In 2004, I was driving down I-90 from the University of Buffalo's Amherst campus to downtown Buffalo when everything went black. I don't remember it going black. I do remember that the part of my brain that was still aware that I was driving 65 miles per hour in the middle lane between two tractor trailers punched me in the heart with adrenaline. I woke up scared shitless, with a pounding headache, and searing pain in my chest from said adrenaline punch. That's when I realized I might have a problem.
A week later I checked myself into the Buffalo Sleep Medicine Center at 3 Gates Circle in Amherst for an all night sleep study. They placed 21 electrodes on my head, chest, and back then let me sleep for 15 minute intervals the entire night. It was as fun as it sounds. I still have the results.
Normal sleep latency at 7 minutes with normal sleep efficiency of 89.7%. Latency to REM sleep was mildly prolonged at 138 minutes. There were 11.7 arousals (WTF?) per hour, mostly associated with respiratory events (oh, okay). Baseline respiratory rate was 12 - 20 breaths per blah and REM sleep 10 - 18 in NREM sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea was blah blah blah index of 10.3. Events were relatively evenly distributed between REM and NREM sleep. blah, blah, blah between Supine and non blah position.
There's a pretty succinct website that gives the layman a good run-down of the symptoms. One that surprised me was the depression. It comes suddenly and with no explanation, even after particularly good days. Another is a kind of sensory overload. Those started in college (narcolepsy often presents symptoms late). Everything would be too loud and too bright, even my own thoughts. I'd lay on my bed as still as possible with my head beneath my pillow to muffle the world. Haven't had those in awhile.
Another symptom I didn't expect were the hallucinatory effects. I actually like those. I try to ride them like a wave; pen in hand, I wait for the swell. "America is drenched in its own sugary light. You're soaked in it. So, you may not realize we suffer from a kind of cultural diabetes. Which is why I think my tattoo confuses people." More on that later. But you get the point.
Why am I talking about this now? I think I am a writer. I write, therefore I think that "I" should come out from behind secrets. Or, at least make the attempt. Even in failing, the struggle is where the story is. Writers, who are artists, should try to see the world clearly, but through multiple lenses of experience, and be seen doing so. Telling your personal truth makes it easier to write universal truths; flames throwing shadows at the cave wall of beautiful and terrible things.
Not my real name, but it does roll right off the tongue, doesn't it?