Phil's Story


 I fell asleep that night, just like any other. Little did I know that it would not turn out like any other. I was about to embark upon the most frightening, life-altering nightmare I'd ever experienced. And it did not end when I awakened.

After one or two hours of sleeping, I awakened with a start, and without any voluntary effort on my part, I was standing on my feet beside the bed. It was as if someone had jerked me from my sleep. I was so cold, I shivered. Yet, I was sweating profusely. I felt a strangeness that I could not identify, and an underlying anxiety. "Maybe I have a fever I thought...go back to bed, I'll feel better in the morning". But it was not to be. It took some time to fall back asleep. I felt a buzzing sensation as if someone were running electricity through my head. My body would involuntarily jerk on occasion, and the aroma of smoke filled my nose, but something inside told me it wasn't there. I was hallucinating. I felt as if I was somehow drifiting away from my body...losing touch with it. I would only later be able to articulate that I felt as though I was on another level of consciousness. Not awake, not asleep, but instead in some unrecognizable state between the two. When I finally drifted off amidst all of this and my now growing anxiety, I would awaken in the same startled manner within an hour or two convinced morning was here. Each time to be informed otherwise by the darkness outside and the clock by the bedside. Time had suddenly taken on an unreal quality, and had none of the consistency as in the past. The anxiety grew with each awakening, until finally, it became outright fear. "God, what's happening to me? I feel like I'm losing my mind". And there was no peace in sleep.

Morning finally came, and I knew I was changed. Somehow different. What the next few months held for me would be a journey of sheer terror. Far exceeding any nightmare or the most terrifying thought I could have conjured. I experienced a full break with reality, held together only by God and by the thought (but not feeling), that somewhere deep inside I was still me, and that this world was still real. I would learn later that my feelings had names. Depersonalization (the sensation of not recognizing one's self) and derealization (the feeling that the world is not real). In short, my world took on a strange and unrecognizable quality. I could not think or concentrate, my nights would bring the same horror, I experienced panic attacks and sheer terror but for no identifiable reason. What was I afraid of? Myself? Existing? I would hear chatter in my head (no discernable voices, but the sound of background noise in a crowded room). My limbs would jerk involuntarily, instead of seeing black when I closed my eyes in a darkened room, I saw blue flashing lights and swirling patterns. I was so fatigued, I didn't want to get out of bed, yet because of the buzzing activity in my head, I had a strange insomnia which kept me awake for 2 days straight, before I finally took a prescription to put me to sleep. I was hungry, but one bite of food nauseated and repulsed me to the point where I could not eat. Spicy food was the worst offender. My vision was constantly blurred, and fluorescent lights seem to flicker relentlessly. My balance was off, and public places with fluorescent lighting and much activity (like grocery stores) disoriented me severely. I also suffered from tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and hissing in the ears that in the quiet became almost unbearable. Finally, and perhaps most frightening, I had trouble controlling my thoughts. It was as if the line between conscious and subconscious was blurred and thoughts would emerge from my subconscious mind to pervade my conscious. This seemed especially troublesome as I began to drift to sleep, as if when my subconscious began to really take over, I would jerk awake. My days became constant panic, fear and emotional pain.

Recovery has been slow and painful, and is still not complete, though I'm doing much better now. I hope this site provides help to others like me.


Last Updated 4/15/04