Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Therapy Cat vs. Tornado Movie Shoot Hospital

Well, the past couple of weeks my nightmares have been getting a lot worse again, but at least I have lots of furry moral support.

Last night it was tornadoes. I was a passenger in my mom's car, driving down the highway towards the beach in the area where I grew up. My mom was driving us to a hospital where she was going for work and I had tagged along. As we drove, the cloudy sky darkened menacingly, the deep grey clouds heavy and wet. It began to pour. We were almost there- I could see across the flat, grassy fields to the hospital complex, its windows lit up against the blackened sky. My mom cursed at the rain. On the horizon I saw one of the cloudy masses dip down to connect with the ground, swirling chaotically.

We sped into the parking garage of the hospital, and then suddenly we were in a big, well-lit open lobby surrounded by glass windows. The place was pretty empty, which made sense to me, because I now knew we were there to help shoot a movie. We power-walked through a dim hallway into what looked like an office. A bunch of people with cameras and boom mics and who looked like actors were hanging around there. There was an old golden retriever and a French bulldog who was wearing a frilly pink collar, apparently also ready for a part in the movie.

As the crew was setting things up, I looked out of the window and watched the heavy rain streak down the glass against the dark night. I leaned over to look straight down, and saw a small tornado headed right for the building we were in, about to take out the structure below us. I started shouting and yelling for all the people to run for the door at the opposite end of the suddenly large room.

I grabbed my mom's hand and we got through the crowded doorway, running in the group away from that side of the floor. I was terrified. I was pretty sure we were going to die.

We ran past a long wall of windows that faced one of the other buildings in the complex. As I watched, still running, the building folded in on itself and crashed to the ground in a pile of rubble, sheetrock dust rising, showing its insides. It looked straight out of 9/11 footage. I was scared and upset. We reached, suddenly, a giant open area that looked like a multi-level shopping mall, packed with people. We skidded to a stop, trying to figure out which way to go- four hallways split off. But suddenly, a deathly fire glow came shooting out of three of them, and everyone in there started screaming. We turned into the fourth hallway, which looked like it was underground. It turned into the hallways in a Japanese subway station.

I began to have hope that we might escape. And then, quite suddenly, I wasn't running for my life anymore, but blinking up at the ceiling of my bedroom.

Over the past week, as the dreams have gotten especially bad, one of our cats has started sleeping right next to me, leaning on me as if to offer comfort, as if she knows I need a hug. Normally, she's quite an elusive character and sometimes you can go all day without seeing her. Also, if you get up to go to the bathroom, she'll jump up from the bed as if offended, tail-twitching, and stalk off to the other room for the rest of the night. But this past week, instead she stays by me. She'll wait until I come back and get under the covers again, and then snuggle up close as soon as I'm comfortable.

I know she's doing it on purpose. In college, one of my housemates was having a really hard time, and this cat was always in her room next to her when she was home. The cat would sleep on top of her at night. It helped a lot. Now I think she's offering me the same favor.

Living with my girlfriend helps me a lot, even though she's a hard sleeper, because just having someone next to me makes me feel less afraid when I wake up in the night. Having our cat right against me is like getting a hug just when I need it. As soon as I wake up, she'll turn to look at me with sleepy eyes, whether or not I've moved yet, as if to ask, "Are you okay?"

Thank God for kitties. <3

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Modern Day Werewolf

All of my life I've felt like a wild animal in a cage, pacing around the walls, looking for the reason why. As a child I did everything I could to be anything other than a human. I was a dog, every species of dinosaur I knew, a wolf, a lion, even a cat if my playmates insisted on playing house instead of some more interesting adventure game. I refused to be human. Anything felt more right than that.

When I hit my teens the feeling became even more insistent. I had grown out of pretend games, but I felt like my real life was one. The people directing my life wanted only the best for me, but they didn't allow me to shine through all their plans for me. I felt lost. I didn't know who I was- only that I wasn't anywhere near who my parents wanted me to be, and I didn't know how to proceed.

