When I was around twenty six years old, I used to live on my own in a very small studio apartment just outside my hometown. It was a rather dark period of my life, and was just before I had to leave my place of employment to go on public assistance for my psychiatric conditions. Due to the compounded stress of both work, family, relationships, and social networking, my physical health and well-being began to decline. My living space became very disorganized, and as I started to isolate myself from friends and family, my sleep began to suffer.
I am a member of the Pagan community, and have practiced various forms of traditional polytheism for more than ten years of my life. Though I was and still am a deeply spiritual person, and have had amazingly powerful positive experiences, at this period of my life, my previous commitments to devotional polytheistic practice had began to fall away, and were replaced by feelings of complete despair and confusion.
Initially, my experiences started as a feeling of great uneasiness that would not only keep me tossing and turning in bed at night, but began to wake me up from a dead sleep, and I would try desperately to fall back sleep. Days and weeks would go by, and each time I had an experience, it would become even worse than before. As the feeling of uneasiness would increase, I began to notice strange noises and sensations. Initially I wrote them off as being the sounds of my cheap air conditioning unit above my apartment window, and the poor insulation in the walls around me, but eventually it became too intense to ignore. Like clockwork, I would wake up in the middle of the night, and would feel an ominous presence in my apartment, with a faint rumbling noise that I couldn’t make out.
As these experiences became more frequent, and the feeling more intense, I began to have disturbing nightmares before I awoke from deep sleep. It would always be in dark and desolate places, and it always involved me dying in freak accidents or traumatic events. One night, I had an intense dream of driving around in a desolated city in the middle of the night, and I lost control of my vehicle. After I crashed into a large tree, and my vision within the dream started to fade, I heard what sounded like small children laughing at me. I woke up completely startled, and barely got even a few hours of sleep that night.
A few nights later, I remember waking up from a dead sleep, and had the immediate awareness that I was still asleep. I had complete awareness of my bedroom, but could sense that I was still in bed. Around the corner from the wall bed I was sleeping on was my kitchen, which is tucked away in a little alcove. During this experience, I could sense that there was something moving around, so I attempted to leave my bed. All I could manage was pushing myself with all my might directly onto the floor between my bed and the kitchen. A few moments later, small feet tall black figures ran past me towards the front door, and the last one stopped right in front of me while I was on the floor. I heard the sound of devilish cackling and I immediately woke up back on my bed.
Several weeks went by without incident, so I cleaned up my apartment, and tried my best to repair my poor sleep and hygiene habits. My life continued to be stressful however, and I always had the fear of what else might happen lingering in the back of my mind. For several more days, I would wake up in complete sleep paralysis, and what was once a subtle ominous presence with barely audible noises, soon became a dominant malevolent presence, with a hellish sounding growl. Eventually, this presence began to manifest, and I would be stuck in a sleep paralysis with the silhouette of a tall and featureless figure hanging out at the edge of my bed. Each night if would get closer and closer, to the point that I had several nights in a single week where this figure would be lying next to me in bed while I was experiencing my sleep paralysis.
At this point, I began to become more proactive, and in addition to meditating regularly, I started to engage more with my existing spiritual practices, however modestly. Things began to die down for a while, but I knew that until I was able to fix this issue, that things would continue. I started to research related sleep paralysis phenomenon, and what particularly stuck out to me was the common experience throughout most ancient cultures of a malevolent spirit that would latch itself onto a vulnerable victim and try to drain them of their health and happiness. It became clear to me that, in a similar manner to the Ancient Greek concept of miasma, I had drawn this negative spirit to myself because of my poor physical and emotional health.
After spending a few more days improving my situation as best I could, I still felt uneasy in my own apartment, so I decided to spend the night with some close friends. They were renting a home together, and had offered me a couch to sleep on over the weekend. After having a long discussion about my experiences, and hearing their own personal interpretations, I ended up falling sleep. Not too long after, I remember waking up in a sleep paralysis, seeing the very dark inside of their strange living room. What I saw, heard, and felt next is something that I will never forget as long as I live. Standing in the middle of the living room in front of the couch I was sleeping on was an elongated figure. It was about seven feet tall, with long arms and spindly dagger-like fingers. Though its shoulders were wide, its frame was gaunt, and its entire body was covered with grayish brown skin, that looked like decaying flesh. Its eyes were deep black caverns, and it’s mouth was a gaping maw of pure darkness.
After a few moments, it rushed over to where I was laying, and crouched itself directly over me, making the loudest and most intense guttural growl I have ever heard. As I was being pinned to the couch, a feeling of complete disgust and anger washed over me. I was tired of being afraid and confused, and I knew that it was time for me to rid myself of this spirit that I attracted through my miasma. My mind immediately went to the gods and goddesses that were most sacred to me at the time, and I thought of them as a combined force of power and authority. I gathered all the strength that I could, and finally managed to speak what I wanted to say to this creature. I looked at the malevolent spirit in it’s face, and in a strong voice I said, “In the name of the highest gods, leave!”
In an instant, I awoke from my final sleep paralysis. The presence was completely banished from my life, as if it had never existed in the first place. It felt as if fifty pounds had been lifted from my chest, and I was finally able to breathe again after nearly six months of horrific nightmares and sleep paralysis. I have never had this issue again, and have become even more devoted to my spiritual practices. Though my positive spiritual experiences have helped give me focus and meaning, this experience helped me to understand the value of emotional and physical health to one’s spiritual well-being.
On several occasions since then, I have had opportunities to not only share this experience with those who are willing to listen, but to even help others through their sleep paralysis experiences. If there is any piece of wisdom that I can give you, it is to not only take care of yourself, but to realize that when necessary, the most powerful forces against these negative forces are the things that are most meaningful and sacred to you. Genuine faith and trust are anathema to the malevolent spirits which may seek to harm you.