More questions and answers today!

Dear Mesmerizing Meg: Hello, I am a 15 year old female and for a very long time, I’ve been suffering with a very weird thing. When I am sleeping, all out of the sudden I feel like my body is going high very fast, it feels like I’m flying upwards and I feel a ringing in my ears and they feel like they’re gonna pop. My vision is white, and my heart beat is racing, and I’m begging to someone or something to make it stop during the whole thing. I don’t know whether I’m sleeping or I’m awake, I don’t know whether it’s sleep paralysis either. I’ve had this since I was younger and I don’t what to do, I no longer go to sleep because I fear this might happened. Do you have any idea what might cause it? Thank you and have a good day/night 🙂

Kind querent: Thanks, and I hope you’re having a great day too!

This is completely normal, from what I understand. I’ve experienced it as well, and my friend Emilia is some kind of expert on it. I think the key is to not let it scare you. Whatever it is, it’s just your brain reacting to shifting levels of conscious awareness. You might appreciate reading this Wikipedia article about exploding head syndrome. (No, it’s not nearly as vile as it sounds. I promise you that your head isn’t going to explode.) I don’t know all the science behind it, but I hope you can take comfort in the awareness that it’s not all that unheard of. Even though it scares you, there’s no real threat to any of it, if that makes sense; and that might help you quit being afraid when it happens.

Dear Mesmerizing Meg: I plan to just do the bachelor in psychology. And I don’t want to do the extra 6 years to become a registered psychologist. I want to help others. But I am far from smart and I’m concerned I can’t even do the bachelor but it has been something since a small child I’ve dreamed to do. And it’s been something I keep going back too. What can I do with this degree if I complete it?

I’d hate for you to limit yourself. But if you just want to get the BA, you can use it to work in residential treatment facilities for mentally ill and/or abused kids and teens. They’re always looking for new employees! You could also get a degree in social work, which is much, much easier than getting a PhD or PsyD. Often, you can be licensed to offer therapy with said degree, to some capacity. But what I’d recommend is that, once you start your undergrad training, talk to your advisor (or any psych teacher) about these options so that you know what a good path for you would be. I’ve found most college teachers to be quite approachable and eager to help you know about options.

Dear Mesmerizing Meg: I just need another perspective. As a teenager I was always really depressed bc of my insecurities, was not popular in school and had low self-esteem. Then from 16-18, I went to a new school and my ex BFF went too, and she spread rumours about me and made all the popular people in the school that I had never met ignore me. Also she made fun of the way I look. The fact that complete strangers would decide not to be my friend just over what they heard and how I looked gave me zero self esteem. Then I finally got out of that school and I thought I was doing better, but in university it was hard to make friends because I look quite young for my age and I’m not good looking and I could tell when people looked at me they didn’t want to be friends because of it. So I stopped going into uni so much. Then one of my close friends stopped being friends with me, I know now she was taking her own issues out on me. I was depressed and lonely and end up failing school that year. I had been surviving on student loans til then, and I couldn’t find a job. It was really difficult being broke. By the end of that year my cat got sick and I was under a lot of stress for not being able to afford the vet, also on the news there was some psychopath going around killing neighbourhood cats and I lived in constant severe anxiety. I was also more devastated at a job rejection and other difficult news. Since then I’ve become like a zombie, don’t care about much, daydream and ruminate the past, and get anxiety over anything.

Kind querent: I’m so sorry about your cat. I’m hoping he survived, but I’m afraid to ask…? But don’t blame yourself. Your cat knew he was loved and cared about. And your former BFF sounds like a total [bleep]. Too many high-schoolers follow a herd mentality, and that’s awful.

Is there any chance you can move back in with your parents? You need some support and structure that they might be able to offer. If you’re living on your own out of a sense that you “should be,” then maybe you’re being too hard on yourself. You’re still figuring out life, and that can take years and years. I’d also like to see you get some career counseling. It’s not too late to go back to college, but at this point, I’d only go if you have a career path in mind. (Student loans are too outrageous these days, and you’re already saddled with some.) Also, you could try to find friends online. I’ve had a lot of luck with that. If you go back to college, please take advantage of your campus’s counseling center. If you don’t, I hope you can get some counseling if/when you move back in with your parents. And please ask them if you can get a new cat friend.

3 thoughts on “More questions and answers today!