The feeling of disconnection only grew. I was tired. So much more tired than seemed reasonable, or allowed. Every day in high school I was wrung out, and keeping up my grades took so much of my focus that I had literally no extra minute for things that might repair my soul. I felt broken. I felt wrong.

A lot of teens seem to feel bad about their physical body. Some of them stop eating, some find other ways to physically harm themselves. I did neither. Instead I would imagine what I wished my physical form would be. I would concentrate on having a bushy tail and pointed ears. I could practically feel a muzzle coming out of my face. An invisible and intangible coating of fur would cover me. And this began to happen when I wasn't concentrating, even when I didn't want it to. Against my will, my fingers began to fold over whenever I was relaxed, becoming the closest thing to a paw that a human hand can. I would lie down to take a nap and wake up on my side, "paws" stretched out, knees bent, shoulders crammed as close to each other as physically possible, draped over the furniture like some sort of Great Dane.

At first, the way my imagination took the concept and ran freaked me out, but it felt so right- so much more "me" than when I was upright, pretending to be a normal human being. I had recently discovered the internet (as it was relatively new, lol) and got brave enough one day to search the word "werewolf". What I found changed my life and my feelings about myself.

It turned out it wasn't just me, that lots of other people (though obviously still a small minority) had similar sensations of feeling not human. And they weren't all teens, either- many of them were older. The term to describe this unique kind of body dysphoria is "therianthropy", and those who experience it call themselves therians. Many of the sensations described, such as the feeling of "phantom" limbs (for example, a tail), sudden shifts in your perception of your mental image (known as a "mental shift") and the feeling of being in the wrong body were all things that had already become very familiar to me by happening to me on a regular basis.

On the advice of other therians, I began to research animals, trying to figure out what I was. Many of us, for reasons unknown, are some species of wolf, though there are plenty of other types, too (big cats are also common). I still remember the shock I felt the first time I saw a photo of a Mexican Wolf. I had been startling myself for years passing by mirrors- it used to really spook me to see a human face staring back at me, and I would have a moment of who is that? The second this photo loaded, it was like I was looking in a real mirror for the first time. As a matter of fact, the exact photo in question is now my profile picture on this blog. It looks more like me than anything I've ever seen. Just like most people feel recognition seeing a photo of their own face, I only feel that recognition when I see my wolf self. This is the main reason I draw myself as a wolf- to do otherwise would be like drawing somebody else.

As my sense of being a wolf has persisted over the years, I've encountered plenty of theories as to why. As a teen on various forums I found that many of my fellow therians believed that they were whatever species in a past life and the feelings of being that species had carried over. Another popular theory was that they had the soul of a non-human animal and it had- either by mistake or by design- been inserted into a human body instead. Raised an atheist with two scientist parents, neither of those theories particularly appealed to me. If we are reincarnated animals, why the bias towards certain powerful forms? If I don't believe in a higher power who spends a lot of time inserting souls into bodies, then how can I believe that he or she made a mistake? And so I've come up with my own ideas, based on my own worldview. I used to think of therianthropy as some sort of psychological disorder and assumed that the wiring in my head was somewhat wrong. Having given up the pessimism inherent in that theory, however, I've begun to think of it as more of a result of many factors. The sense of unreality I sometimes get (as well as the mental haze I lived in for most of ten years) I know now to be caused by narcolepsy. My desire to connect with other species, and the way this was denied me for most of my life, probably also contributes, as does my extremely vivid imagination. I've always been an artist and a caretaker by nature, and have felt a bit out of place with our society's expectations of me, making it difficult for me to relate to what a human is "supposed" to be. Plus, I don't feel that it's a huge jump behaviorally from human to wolf. We have similar social structures, hunting tactics, basic needs, and complex emotional lives. I think it's fairly common to see ourselves in wolves- so why couldn't I see a wolf in myself?

