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The Mental Disorder That Made Me ‘Sleep’ for 7 Years, 11 Months and 8 Days

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“It’s called a changeover; the movie goes on and nobody in the audience has any idea.” — Fight Club. 

I had no idea I had been sleeping for as long as I was. I had been sleepwalking and talking for years and I hadn’t a clue.

• What is PTSD?

It startled me and I was scared; it seemed I was now awake but was all of that a dream? Did that all really happen? I woke up trying to figure out if I was dreaming, if any of it was real. I was looking at things through different eyes, still my eyes, but the lens had changed and I could clearly see what was going on.

I started pacing back and forth in my oldest daughter’s bedroom. My chest tightened and my heart was pounding so hard I could actually hear it in my ears, so fast as if it were ready to jump out of my chest and explode right in front of me. I continued pacing, but my pace had picked up and I was speeding faster than I’d like to have been. 

I was awake! Oh my God! I was awake!

It hit me fast and hard and it hurt so bad. I had the phone in my hand and I knew I had to call for help. I dialed the number, I can’t remember how, but I was awake and I knew who to call.

The voice on the other end explained my therapist was busy, but I was able to articulately explain I needed to speak with my therapist immediately. The women told me to hang up the phone and my therapist would call me right back. I hung up… the phone rang.

I had sprinted out of my oldest daughter’s bedroom and across the hall into my youngest daughter’s bedroom. I managed to walk inside her closet, which had no doors; I grabbed onto the wood trim and dug into it. I could feel pieces of the wood trim underneath my fingernails as I held on so tight with that one hand while the other hand held the phone up to my ear. I could hear my therapist’s voice, she was with me in the closet on the phone and I was hanging on, fingers digging into the wood, heart ready to beat out of my chest.

I was hanging on to the phone with my therapist as my body started shaking uncontrollably. It felt as though my whole body was having a seizure. My legs convulsed as I heard my therapist on the phone telling me to tap my feet; I dug into the wood and it felt as if I was jolted by lightning.

“What’s happening?” I yelled into the phone.

“You’re having a panic attack” she answered.

I’ve had many panic attacks; this one was not like any other I’ve ever experienced. It was, by far, the worst one I’ve ever had. Panic attacks hurt. Many who’ve struggled with panic attacks have not had heart attacks, but I’ve been told the pain and fear of having one is quite similar.

My therapist began telling me the year was 2016, that I was talking to her on the phone; she kept asking me if I could feel my feet and the floor below me, she asked me what colors I could see in my daughter’s bedroom. She asked, “do you see the color pink?”

“Yes, pink, the walls are pink,” I spoke.

“Can you tap your feet? Tap, tap, tap, tap?” She asked.

I tapped my feet on the floor; they were numb and tingly, but I could at least feel them. The same numbness was in my fingers and hands too. I felt the wave of electricity and shock slowly exit different parts of my body, one appendage at a time, as my therapist kept asking me to find different colors in my daughter’s room.

We were then on to the color orange; I saw a little backpack with bright orange on the front and began to describe it to her from inside the closet. She asked me about this backpack and I began to answer her. I knew when this backpack was used, I knew I was in the closet, I knew I was on the phone with my therapist and I knew I was finally awake. 

Dates, times, feelings, moments in time all came into my head at once. I had been asleep for seven years, 11 months and eight days. Oh my God, I was scared and shaking, and I was awake.

I tried to grasp the idea of the two different realities and how this could possibly have happened, and well, you can’t fully grasp it. I still don’t fully understand what the hell happened. All I know is I’m fully awake and I now know what put me in such a long slumber and made me so very sick. The images and memories and moments of time were triggered and unlocked and I could feel, see, hear, taste and smell every detail again.

I was reliving my traumas.

Trauma affects people in many different ways. It can make you emotionally, mentally, and yes, even physically ill. 

My traumas rendered me disabled and incapacitated.

There is an official name, a diagnosis and I would soon hear the medical term: conversion disorder (also known as functional neurological disorder) and dissociation disorder. I was me, but I wasn’t. It reminds me of the movie “Fight Club” and the recent movie, “Split.” I split and every day I was in fight or flight. It happens every time a new trauma enters my world. I have childhood trauma as well as multiple traumas throughout my 40 years on this earth. I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).

When you are triggered and are trying to understand how you can be stuck in limbo between two different realities… well, it’s unreal.

It’s hard to get a handle on your own reality after you come to realize that a “changeover” happened.

This was reality, this was real, and it was really happening, and it really happened to me. My original reality was in a head-on collision with my current reality, and the crash had woken me up, startled and terrified me.

Over how long did this changeover take place? Seven years, 11 months and eight days?

I walked around my house for days with new eyes. They weren’t really new, they were my eyes, but the filtered haze of the alternate eyes were no longer here.

I had to understand how to mesh these two realities into one reality. I kept blinking, hoping the lenses would correct themselves and I could stop this rude awakening.

I questioned everything; I still do. How could I not? When faced with the two different realities, of course the safer one was more appealing, but I knew it wasn’t real. I needed to fully come back and put the two in check and I knew at this point there was so much important work to be done to make this happen. 

The next few days and weeks were extremely hard. Nightmares and panic attacks filled my days and nights. Fear, sadness and depression consumed me. I had done something I never thought I would do… I asked for help. I cried for it, I begged for someone to help me because I knew I needed help. 

“Who in their right mind would not have known this?” And then, feeling terrified with the realization I, in fact, had not been in my right mind for a long time.

I remembered the last horrific trauma from 2008 and it came crashing through my brain and body like a huge tidal wave.

What the hell happened to me?

My brain created an alternate reality to protect me from what I could not mentally, emotionally and physically handle on my own. The year was 2016 and I had gone seven years, 11 months and eight days believing I was OK. Just like my audience, I had no idea a changeover had taken place.

When trauma occurs and it is severe, it can (and did) make a person physically, emotionally and mentally ill. The multiple traumas throughout my lifetime caused me to have extreme mental stress, a nervous breakdown; some would say I had lost my mind. I would later learn the correct terms are conversion disorder and dissociative disorder.

I am working hard on trying to process this and I still have moments where I’m pacing, hyperventilating and saying, “that happened… Oh my god, that happened!” Sounds, smells, sights, feelings have all come back to me. I know dates, days, times. It is a constant slideshow of the traumatic events that plays over and over in my mind, and there is no pause button. I’m in agony as it continues to play on repeat.

I’m left with pieces of myself — pieces of the me before and after the trauma and those pieces are banged up, bent and they don’t quite fit right, no matter how hard I try to piece them together. This is a damaged puzzle and I’m left with all the worn-out pieces. 

I was triggered in February of 2016.

I remember now. This is just the beginning of my story. I’m finally awake!

Photo by Glen Hodson on Unsplash

Originally published: August 21, 2019
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