  1. Mmmm, I know very little about the exploding head syndrome thing, but I agree that, if not that, the first letter writer could be experiencing sleep paralysis. When you read on sleep paralysis online they usually write some very specific and narrow list of things that are happening to you but I’ve noticed, both from my own experience and hearing about other people’s, that it can really have one hundred and one forms and manifestations. I hope this girl will get some answer or stumble upon your post because sleep paralysis can be quite scary but it’s hard to figure out what’s happening on your own, and people who haven’t experienced it usually won’t be helpful, even if they will be empathetic, and if she avoids going to sleep I suppose things must be really scary by now. Flying, falling, swirling, feeling like you are moving or things around you like walls are moving when there’s even one little corner of your consciousness that is aware that you are in fact in your bed, I feel like that’s a clear red flag of sleep paralysis and that’s how it always starts for me. I guess ringing and popping in the ears and strange sensations in your face, head and skull and limbs are normal too.
    It’s important to know what you said that nothing seriously bad is going to happen to you while having sleep paralysis (or exploding head syndrome), because I’ve seen a lot of people who were seriously scared that it’s going to give them a heart attack or make them die in their sleep or some other horrific things would happen. If she is able to control her reactions at all, it’s a very good advice not to let it scare you too much and then it’ll get better as a result, it seems to work like this for many people, and for many, just the explanation of what’s going on and that they won’t be permanently harmed by it is helpful and changes a lot. But from her letter I would assume she doesn’t have that control or very little of it and there are people who don’t have that in sleep paralysis – myself included – and I guess that’s normal too. What I mean is, she said “I don’t know whether I’m sleeping or I’m awake”, so it looks like she’s not fully conscious, unlike many other people who have sleep paralysis who clearly say that for them it feels like their body is asleep, while the mind is awake. That makes a difference, if and to what degree your mind is awake, and how much control over your body you have left while it’s happening. When you are not fully conscious, you can hardly control your reactions to something that feels scary and it’s hard not to be scared, you can’t persuade yourself that it’s not true or there’s no real, physical threat, anything like that, even if there’s a small, conscious part of your brain which suspects that it may just be sleep paralysis. It’s a very primal kind of fear I’d say. Especially if you happen to have more complex and intricate sleep paralysis dreams and it’s not just about feeling strange in your body and not knowing what the hallucinations are, there are many more things that you may feel scared of, and sometimes there isn’t anything specific, you’re just deadly scared. The sense of doom and darkness and fear is a part of sleep paralysis and not everyone can cut off from it and distance from their experience, or not always. Sometimes some experience in lucid dreaming may help but not always, and lucid dreaming may be difficult for sleep paralysis sufferers because for some going into that state induces sleep paralysis, so then people either get stuck in there or just don’t want to lucid dream for fear of it happening. It’s also important to know that your brain functions in some completely different way when you have sleep paralysis, because your consciousness is altered, so it’s natural that your thought processes are different and you may be scared of things that you’d never be in real life or respond to fear in a different way.
    If for the letter writer, the fear is indeed only about the bodily sensations accompanying sleep paralysis and not knowing what’s happening, and she has more consciousness left, enough that she can control her reaction, trying to control breathing is a great thing to to do, and making your breathing more steady helps with anxiety just like in real life, and trying to use whatever parts of the body that are working. Some people can make a strange grin and it will wake them up, some can move their big toes and have the same result, some can try to make a specific sound that will wake them up, or say one word to let someone know that they need help, and as for me, I’ve just recently discovered that when my sleep paralysis is just starting with that swirling/falling/flying stuff I can slow down the speed of it using my toes – isn’t that funny and so sci-fi-like ? 😀 –
    Some people use antidepressants to combat sleep paralysis though I don’t remember now which group of them (either SSRI’s or SNRI’s) and it’s all very experimental, but might help. Some anti-anxiety supplements or medication or other things that relieve anxiety may be very helpful for those who experience a lot of anxiety afterwards, I do and I know it can be very intense after sleep paralysis and for me it can linger for days.
    People say it matters how you sleep – that is what your sleep hygiene and routines are, but also in what position you sleep. – Different sources say different positions are better so I think it’s good to experiment for yourself. For me, avoiding naps and not sleeping in chunks (for example 3 hours, then 1 hour awake, then next 3 hours of sleep) is key but for some people it doesn’t matter. It’s good to look for all sorts of triggers and patterns that are associated with it so that then you know what to avoid, ’cause no one else will tell you, and if your sleep paralysis is in any way visible it’s helpful to let people know that when they see you sleeping like that or if you fall asleep in some circumstances they should try to wake you up urgently. Some folks are very groggy and sleepy and exhausted after sleep paralysis, may feel floaty and spacey, slowed down or a bit zoning out but it’s not a good idea to stay in bed after you wake up from it if you can get up. You may not have another sleep paralysis but you’ll rarely experience truly refreshing sleep, or at least I never do and my Dad who doesn’t have sleep paralysis but some kind of similar dream quirk is like this as well. Rather, if you experience such feelings and you can get up after you woke up, do it, have a cool shower or go outside or do something refreshing and get yourself going as soon as you can.
    Well yeah sleep paralysis is such a strange thing I wish there was more research or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! And you say you’re not an expert on this stuff? 😛 I’m so glad you’ve chimed in here! You’re a total fount of information! I seriously hope the letter writer finds your comment here!

      I’m sort of a weird case with sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome and even nightmares. They never faze me. I know that’s weird, but I just wake up, and I’m like, “Whatever. Moving on.” And I’ve experienced the whole gamut. Horrible nightmares last night! I dreamed I got an office job, but the manager was a supernatural creature with powers that couldn’t be conquered by us humans. He abducted me and made me his sex slave, and then he tortured to death anyone who tried to oppose him. I had no way out, and anyone who came to visit me was witness to my total degradation by him, and there was no secret message I could convey to them to get them to save me. No way out. It was horrifying. Then I woke up, and I was like, “Oh, good, I slept past eleven. I should be well-rested today!” But just to be clear, I’m not remotely trying to sound judgmental of anyone who freaks over nightmares or other sleep disturbances. I have absolutely no idea how I’ve managed to become so unmoved by it all. No clue whatsoever.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Woah! That’s really yucky and horrifying and you are lucky indeed that it doesn’t affect you after waking up. As for me, as I said sleep paralysis dreams do affect me very badly, but with “normal” nightmares I’m often very similar to you, and it seems to depend on some things that I can’t quite figure out. Sometimes I may have a very scary nightmare and I feel more or less scared while it’s lasting, but when I wake up I’m amused at how creative my brain is, more than moved by it or anything else.

        Liked by 1 person

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