The Mean Work Lady, Troubled Dreams, and Sleep Paralysis

I could hear her coming. Every day, she’s trying to get me fired. She keeps saying “one of these days you’re gonna slip up, and when you do, I’ll be there to catch you.” And now here she comes. She’s going to catch me sleeping on the job and report me to my boss. And the worst thing? I can’t wake up! I can’t move my arms, or my legs, and there’s something on me. I can see into the hallway, and I can hear her coming… But I… Why is she in my house?… Wait… How did I get in my house or am I at work? She’ll never let up! She just keeps trying to get me fired!… Fired from my… Do I have a job? Who am I working with? Who is this lady? Wait, what lady? Why can’t I move?

Sleep paralysis is a strange thing. For most people it’s accompanied by severe panic and terror, but my ‘quick’ nap earlier was almost amusing rather than terrifying.

I’m fortunate to be a stay at home dad: no one can fire me, and there’s no mean lady trying. It’s a strange feeling to be ‘wide awake’ looking into my hall, hearing clearly every creak of the foundation, ever movement of the neighbors, and every song of the radiator, but without any control over my physical body. I understand why it is so terrifying (full confession, the first several times where terrifying, and even now, sometimes I get the panic and paranoia when it happens), but knowing what is happening lessens the severity of the experience, leaving me worried about a mean lady, rather than panicked about an house fire, for example. 

There’s not much to be done, and some people almost enjoy the experience. For most people it happens when they are waking up. The running theory is that the person is in a dream state, but awake enough to incorporate surrounding details (sight and sound) into the dream. For me, at least today, it was as I fell asleep, rather than as I woke up, that I ‘dreamed.’

If you ever wake up to find the weight of an elephant on your chest, your arms and legs denying your commands, and the feeling of dread or terror… Just remember, the mean lady won’t tell anyone: she’s not real.

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