Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

by Chloe Jeffreys · 28 comments

in Health and Wellness

So this is the post where I am going to talk crazy talk about my dream life.

Lately, I have been dreaming a lot.

Like A LOT.

Terrifying dreams of drowning, suffocating, running, hiding. Nightmares punctuated by panic and terror. Dreams about my children, my son-in-law, my husband, my parents, work, even my blog isn’t safe from my dreams.

And the dreams aren’t the worst of it.

For years I have suffered from occasional bouts of sleep paralysis. Basically sleep paralysis (in case you don’t just want to click on this link) happens when you are conscious during your dreams, but can’t move due to hormones your body produces to keep you from moving while you dream. This hormone disconnects your brain from your voluntary muscles so that when you dream your body doesn’t act on those thoughts.

Sleep paralysis is often depicted in art as a sleeping woman with a demon sitting on her chest. That’s not far off the mark of what it feels like when it is happening. Before I understood what was happening, I wondered myself if I wasn’t being tormented.

When I have sleep paralysis I realize I’m awake and dreaming, but I can’t pull myself out of the dream. Therefore, I’m conscious of the horrible nightmare I’m having, all while trying to make my body move and wake myself up. The dream goes on while I struggle to wake up. Sometimes I will just fall back to sleep and really wake up later. Sometimes, especially if I nap during the day, I will cycle through several bouts of sleep paralysis until I can finally make myself fully wake up.

One of the most benign–but still very annoying–recurrent episodes of sleep paralysis I have is the dream that I’ve woken up and started my day. I get up, I shower, I get dressed, and I eat breakfast, but, like Geena Davis in Beetlejuice, I can’t leave the house. When I open the backdoor to the garage to get to my car, I can’t go through the door. That’s when I realize that I’m still asleep. Sometimes I cycle through this dream several times before I’m finally able to really wake myself up. It’s really annoying.

Sometimes my sleep paralysis is worse than others. I’ve gone years without it happening, but right now it is as bad as it has ever been.

When I was younger I had sleep paralysis fairly often. So often that sometimes I couldn’t differentiate my dream-life from my waking life. Imagine going through life with regular bouts of Déjà vu. Imagine seeing people and events happen and not being able to remember whether they really did happen or whether you just dreamed them.

(Okay, I warned you. I AM going to talk crazy talk. Although there really isn’t anything crazy about sleep paralysis. It is a known medical phenomenon and has nothing whatsoever to do with sanity. But if you’ve never had this happen to you then it probably sounds a bit loony.)

I used to have to be VERY careful what I allowed myself to be exposed to when awake. For instance, I used to never watch horror movies. I remember giving in once and going to see one of the Nightmare on Elm Streets with my husband when we were newly married. He meant it all in good fun, and I don’t think he believed me when I told him that there were going to be repercussions. He told me I could hold onto his hand and I’d be fine because he’d be there to protect me.

But afterwards, after spending night after night  rescuing me from Freddie Kreuger, he never talked me into seeing another horror movie again. Really, a person with sleep and dream anomalies shouldn’t ever watch Nightmare on Elm Street. Duh!

Because this was such a problem for me, I began to research Lucid Dreaming and taught myself how to exert some control over the dreams so at least I wasn’t completely terrorized when it happened. (I chose to link the Wiki article on lucid dreaming because most of the other ones sound so airy-fairy, but lucid dreaming is possible.)

My best lucid dream moment occurred during a recurrent dream where I was being chased and either raped or slashed with a knife by this same man. I don’t know how long I kept having this nightmare, but one night he appeared and I remembered that I was dreaming and that laws of physics don’t apply.  Since it was my dream, I was the strongest person, and I was finally able to vanquish him once and for all. He’s never appeared again.

It is ironic that I’m dreaming so much since I’m not sleeping very much, but understandable. I resist falling asleep because that’s when the dreams come, but avoiding sleep is what is making it worse. I stay up too late avoiding sleep, but then either over-sleep (a real trigger) or fall asleep in the afternoon, and the afternoon dreams are the worst. It is a vicious cycle that I need to break very soon.

Why am I mentioning this?

Well, in this morning’s dream one of the main characters told me to wake up and write a post and title it “Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?”

So I did.

