My Experience with Sleep Paralysis

It’s almost too difficult to put into words.

Anyone that knows me or follows my social media is familiar with my depression/anxiety/OCD. I purposely put everything out there, in hopes that maybe someone that’s silently struggling won’t feel so alone.

I’ve had lots of treatment throughout the years. I’ve seen people, I’ve visited a psychologist, I’ve taken various medications to no avail. It’s all a part of finding what works best for me, a battle fought fairly.

After a couple of years, I finally found something that eased all three of my issues enough for me to function normally on the day-to-day.

It’s a medication called Effexor XR, which should be taken extra carefully– those withdrawal symptoms are no joke. I truly believe you should try out all forms of medication before you attempt this one. It’s a doozy.

Effexor XR has soothed a lot of my problems, but has also created one major issue in my life: sleep paralysis.

If you don’t know what sleep paralysis is, imagine your mind waking up before your body and not being able to physically move. Along with that craziness, imagine hallucinating the craziest shit.

It’s terrifying. And I experience it nearly every day.

It doesn’t get any easier, regardless of how often it happens.

Some nights I feel tears forming in my eyes because I want so desperately to get a good nights sleep, but I just can’t.

My mind will wake up and I will be able to see around the room, but my body can’t move no matter how hard I try. Sometimes my hallucinations involve seeing myself move, or envisioning demon-like creatures around me. Sometimes I hear sounds even if no one’s around. Anyone who hasn’t experienced it won’t know how horrifying it is until it happens to them. I hope it doesn’t.

One night it lasted so long I swore I was going to be glued in that position forever. I tried to yell for my mom, but nothing came out. My lips wouldn’t move. My eyes fixated on one object, and I tried to whisper for it to go away. Eventually it did.

The most defeating part? I can’t do anything about it. There’s no cure. No way to stop it from happening.

What am I supposed to do, choose between my happiness or between a good night’s rest?

Unfortunately, I’ve made that decision. For once, sleep didn’t win. My happiness comes first.

I imagine one day it won’t be so bad.

It can’t be.

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Accepting Myself: A Concept

First and foremost, life is fucking hard.

Anyone can tell you that. Regardless of who you are or where you came from, life gets rough, typically at the worst times possible. No amount of money or love or support can deter mental illness, death, despair, doubt, dread. Sometimes things just happen.

They can happen a lot.

Nearing 21-years-old, you’d think it would be easy for me to find company. You’d think I’d find comfort in those surrounding me, those that envelop themselves in my world. I don’t, and it’s not. Every day is a battle for a purpose, a struggle to keep going, question after question. Why is it worth it?

Well, why isn’t it?

I never saw myself as the “college type.” I never saw myself as any “type,” really. I’m just a person trying to float in and throughout the world, just trying to get by and cope with life on things other than drugs and alcohol. I’m trying to be the person 5-year-old me would have been really proud of. Thats right– I said it. Me. I am in this for no one but myself.

Driving through northeastern Pennsylvania on this dreary Saturday made me realize a few things.

  1. This area fucking sucks.
  2. I am meant for more than what I allow myself to have.
  3. I don’t need anyone’s attention or affection– just my own approval.
  4. Life goes on.

I know so many people struggling to find themselves because they are afraid of what others may think. It’s such a freeing sensation when you no longer give a shit what others think. It’s an epiphanic experience to do things for you, and not for the Facebook likes or reacts or the “this” or “that.”

Heartbreak is the number one game changer for everyone, in my experience and less-than-expert point of view. Heartbreak changes people.

I’ve gone through heartbreak, one or two or three or however many times.

Each and every time I am changed into a stronger, better, braver individual– someone who respects themselves enough to let go. Or try to, in the very least.

I’ve spent the last few years curating my purpose in life. Is it this, is it that? Why am I here? What am I doing? Is it all worth it?

Who the fuck cares?

The real questions I should be asking myself:

  1. Am I being the kindest I can be?
  2. Am I doing what makes me happy?
  3. How am I contributing to the world?
  4. Am I a genuinely good person?

There’s only so many times we can cry over who we are– or who we aren’t, for that matter– before you let go and allow yourself to glue the broken pieces back together.

I spent so much time feeling alone that I forgot how to feel any other way. I forgot to feel loved, I forgot to feel happy, I forgot what it meant to be me.

