Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Narcolepsy and Writing



My friend Jen Boissonneault wrote a blog post about dreams, which in turn inspired another friend, Natalie Kenney, to blog about dreams, and I thought this would be a good time to jump on the dreamwagon. My dreaming is a little different than most because I have Narcolepsy.


Jen and Natalie. I was probably napping somewhere.
Not the "I'm-just-tired-all-the-time-so-I'll-claim-an-illness" kind, but the real thing. Although I'm sure I've had it for decades, I was officially diagnosed about ten years ago, and my life definitely changed.  I've tried all of the medicine on the market, but found the side effects were more than I could handle, so I adjusted my lifestyle. I sleep four times a day, for a few hours at a time. It's currently 3am, and yes, I am writing this post. I now schedule every part of my day and if my schedule is interrupted, it can be very distressing.


 I experience cataplexy almost daily, so I have learned to control my emotions. I love to laugh, but I make sure when I do, I am sitting down, or at least holding on to something. Otherwise, I may fall down. Sleep paralysis I experience quite frequently, and although I should be use to it, it is still frightening every time.


So what does all of that have to do with writing and dreams? I'm getting there. First a nap...


While many people have difficulty falling asleep and then typically take an hour or more to reach the first phase of REM sleep, I don't. My non-REM periods, the 'brain resting phase' of sleep,  are very brief. Typically, I'm asleep in less than five minutes of my head hitting the pillow; my husband claims it's more like less than a minute. But although it may appear that I'm sleeping at first, I'm really not. I go through periods of hypnagogic hallucinations, which many artists, like Beethoven and Salvador Dali, said aided their creativity. Some, maybe, but most are frightening. They seem more real than reality, if you can imagine something like that. And it is the one time during my sleep period that I don't realize I am actually asleep. I once called 911 during this period and told the operator there was someone in my house and my husband had been shot. I could smell the gunpowder. Yeah, explain that one to the cops at 2am.


Then, finally, I get to the good stuff. The REM sleep, the dream state. This is the best part, not only because I dream lucidly every time, but because I can control my actions in my dreams. There's a fancy medical term for that, too, but basically, if I'm having a nightmare, I just change it. I turn monsters in to puppies, or I fly away. I like to jump off buildings and mountains and then catch myself just before I hit ground. Call it my dream hobby. I guess this is my sleep reward for making it through the hallucinations without going crazy.


Then I wake up, almost directly from REM, and can go right back to whatever I was doing before my nap. And, yes, I do this at least four times a day.


So, of course I have the cataplexy to deal with, and my brain will eventually burn out from lack of rest, if I don't die of a heart attack during a horrifying hallucination first, but there are benefits,  as a writer.


My creativity meter is always on high. I've found myself 'creating' a scene in a dream, watching it, changing it, smelling it, feeling it, and then waking up to write it. The middle of the night is my most productive time, because the house is quiet, I've just had a two hour bout of inspiration, and can sit down and write non- stop for hours.



Then it starts all over again.

Please check out Jen Boissoneault's blog post about dreams facts and Natalie Kenney's blog post about her own dreams as inspiration for writing.Then feel free to jump on the dream wagon with us this week!

13 comments:

David R said...

Never knew this about you, Vegas. Sounds like a tough way to live, but glad to hear you've managed your sleep in a way that works for you.

Charlieopera said...

Oh, you wild and crazy dreamy broads (Kellinator, Natalinator & the Jenster) ... lately I'm sleeping pretty good, but I do go through periods of insomnia ... racing thoughts that do not quit unless I use a drug and that usually screws me up the next day, for at least half the day. I used to nap and always loved that but the schedule no longer permits them. Dreams are usually anxiety filled but occasional a good one pops in (and I forget most of it soon as I wake up). What I hate is when I think of something I want to write just before I feel I'm going to nod off and I'm too lazy to interrupt the potential sleep (because once I'm downstairs at the computer, you know I'm stopping at the fridge) ...

Beth Devine said...

Not to jump on your bandwagon, Kelly, but I've gone through the same thing, maybe not as intensely as you, but mostly when I'm stressed. I've gone through all the sleep tests and took the drugs to combat the issue, but nothing helped and I just let it happen now. I was onced asked if I was the dream within the dream or the dreamer. Which are you? Sometimes these dreams come true, and most of the time I write them down in my journal, but never thought to make them into a story. Hmm, thank you for this post. You will always be my insperation Kelly Gamble and I will always look up to you, my friend.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I have become a sleep ninja, Dave. :)

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I've read that that time just before you fall asleep is when most people get their best ideas. Tape recorder by your bed. No video cameras. Please.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

That was sweet, Beth. "The dream within the dream or the dreamer"? How about the dream weaver? lol

betweenasleepandawake said...

Thanks for sharing, Kelly. Sounds like you have a mixture of a blessing and a curse. I'm glad you have found a way to rise above it and make it work for you as much as possible!

I wish I could control my lucid dreams. I haven't yet figured out how. (That would help when I'm having nightmares, lol.) And I completely understand about some dreams being more real than reality. One time I awoke and the world seemed so drab next to the one I had just left. ;)

Thanks for the mention! xoxo
Jen

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Actually, I'd love to be 'normal'. I had to quit working regular jobs because I couldn't do 8 hours straight, I can't take a 3 hour class, no way, I can barely make it through a one hour seminar. But, we play the hand we're dealt.

Anonymous said...

Bless You Baby Girl, I love you for all your creativity no matter how you get it. Your one tough Patootie <3

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thanks. Now that I've added another job to my pile this semester, I don't feel so tough!

Beth Devine said...

See, what did I tell you. Damn girl, you're good. Dream weaver of stories.

Darren Cormier said...

I'm glad you've figured out a way to manage this, too.
I wouldn't consider it a condition, though: it's more of a super power.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Ha! I guess until my brain explodes from no rest, it's a super power. Then it's going to be a super pain in the a**. :)