And here’s today’s song:

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Catwoman February 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

I really feel sorry about your status. And now I’ve just realized that I may have sleep paralysis, too. I’ve got the same symptoms like you, sometimes the nights are really terrible for me. But it’s nice to read that there is a solution.
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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm

The solution is to never sleep, I think.

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By Word of Mouth Musings February 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Oh sweet thing …
Nightmare on Elm Street would do anyone in!
Am I seeing you in two weeks????
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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm

You are seeing me in less than two weeks! My box came a couple of days ago and I’m getting happy about that.

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Tania February 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Sorry that you are having such a bad time with sleep. I have been a lucid dreamer since I was very young but only recently found out that other people didn’t do it and it had a name. I have never heard of sleep paralysis before, but it sounds scary. I hope that you sleep peacefully soon.

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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Thank you. My sleep has been improving. I also didn’t realize that other people don’t dream this way until I got older. I do think it is beneficial and does help me work through things faster because it is easier to access my subconscious, but still it sometimes sucks.

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Seeker February 4, 2012 at 9:28 am

There’s a name for it? *wonderment*

There’s a name for it. *relief*

So it’s something unpleasant yet scientific, which is worlds better than something unpleasant yet demonic. I’ve had sleep paralysis, too, and the imagery of a demon sitting on a woman’s chest is spot-on. I hate it.

Lucid dreaming. Yes. Taking control of a dream can be a very good thing, indeed. I hope you find relief from sleep paralysis soon–whether via lucid dreaming or some other source.

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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

It does help me to know that there is a scientific explanation for it–somehow that takes some of the terror out of it for me. But it still is no fun when it happens. Thankfully it is getting better. I just try to not nap or over-sleep now and it is improving.

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Jack February 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm

I dream in technicolor and have had more than a few dreams that felt more real than my daily life does. Some of them have been quite unpleasant.

I am a fighter, always have been. I give as good as I get and then some, but in the really bad dreams I can’t fight back. That is a nightmare that I recognize, but when it comes it feels like it won’t ever end.

Sometimes I write about the dreams. I can’t speak for anyone else but every time I do it releases something inside and they don’t bother me any more.
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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Dreamers lead more interesting lives, but still sometimes it is unfun.

There are only two reasons I’ve ever wished I was a man.

1) I would like to be able to pee standing up without pee running into my shoe. When it comes to peeing you men got all the breaks.

2) I’d like to be able to punch things. I mean really punch them. Not girly punch them, but manly punch them. God made me a tiny woman because he knew how freaking dangerous I’d be if He’d made me a big man. But still. I think I was gypped.

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Shorty February 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Only 12 comments? Really? Maybe we don’t want to acknowledge that “here there be monsters”… I have (thankfully) only had a few of these kind of waking nightmares -mostly from my teens- but the memory still makes me shudder. I can’t imagine living with them now, as a mother and wife…it could be debilitating. Sweet dreams, my friend…

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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Maybe only crazy people admit they have sleep disorders on the internet?

It was terrible in my teens and even worse in my early 20s. Then it tapered off and only seems to come during times of high stress or when I allow my sleep to get messed up.

Thankfully my dreams are getting sweeter. I dreamed last night that my husband wears false eye-lashes.

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Melissa February 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I have it without the vivid dreams, just the awareness that I’m asleep and can’t move. I try to scream so my husband will shake me to wake me up but all I can get out are very soft squeaks. I focus all of my might on waking myself up and if I’m able to, I have to get up and eat something to wake up completely before trying to sleep again or else I’ll fall right back into it. It is terrifying and I hate it. It makes me wonder if that’s what it feels like to be in a coma.

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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I’ve had that too, but usually for me it is accompanied with a terrifying dream that I can’t wake up from. I do the trying to scream thing so my husband will wake me up, but it often comes out as a tiny squeak.

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Carrie January 31, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I’ve experienced that, and I also have to be careful what I allow myself to be exposed to, and not just when it comes to entertainment.

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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm

For some of us, we have to be very careful. I’ve actually tried to toughen myself up in the past few years by exposing myself to scarier and more adrenaline-pumping movies to try to desensitize myself a bit. It has helped.

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Kat January 30, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Oh Chloe…this happens to me! I did not know this crazy thing I went through even had a name! I am so, so very glad you wrote this post!

