Dreamless Nightmare


I have not always had my medication to protect me from epilepsy, to keep my hand steady while I handled boiling grease and kitchen blades. There have been spans of time, long and short, where Depakote was not there to act as a wall standing between cascades of miss fired thought, stampeding down the wrong nerve to cut control over my body. It left me there on the floor like a marionette without strings, to dance deranged on the floor without purpose, will or sense of reality. During those times I was in a near constant state of panic, with the feeling of safety far from my mind replaced with desperate fearful conjuring’s. Mad scenes of dissected fingers left lying on the floor by the sudden slip of a knife or my body left broken at the bottom of the stairs twitching would run through my head daily.
In my mornings, I would wake up with the sunlight transforming my vision from dreamy black to a scarlet red, looking like that warmed closed-eyelids with intrusive light the longer I waited. Unwilling to wake from heavy hopeless sleep yet compelled by the beams of exterior light, I would raise to the scent of my ancient yellowed pillow. Slick and sickly sweet with drool, it would fall from my face to my matress with a thud as I rose to do the same. Bones would creak and pop back into place disrupting sore stiffened muscles as my corse machinations of movement ground cartilage together with bone, made worse as I struggled to fix my sore body with my own homeopathic strides.
Whether or not I had a full blown episode or not would be obvious instantly. Every part of my body would feel as though someone had pulled it three centimeters to the left, leaving my consciousness naked and exposed without my fleshy moving corpse to house it. Foolishly, no matter how bare my soul felt, I always believed myself to be fine despite the evidence of my always flabbergasted flesh. Young calves could not have been more distressed with their own bodies after a tentative try at a first step through after-birth wet grass.
Using the wall as a crutch, I would make my way down the hallway connecting my room to my bathroom, careful not to knock the pictures documenting my childhood off. Once inside the room, lined with peeling yellow wallpaper put up by the previous tenants, I would stare into the full water-stained wall mirror by my lake of cleanliness. The bruising and dried blood around my eyes made me look like a sick raccoon; the clear sign of what had transpired previously.
This occurred weekly without warning, only predicted with a growing layer of static fuzz that would build with my every thought over time. No matter when or where, night or day or once-a-week, I would be struck by a bolt of what felt like lightning kicking me from my head for a split second and forcing me with an invisible hand to kneel with such violence; my knees would bleed from carpeted contact. There on the floor, knees bloody and my face bruised as I unwillingly rammed it over and\or onto the floor, following example to my arms, until I was allowed to lay helpless. Nothing but blood, sweat and the acrid taste of vomit to accompany my simulated lifelessness. More often than I am proud to admit, I would try to shrug it off as though I was an invincible wall. This faulty thought was, of course, false. Each time, without fault or fail, I would end up on my belly. A swift heaviness would fill my limbs like a surge of cool liquid filling my veins, pinning me in place to wait out an eternal five-second stretch, my body gasping air to over fill my adrenalin stoked chest. Worst of all, beyond fear of pain or the neurological muddle, was the taste of everything I ate in the hours afterwards, which caused every bit of food I consumed to taste as though it had been covered by a heavy layer of coarse fur. Coming out of a fit of hunger would fill my thoughts with pain. An absolute lack of food in my stomach would drive me to eat any food that past my lips, tasting exactly the same as it tore at my throat, left raw by stomach acid coughed up like rusty steel wool.
Violent bursts of intrusive anti-thought were not the only displays of this disorder I witnessed, more intimately than anyone would like. Tiny tremors, like pre-shocks, have run through my head itching at the walls of whatever ideas had previously been running through my mind. They would disrupt every segment of my day, whether it was dishes tossed, gagging breaths creating sounds similar to a boot pulled from the mud, cuts and bruises manifesting all around from dropped knives or falling on the edge of a piece of furniture. Once, while in the line at the grocery store, I received strange looks from the bag boy after the muscles in my face were forced into what must have been an objectively hideous display from the way he looked at me.
Luckily nightly doses have taken my mind off these issues for the most part, leaving me the trouble of constantly worrying for my safety to an occasional self-doubt. As of today, nearly a full year of weekly seizures has been put to a standstill thanks to a combination of tri-monthly doctors’ visits and nightly doses of medicine. If hope is something I can have, there is a chance my doctor is correct and one day this hiccup in my brain will heal fully, leaving me relieved of the weighty worry of epilepsy. Yet even with the duel dose of chemical suppression, I live constantly with the fear of feeling electric ants crawling along my veins and eat away at my consciousness like branches of a dying tree.

foto2The featured image accompanying this poem, entitled ‘Night Cries’, have been used with the permission of artist Patricio Betteo.

About Patricio Betteo: Patricio Betteo, son of south-american parents, was born in Mexico City in the late 70’s. Since 1999 he has focused on comics and illustration. His work has been published in a great deal of mexican journals, magazines and children’s books. He has also done some videogame art for Electronic Arts and American McGee. He also spends his days playing guitar and painting.

One thought on “Dreamless Nightmare

  1. Murphc36@tcd.ie'
    Caitriona says:

    Hi James, as a fellow epileptic (one of the “lucky” ones, I am only very slightly affected, but my identical sister suffers horrendously), I appreciate the perfectly honest depiction of such “hiccup”. As a writer, I appreciate a well crafted story when I read one. Well done.

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