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I got pretty blase about my dude after I learned what sleep paralysis was. Like, I still felt the physiological effects of terror, but it would be like, "Oh, yeah... there he is."

Wish I could show this comic to teenage me. And also explain sleep paralysis.
My high school health and psychology textbooks both mentioned sleep paralysis, but super in passing as examples of a sleep disorder and it really failed to capture how extreme it could be.
Same thing with books on demons and spirits saying "Did you know? Sleep paralysis could be responsible for legends of incubuses and succubuses because people woke up and felt a weight on their chest!"

And, it's like... that wasn't what I had.
I woke up with the sure and certain knowledge that Something Was Present. Sometimes I was so sure it was there that I could see it clearly. Sometimes in the corner of my eye. Sometimes I couldn't see it, which meant it must be outside the door... trying to get in.
My brain translating its certainty that Someone Is Present into whatever sensory signals it could make sense of in a dark room.

Meanwhile, all the alarms are going off because everything is wrong, and so I'm terrified, and what is there to be afraid of? Someone Is Present.
And I'm having auditory hallucinations because why not. And then just for fun, I lose equilibrium... do you know what happens if you're horizontal on a bed and your inner ear just lets go? You perceive the world as tilting.

Well, not the whole world.

Because you're on a bed.
So as far as I knew, when I went to sleep, I would sometimes be menaced by a demon while I was unable to move and my bed would buck and rise and dip like it was levitating underneath me.

As far as anything I could perceive about the world could tell me, this was true.
And I didn't talk to anyone about this because as far as I could count there were two possibilities and they both terrified me.
And by the way, if mental illness was less stigmatized, maybe only one of those possibilities would have been terrifying and I would have talked to people in the hopes that it wasn't real actual demons, and learned about sleep paralysis as a teenager.
I don't talk about sleep paralysis all the time (I don't talk about anything all the time)... but if I'd known what it was, I might have finished college. I can't say for sure, it wasn't the only thing. But it was a big thing and it made everything else harder.
You wake up in your dorm room every night to a demon trying to break down the door...

It will do things to you.

I didn't know it was sleep paralysis. I knew sleep paralysis existed, but no one had ever described what sleep paralysis actually felt like.
I will always talk about the weirdness because I wish someone had talked about it in front of me.

I think the most magical thing on the internet is when you see someone describing something and you suddenly know you're not alone.

And by the way? For me, the key to managing sleep paralysis was cutting caffeine down to almost nothing and then increasing it, but watching it in the PM. I had it so bad because I was in a chemical arms race with my insomnia dating back to junior high.
At the worst it was every time I slept. Nowadays it's rare, short-lived, and less terrifying when I have an episode.
I'm not saying "Don't drink caffeine, it will give you the night terrors!"

I'm saying, in case you have a sleep phase disorder that maybe you didn't even know was a sleep phase disorder: caffeine in your system at levels too low to keep you awake can disrupt your sleep cycle.
Anybody who already knows they have a sleep phase disorder has doubtlessly heard all about Watching the Caffeine.
I make my living as a, you know, trusted voice on whatever. People respect my judgment and come to me for advice. My reputation is my livelihood.

And I spent a good ten years of my life, half of those years as an adult, thinking demons were maybe real and picking on me.
I will tell anyone this, and I will say it loudly and publicly and whenever the subject comes up, because I want everybody going through the same thing to know that sleep paralysis can do this... this and more. Horror movie stuff.
Because, listen. If you're young and unsure of your own sanity and you go Googling for what to do if you think you're possessed or that demons are trying to assail your dreams and devour your soul... there are people ready to tell you it's true, demons are real, and they can help
I was [gay/trans/figuring things out] and believe me, the thought crossed my mind more than once that maybe, just maybe... I mean, here I am in the very same bed where I had so many thoughts that some people believed were sinful, and here are demons.
If I had dared to start asking around... and I'd started with "I think demons" instead of "I think crazy"... I mean, I might have found the kind of help that requires deprogramming.
Sleep paralysis is very real. Demons... I mean, that's maybe above my paygrade. But if you find yourself repeatedly waking up into a nightmare that is just some absolutely real horror movie stuff and you don't understand how you're not murdered, it's probably sleep paralysis.
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