If being alone is the worst thing I can be, I’ll take it. In a world full of like-minded individuals, I’m bound to find company sooner or later.

So here I am, writing this in a Barnes & Noble, quietly listening to the clinks and the clanks and the chatter of those around me. They’re similar, for sure, if they spent their Saturday night reading or studying as opposed to getting high. We’re all in this same building for a similar reason.

Maybe one day instead of sitting alone, I’ll be here with someone. Maybe then someone will be listening to our chatter instead of vice versa. Maybe then..

And if not, that’s okay too.

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Feature Writing #4- 50 Words

I am a writer,

Strong, empathetic, kind.

I am a woman,

Fierce, loving, full of pride.

I am a student,

Lax, but motivated; a walking paradox.

I am a survivor,

Of death and doubt and destruction.

I am a believer,

Clinging on for something better, bigger, fulfilling.

I am Leah.

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how dreadful it is, to find hope
in someone who understands you,
sets you free from your demons,
allows you to experience the closest thing to nirvana,
the bliss from within.
how dreadful to know you cannot be, though the desire will not burn out,
nor fade away.
save yourself from the heartbreak,
love yourself, accept yourself,
you begin the world alone,
and your soul will wander alone;
long after your final breath.
all alone.

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they say some people die at 25
but aren’t buried until 75

like cold, hard stone they merely
exist.
and that’s it.

the fire burning with fierce desire
is settled upon their ocean blue eyes,
suffocating the brilliant flames into
nothingness.
their laughter is polluted by their deep souls,
distant and dark.

but sweetheart, listen
breathe!

the fire is not out, plenty of fresh, crisp air exists, just for you,

and your lungs will thank you,
for finally caring about yourself.

you are too young to feel this old,
and too wise to let yourself.

put down the blade that has opened your pale skin one too many times,
and let yourself consume something
other than water,
and you will feel
beautiful, as you are, with time.

I promise, my love, I promise upon heaven, and if I lie, dare I go to hell.

The Outt Opportunity

Jon Outt.

When I began filling out scholarship forms last year, I didn’t realize that this name would mean anything to me. If I’m being honest, I was just looking for a way to pay for my tuition without accumulating massive debt. I wasn’t in search of anything but a scholarship– and yet I was lucky enough to receive so much more than just that.

Jon Outt was a student at Luzerne County Community College before I was even born. A quiet kid that kept to himself, Jon was an excellent writer and student. He probably would have kept that image had he not lost his life in a car accident. Jon died, and with him, a bit of Luzerne did too.

We always think things won’t happen to us, like for some reason we are exempt from turmoil and tragedy just because we are young or healthy or this or that. We don’t think about dying. We don’t think about others dying. We refuse to imagine that one day we will be gone; and that day may be today, or tomorrow, or next week. We don’t. It very well could be.

When I was awarded the Jon Outt Memorial Scholarship, and was met with the tragedy behind it, I wasn’t sure if it was okay to be happy.

After all, someone lost their life.

I spent a long time wishing my life would end, and I longed for my body to disintegrate into the ground. I wanted my existence to cease so my problems would end. And yet, we had someone who (I imagine) did not want to die. I would like to think Jon knew his talents and yearned to excel towards his future. He had every right to, as we all do.

I’m sorry he didn’t get to.

But this is so much more than death.

I had the opportunity to meet Jon Outt’s father and step-mother, and my God, I never met a warmer couple in my life. Greeted with the most gorgeous flowers and a perfect journal, they hugged and embraced me as if we knew each other forever. This brave couple turned a tragic accident into a meaningful, positive chance for struggling students. Admirable is a good word to describe them, but not a good enough word. When I say that Mr. and Mrs. Outt changed my world, I mean that. I don’t think I deserve this opportunity, much less deserve to honor the name Jon Outt. Whether I do or don’t is irrelevant– I’m running with it.

It’s a tad insane for me to think that I once, and sometimes still do, wish I was gone from this world when so many people did not get the chances they so damned deserved. It’s a little selfish and a lot of crazy.

By accepting this scholarship, I made a commitment to myself and to Jon and his parents to be the very best I could possibly be. This includes moving forward even on my darkest days. Always move forward, always keep going, always keep on keeping on. I am thankful, I am scared, but I am ready.

I owe it to Jon, I owe it to his parents, and I owe it to everybody around me that ever gave me their time.

I won’t let you down.

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