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How Sleep Paralysis Saved My Life

How Sleep Paralysis Saved My Life

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Anyone who has suffered through sleep paralysis understands how scary of an experience it is. But I honestly owe my life to my sleep paralysis.

For those who may not know, sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak that occurs when you’re waking up. It’s like your mind has woken up from sleep, but your body has not. While it is not harmful, it is terrifying, especially for someone who had never heard of it before. You’re essentially just laying there, unable to do anything. Yeah, it’s pretty terrifying.

Many people have even gotten so scared they start to imagine seeing a figure, or feeling a pressure on their chest-both of which are most likely just panic. In places like Pakistan, people confuse it with supernatural elements, which can cause more panic. Most people will experience this once or twice in their life, and I am lucky enough to only have gone through it once. But I was really not prepared.  

How did this all start?

When I was around 16-17, I had a bowel obstruction caused by a little growth called a Meckel’s Diverticulum. If you really want to know what it is, just check this. But what you really need to know about it is that it is a rare growth, that doesn’t really cause problems. But for some reason, my growth decided to wrap itself around my intestine, causing a bowel obstruction, which can be pretty dangerous. To remove the growth, the doctors conducted abdominal surgery. The problem was that after surgery, no one told me I could have more bowel obstructions.

You see, when you have any surgery, there is always a risk of developing adhesions, which is basically tissue the body forms to heal it. After surgeries, bodies go into hyper-drive and can form adhesions, causing multiple problems. For me, that meant causing blockages within my intestines, requiring more surgeries. The thing was that no one told me about this after my first surgery. So after 6 months, I was back at the hospital, confused as to why this was happening again. Eventually they talked about it but said there was nothing to be done. Adhesions form, you just have to be prepared. I honestly couldn’t believe this to be true.

How could medicine have no answer?

Then I started to research and what I found out really surprised me. Of the patients who undergo abdominal surgery, 93 % develop abdominal adhesion. And there was no effective prevention for this! And every time an adhesion causes problems, surgery would be required, which increases the chances of adhesion forming. And a part of my intestine would be taken out. While intestines are long, there is only a limit to how much you can take out before you need a colostomy bag (I don’t have one FYI).

After finding that out, I decided to live my life. If there was nothing to be done to prevent it, why should I try to? So I finished school, when to college and was fine for a few years. But then it happened again…and again…and again.

Spiraling out of control

When I was in my early 20’s, I started to form adhesions pretty regularly. And the doctors just kept saying this may happen. This time though, I just couldn’t handle it. I was in my early 20’s, partying and having fun like I never had before. How could all my peers be enjoying themselves, forming themselves into adults,  while I had to lay on a hospital bed? I started to think that this was just going to be my life. I work, I party, I go to the hospital. Rather than take some time off, I thought I just needed to keep working to create some form of a “normal life.”

As the doctors kept telling me that there was really nothing I could do to prevent the adhesion from forming, I thought I should just try to keep my life the way it was, until I literally couldn’t. I still can’t believe that was my thought process, but hey, I was an idiot in my 20’s (still am, but that’s for another article).

The incident-“Am I dead?”

The truth is, if I kept going with that mentality, I would probably have a colostomy bag by now. Or worse. But during my last hospital stay, something different happened. The last  surgery I had went routine, like all the others. Except, I had sleep paralysis right after my surgery. Now imagine this; I got into surgery and assumed it would be a normal situation. But then I wake up but it’s totally darkness. I couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything, but I was conscious.

I had the thought anyone would in that moment, “Did I die?” Then I started to hear noises and my first thought was, “I must be in the ground, waiting for everyone to die before the day of judgement.” Or “maybe I’m in my own personal hell”. After what felt like an eternity (was probably like 30 seconds at the most), the noises became clearer, and I realized I was still in the hospital. “Was I in a coma? What is happening to me?” I was trying not to panic, but I was panicking. I noticed that my breathing was getting faster, and that was the only thing I had any control over. So I started breathing harder and harder, until a nurse noticed. In a soothing voice, my archangel tells me to calm down, it will be fine. Slowly I start to fall back asleep. Then I woke up normally.

How I got my life in check

Now life isn’t a movie. I didn’t just get my life together right after. I didn’t just wake up from that experience and thought, “Now I’m going to get my life together”. Hey, I didn’t even find out I had sleep paralysis until a couple of months later. I just assumed the anesthesia hadn’t worn off and was glad to be awake. I remember I couldn’t wait to go party. But then I didn’t. The urge to be part of this bigger party culture had gone. It was now not daunting to stay home on a Friday night. Or to find a solution to my adhesion problems. And no, I didn’t achieve a medical breakthrough.

I just started to listen to my body more, and noticed what foods agreed with it and what didn’t. I started to go to nutritionists to just eat healthier. I cut out soft drinks, chocolate, coffee, burgers, pizza, nuts, partying and a whole lot of other things for nearly a year until I figured what worked for me. And don’t get me wrong, I still eat bad food. Or go out. But I do so in moderation. If I have KFC one day, I won’t have a slice of chocolate or anything else that may aggravate me for sometime. And it’s been nearly 5 years now, and no new surgeries. (Fingers crossed it stays that way)

What now?

For me, sleep paralysis changed the way I saw the world. Not by giving me a brand new perspective, but by changing just the small ways I looked at the world. I didn’t feel the need to do everything. I found contentment in what I have, in a weird way, through the smallest of changes.

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