Sleep has been a violent, dual experience for as long as I can remember. When I was eleven, my parents would wake up almost every night to the sound of my screams. When I was twelve, I snuck into my sister’s room and hid in her closet until she woke up. When I was thirteen I attempted to leave the house overnight; my dad caught me, half-asleep, trying to break the lock on our front door. For years I was at a loss for the ugly bruises that seemed to appear all over my body overnight. For a while, there was talk of having a doctor come to the house and observe my sleeping habits. But then, according to my parents, the sleep habits melted away, and plans for further investigation were abandoned. Life resumed as normal, or so it seemed.
When I was younger, I was never aware of my sleepwalking. The morning after sleepovers with friends or cousins, I would be told the most ridiculous stories about what I had allegedly done the night before. It was frightening to hear accounts of something I did or said that wasn’t really me. I never had any power or awareness over my actions.
Despite what I’m told, I don’t believe my sleepwalking ever went away. I think that I still talked and moved around for a time in the confines of my room. In junior high there was a resurgence in my activity, but something had changed. It was if my mind was functioning in two different worlds — one, the dream world; the other, reality — and this time, I was aware of it. I would catch myself mid-dream and spend a few frantic minutes figuring out where I was.
When I find myself sitting up in bed, staring at my bookshelf, my wall, my lamp, I am vaguely aware of these objects as being grounded; on top of that, the wisps of my dream play out like a movie. I watch myself hurtle down a lacrosse field, reach out to a faceless friend, or embrace someone I love. Beneath these parallel worlds sits the layer of petrified terror that I can’t escape. At this point, surrender to it feels almost intrinsic.
I don’t walk around as much when I’m sleeping as I used to. When I can catch myself, the best thing I can do — the only thing I can do — is sit and wait for the rest of my mind to “resync.”
I’ve thought about how, and why, my sleepwalking remerged in the form that it did. I used to think the abrupt awakenings in the middle of the night were a source of stress in my life. I’ve had to learn how to relax when my mind is telling me to be frantic, and I’ve become a calmer person since. The sleepwalking hasn’t stopped, and I doubt it ever will; but it has helped me make my waking conscious more aware of the present.