Today we have a guest post from Gary Berenbroick. Gary and I have bonded over Tourette’s and narcolepsy jokes. And bending things. And having our disorders mentioned in Deuce Bigalow. But anyways, here’s the post. Enjoy!
Vanna White isn’t on the Price is Right
I was sitting in class at Villanova University. As usual, I was starting to nod off. After realizing that I had been sleeping I looked up at my teacher. She was asking a question to the class. The guy to my left raised his hand to answer. When I glanced over to him as he started talking I was taken aback.
The guy talking looked like my twin sister but didn’t sound like her. Confused, I turned to my teacher to she if she had noticed anything strange. She was now responding to my neighbor’s answer. This is when it really got weird. My teacher now looked like my father but as with my twin sister/neighbor, sounded nothing like him.
He still sounded like my teacher or at least I thought. I was really getting confused. I heard my teacher’s voice calling my name. My body jerked a bit and when I refocused on my teacher she had morphed into Bob Barker and Vanna White was behind him/her writing notes on the blackboard.
I heard my name again, it was my teacher; she was now asking me a question. My body jerked and twisted again as I finally woke up completely. Everything seemed to be normal. My father and sister were back in New Jersey and woman sounded like woman and men like men. I thought about how weird that just was until I realized that my teacher and my class were waiting for my answer.
I got it right even though I was sleeping when she asked it to me.
This doesn’t happen to you?
Over and over again this had happened to me from as early as grammar school into my professional career. I used to describe it as half-asleep and never thought it was unusual. I figured it happened to everyone who was really tired and for some reason I was always really tired.
Doctors have a different term for it. They call is a hypnopompic hallucination. I like half-asleep better because it sounds less crazy. A hypnopompic hallucination is a vivid dream that occurs upon awakening and can be accompanied with sleep paralysis. Along with excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy (temporary loss of muscle tone) these are symptoms of narcolepsy.
What is my destiny Queen of the Pool?
Two weeks ago my wife and I went to the mountains for the weekend. We stayed in a one-room cabin with electricity but no plumbing. After taking a dip in the pool I sat on the edge soaking my feet. My wife was sleeping on a pool chair behind me (she doesn’t have narcolepsy, she’s pregnant).
I started to fall asleep when a woman who was standing in front of me told me to get away from the pool before I drowned. I woke up as I was standing up. I was alone except for my sleeping wife. It was impossible for a woman to be standing in front of me because she’d be in the middle of the pool. This is called a hypnagogic hallucination.
These happen as I’m falling asleep. Sometimes I can’t tell which is which and it really doesn’t matter to me. What it comes down to it that I see and hear some crazy stuff when I’m not really sleeping. Usually I am pretty aware of my surroundings. They are just altered with guest appearances by people who aren’t really there.
Don’t bury me … I’m not dead.
The hallucinations are the only fun part of narcolepsy, at least most of the time. Sleep Paralysis is really annoying both for me and for those waiting for me to wake up. I am awake but I can’t move. I know exactly what is going on, sometimes I can speak and sometimes I can’t. Theses periods last from seconds up to a half hour.
Sometimes I lay down for a twenty-minute nap and I can’t get up for over an hour. My wife was kind enough to record one of the episodes for you to see. I had no idea she was recording the video below. It was after I’d been asleep for an hour and a half. I was completely aware of what she was doing.
I knew she was shaking me but couldn’t do anything about it. When I finally started moving again at the end of the video you can see that I look at my phone to see what time it is and then immediately fall back asleep.
Am I lazy, stupid, broken or all three?
I was diagnosed with narcolepsy earlier this year. My journey towards that diagnosis is chronicled in my blog. Before that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I couldn’t understand why I was always so tired even when there really wasn’t any cause for it. It was nice to find out that this wasn’t in my imagination and I wasn’t just lazy. It’s odd; narcolepsy has been responsible for many positive changes in my lifestyle over the last ten years. I kept eliminating and adding things in the hopes that I would feel better.
About the author: Gary Berenbroick is a Level II RKC certified kettlebell instructor. He works with people of all ages and athletic abilities in Suburban Philadelphia. His blog Kettlebells4u chronicles his adventures with narcolepsy, recovery from a mishap with electric hedge clippers and trying to be as strong as his little body and sleepy brain will let him. He believes and has shown that anyone can start strength training.