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Chloe Jeffreys February 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm

You are not crazy!! This is science.

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Robin January 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

Am I a good witch or bad witch? Depends on who you ask.

I have totally dreamed I was getting ready for school/work/whatever only to wake and find out I haven’t even begun the process. As a result I once arrived at work very late and WITHOUT a bra!
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Sharon January 30, 2012 at 9:08 am

wow………I’m still processing this. I do that and I never knew it had a name?!?! I just thought I slept/dreamed weird. I hate it – dreaming that I’m up but yet I’m not…….so hard to “pull” out of sometimes. Looks like I’ve got some research to do…….
(oh, and a hug to you friend!)

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Tabitha January 30, 2012 at 5:37 am

I have bad nightmares when I am stressed but have never had sleep paralysis, I am extremely thankful it sounds terrible.

Chloe I wish there was something I could do for you – I don’t even know why but every time I see you on FB I feel the urge to wrap you in a nice warm blanket, feed you chocolates and stroke your hair whilst saying ‘there, there’ it will all be fine’.

But then you wouldn’t fit into those skinny jeans again (the ones in your photo which look like they would be tight on my arms).

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Julia January 30, 2012 at 5:01 am

Wow, I do the vivid dreaming but not the sleep paralysis (unless you count the “I slept on my arm funny and now it’s beyond asleep OMG I think it’s dead or has been cut off…”)

I love the title of this blogpost, and the reason you titled it makes me smile. To answer the question, I’m hoping I’m a good witch 😉

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AndreaBT January 30, 2012 at 4:11 am

I had one experience with sleep paralysis, and I had never heard of it before. Long before I ever heard it described, I told people it felt like the devil was sitting on my chest, and only later heard that this is a common description. It was terrifying.

And once when I probably should have had sleep paralysis, but didn’t, I dreamed there was someone in the apartment with me, and actually, truly, reached down to pick up the phone from the floor on the sofa beside me to call my boyfriend. I finally woke up after trying to dial the numbers on the push-button phone, but realized I couldn’t see my hand on the phone…and so I was trying to dial blind, by feel, but kept hanging up because I was afraid I had dialed the wrong number.

Makes me wonder if sleep-walkers are deficient in the hormone that is supposed to keep you immobile?

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Stephanie (Just Me) January 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm

That sleep paralysis stuff is interesting. I’ve experienced the sensation of trying to move to wake myself up but being unable to; I thought it was normal and happened to everybody. Usually if I can manage to yell loud enough in my dream, I’ll vocalize in real life and that will wake me. But while I can sometimes recognize I’m dreaming, try as I might, I can’t seem to change the behavior of other characters or the dream world’s physics.

Too bad somebody before us had the idea to capitalize on dream experiences and write a screenplay for a blockbuster movie.

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anne January 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Omg, me too! Sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, all of it. That’s why I’m awake right now. It’s not good right now. I don’t know why zombies are an exception for me, but they are.

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Birthblessed January 30, 2012 at 5:40 am

Weird, my exact thought was OMG me too! My biggest one was the dreaming that I had woken up and gotten ready for school but couldn’t get the alarm clock to stop its beeping. I would even unplug it and beat it against the wall and it would still be blasting. Then I wouldn’t be able to leave my room. My mom would keep coming to the door to yell “Amy, Get UP!” and I would not be able to answer her- I’d try and try and my mouth would open but no words would come out.

And the Freddy Kreuger thing- YES totally. I never even watched the whole movie. I only lasted about 15-20 minutes. Like one chase scene. And that dude chased me in my dreams for FIFTEEN years. I was 29 and still waking, terrified of Freddy, when Jeff finally tried laying hands on my head and commanding him OUT. I haven’t ever dreamed of him since.

But when we were watching LOTR and the spooky guys started chasing him through the woods, that was it. I turned away and have never watched another minute of that trilogy!
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Susan in the Boonies January 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I have never, ever heard of sleep paralysis before, but it’s fascinating, in a disinterested, clinical kind of way. As your friend, I’m detecting, though, that when you are under stress or anxiety, this bad dream thing becomes really problematic for you, and I hate that!!! I’ve been having so many bad dreams lately myself that you have my empathy as well as my sympathy.

So sorry!!! It sounds awful.
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