Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
Awake. This time I know where I am, the familiar hum of the bathroom extractor fan brings me back to the world of the living. My shirt is soaked, with sweat? Blood? Water. The tap is running… Looks like I got thirsty.
After participating in this latest sleep study, following years of adventuring in my sleep, I was told it could help to write my experiences down, anything I can remember as soon as I wake up. This has turned into ‘as soon as I work out what’s going on’, initially all I feel when I awake is a burst of sharp, intangible fear. Writing this down is the first step towards getting my brain to accept I am truly conscious and aware of my actions, apparently.
I don’t know how it started, this has just always been with me. My first memory of sleepwalking was when I was on holiday with my parents when I was about four, I woke up in the hotel service lift, cuddled in my duvet with a blistered burn on my arm. I had absolutely no idea where I was, the first face I saw was that of my panic stricken mother; she had, along with police and anyone she could find, been searching for me all night, expecting the worst… I feel what I now think of as dread whenever I think about that day. Dread isn’t a feeling you really know as a child, you live day to day, moment to moment, looking forward to things, but never really looking back.
This isn’t meant to be a diary, I suppose I’m just providing context. The clinicians said they didn’t want to read this, it’s just for me. I’m so unconvinced that anything can work at this stage that I feel I just want my cynicism duly noted.
When you live a life where your partner has to move rooms, then eventually move out with your son and disappear from your life because they cannot live with “the sleeping you”, anything is worth a try.
Awake. This time it took much longer to work out where I was, sitting outside my childhood school a 10 minute walk from my house. Dread, fear, freezing. I’ve started sleeping fully clothed following an episode where I woke up half naked in a railway station. Little consolation when it’s mid-December. That dream everyone has where they’re stood in public having forgotten their clothes; yep, I’ve lived it. I need to think of a new way to keep myself from unlocking the front door, the thought of walking about the streets at night, completely unaware of my actions, even in this quiet town is frankly, terrifying. Maybe a combination lock? Would it really be possible for my unconscious mind to remember a combination? If I can find the key, despite hiding it from myself; maybe it is possible. Anyway, note to self; In hindsight, the cutlery drawer was a terrible place to hide the key, my hands are riddled with fine cuts, like I’ve been raking through thorny undergrowth, or losing a fight to a pit of tiny nails.
Awake. On the sofa! It has been so long since I’ve woken up anywhere without feeling intense pain in some part of my body, cramped up on a bench, maybe having stood for 8 hours straight, huddled in the shower under cold water, feeling and looking like I have wrestled bears. The fear eased so much more quickly today, I even remember part of a dream; the pills they give me are supposed to make me dream more; taking me away from the deep sleep in which sleepwalking occurs. This dream wasn’t pleasant, The floor was made of writhing, cavernous masses and I felt like I was being drawn down towards them, I could hear faint, childlike whispering, which stopped as soon as I became aware of it. Strangely, I felt calm… I knew it was just a dream and that meant I wasn’t sleepwalking.
When I went to get dressed, though, I found that my shoes are caked in dark mud. Maybe I did go out.
Awake. It has been three days since I’ve been fully conscious. At least; sure enough that I am awake to write anything here. Something has changed, the dread won’t leave, I think something terrible has happened. I’ve suffocated, I can’t have done what I think I have. I’ve stopped taking the pills, the dreams aren’t helping. I can’t stop likening this feeling back to the one in the hotel lift, the panicked look that only a mother can have when they feel they have lost their child and I felt like an onlooker, felt like I didn’t understand her pain, her fear, all I could feel was my own.
….That whispering, crying. I followed it last night, not for the first time. It drew me further and further down a rugged pathway in the woods behind the house. The still darkness surrounded me so completely, every step I took echoed with the crush of brittle corpses of twigs and crisp leaves. A cabin. I knew this place. This is my place. I couldn’t help but feel that if I looked inside I would never be able to leave, am I conscious? I know all of this is real… I unlocked what feels like bolt after bolt, lock after lock, 1562, 1908, 2016. Click. Click. Click.
Slowly I shifted the heavy wooden door, shuffling, rats? A dank miasma of disturbed air filled my lungs.
The weathered, hollow face looking back at me is that same face. That same look, that four year old child in the lift. Older now. “Please, I want to go home” Dread. Incapacitating fear. This is where I kept it.
I know now, they’re not trying to stop my sleepwalking, they’re trying to make me remember.