It may seem out there, but all I know is that ever since acknowledging this side of me I've felt much closer to who I am. I still get my "paw hands" all the time and feel like I have wolf ears on top of my head. Fortunately, my fiancee thinks it's adorable, and my friends have always accepted it as a weird me-quirk (one of them happens to be a Siberian tiger therian). While my parents and other family members have never directly found out, I doubt any of them would be in the least bit surprised. If you know me, you know I'm wolfish, whether I've told you about it or not.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Memorable Hallucinations Caused By Narcolepsy

I recently typed up a couple of my more interesting hallucinations in sort-of story format and figured it would be helpful to post them here. I remember doing a flurry of internet research before I was diagnosed, trying to find out if what I was experiencing could be termed "hallucinations", and literally all I could find were schizophrenia-related ones. Because of the lack of information on hallucinations (or, rather, anything) caused by Narcolepsy, I began to be worried I might have schizophrenia. More proof that self-diagnosis via the internet is a bad idea sometimes. XD

So, here are a couple of mine, in the hopes that the next generation of people looking for this information might actually find something useful.


I am in between, floating, when it happens.

It takes me completely off guard when it does. After all, all I was doing was lying perfectly still, waiting- letting my thoughts wander, watching faint images. The beginning of a dream had begun to form; something light-hearted about looking up at the sun from underwater, and a ghostly flying horse. Though my dream was beginning all on its own, I was still very involved in the process of trying to let go of my awareness. Prying my consciousness away from its moorings. This took a lot of effort for me and I had no inkling that this strange in-between state was unnatural.

I was focused on being completely relaxed and still. Calm--

Suddenly, from behind my head a hand shoots out, the fingers clamping down over my mouth, stifling my scream before it can begin. Pure terror and adrenaline shoot through me, putting me into instant panic. I struggle with everything I've got, desperate to escape. But the hand is extremely solid, strong and real; it doesn't so much as twitch or tighten, almost as if it was made of rock.

It is in that instant that I realize that every muscle in my body is frozen. I am struggling as hard as I can and nothing is moving. I'm helpless. I try harder, desperation growing--

My eyes open on my dark bedroom. Thoroughly freaked out, I jump up into a sitting position and whirl to face the wall. There is no one there. No hand. And there is not enough space for a whole human being to fit. I'm shaking as I reach for my lamp. I am alone after all.


In the dream, I'm eating brownies. The bites are chewy and sweet and I can feel them sticking to my teeth and gums. They're so chocolatey and delicious that I can't stop eating them, even though my teeth begin to hurt. As I chew one piece, I encounter something hard all of a sudden. I pull it out of my mouth to see what it is. My hands are sticky and covered in chocolate.

As I examine my find, I realize it is a tooth. I feel my teeth with my tongue and sure enough, there is a space where it was. In real life this would have freaked me out, but in my dream I think it's cool. I can feel the space and my tongue is exploring the crevices of it. The feeling is fascinating.

Experimentally, I begin pushing on other teeth with my tongue, and several more come loose, still attached only by a vein each. I push them and play with them with my tongue, feeling the craggy surface of the bottom of each tooth. I push too hard and the veins begin to break, loosing the teeth into my mouth. I feel pain at the moment each breaks. Suddenly I remember that these are my adult teeth and no more will grow in. I begin to panic, wondering how much damage I've done, as my mouth feels literally filled with loose teeth. Moving my mouth causes a grating sound inside my head from all the loose teeth rubbing against each other.

My mouth hurts badly now and tastes of blood. I run over to a round mirror on the wall and open my mouth. A handful of teeth fall out and rattle as they land in the sink. The sink, my mouth and my hands are thick with blood, and it runs down my face.

And then I am awake, looking at the ceiling of my bedroom, with a lingering pain and the remembrance of the taste of blood in my mouth. The first thing I do is reach up to feel my teeth with my hand. All of them are still there. I go look in the mirror right away, just to make sure.