m in full-fledged panic mode now.

    How did this happen? I am suffering.

    I try to call out. I am still suffering.

    I try to wiggle my body to rid myself of this INCESSANT RINGING. I am still, and I am suffering.

    After an eternity, I finally catch my breath and sit up; the ringing disappears. I experience a brief second of relief when I notice I am awake.

    Only a brief second.

    Instead of relief, I am now consumed with hopelessness as I realize that one day, the man will come for me again.
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