Los Angeles High School of the Arts

Sleep paralysis: the monster that haunts my nights

One night, I was enjoying a peaceful sleep when I suddenly felt awake. My natural response was to open my eyes and reach for my phone to check the time. My eyes opened, but I was unable to move any other part of my body.

I could clearly see my room illuminated by the sliver of city lights peeking through my blinds. The stuffed animals on my vanity, the pile of dirty clothes on the floor and the half-open bedroom door all seemed so real. Everything was seemingly normal, but I felt as if I was being held down on my bed.

I began to look around with my eyes and much as I could without the mobility of my head and neck. I looked over to my bedroom window, and that was when I began to panic. A tall, black shadow stood at the side of my bed. I looked to the other side and saw another shadow laying next to me, holding me down.

I tried to kick, to scream, to do anything. But as hard as I tried, none of my fingers or toes would move. I attempted to jerk any part of my body awake, but the resistance was so strong that it began to hurt.

In this moment, I discovered what it really means to be powerless. I began to have trouble breathing and my heart began to pound faster. Terrified of what would happen next, I closed my eyes and prayed that I would be left alone.

I’m not sure how much time passed after that, but I eventually woke up with my body drenched in sweat and tears running down my face. This was the nightmare to end all nightmares.

In Korean culture, we have a phrase that directly translates to “pressed by scissors.” This means that someone has been targeted by a spirit while they were asleep.

When I was growing up, my friends and I shared scary stories during sleepovers and I remember some saying that they had been “pressed by scissors.” I was terrified and hoped that I would never have that experience myself. Fortunately, my childhood dreams remained peaceful until my sophomore year of high school.

Last year, I began to have sleep paralysis. For the first two weeks, I experienced it about every other night. It slowly began to come less often and now only comes once every two weeks or so.

The shadows were only present during the first occurrence. All of the other times consisted of me staring at my empty bedroom until I woke up. Perhaps the black figures were welcoming me into the *wonderful* life of sleep paralysis.

At first, I was afraid to go to sleep. I refused to sleep in the dark and begged my mom to sleep in my bed on days I felt more prone to a disrupted sleep. After a while, I became somewhat used to sleep paralysis and accepted it as part of my life. If you ride a scary rollercoaster fifty times, it loses its effect on you.

Nevertheless, I still feel as if I am on the verge of death each time it happens. I have tried talking to my pastor at church, done online research and told almost everyone in my life.

Some say that it probably happens because I am too psychologically exhausted to be able to differentiate reality from my internal monsters while others say it may be a spiritual battle that has made it outside my body. Regardless of who I ask for help, it seems that no one really knows the answer to my problem.

Until the day it stops haunting my nights, at least it has given me a great story to tell.