Firstly, we’d like to introduce you to our brand new contributor, Natasha Meek, an up and coming writer in Leeds. With a natural flare and true passion for writing, you’ll she why she’s now a great addition to the VinyOctopus team!
‘Two things for me were unusual, as I opened my eyes and tried to sit up I couldn’t move an inch; it was like I’d been superglued to my bed. And the second thing, I wasn’t alone’
Research around the globe suggests that most people struggle with sleep paralysis at least once in their life. Episodes of sleep paralysis can occur when falling asleep, or even as you wake, leaving one fearful and paralysed for a short amount of time. This is the nightly norm for one teenager from Leeds.
“I think for me, my sleep paralysis started around the age of 14. I was a pretty ordinary teenager on the exterior; inside I was a nervous wreck with awful anxiety and what I understand now to be post traumatic stress disorder after I was sexually abused through my younger years. Now it’s an experience that I’m used to each night I have it – it shape-shifts and is equally as terrifying as the first night. I remember going to bed as usual the night it first happened, tired from the day, but as usual with insomnia that kept me awake into the early hours. Sleep paralysis is when your brain isn’t yet asleep though your body is. Everything felt so horrifically real as though I had woken up in the morning ready to get up for school. Two things for me were unusual, as I opened my eyes and tried to sit up I couldn’t move an inch; it was like I’d been superglued to my bed. And the second thing, I wasn’t alone, he was there holding me down pressing down my chest until I couldn’t breathe. Now usually, in the real world if this happened you would kick and flail and scream and yet I couldn’t do any of these things. I just laid there unable so move, so sure that it was real I could almost smell his aftershave, tears rolling down my face, feeling yet again absolutely powerless until my mum woke me up for school me still crying and hyperventilating. Now I’m a little older I’ve come to realise why I have sleep paralysis, what it is and essentially how to break out of it. I still lay there in bed crying wishing and wishing that I could move; and that somebody could save me from this monster trying to wiggle my toes and fingers even the smallest amount to free myself. I’ve read a lot about sleep paralysis now and it’s common for some kind of demonic figure to be present, mine is no different; I’m just facing my own demons.”
Throughout history many artists have created unnerving artwork to help them deal with their sleep paralysis. One of the most famous artworks about this condition is The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, painted in 1871. Fuseli depicts a woman unable to move as an angry demon-like figure stands over her.
‘The Nightmare’ – Henry Fuseli, 1871
Nicolas Bruno is a modern day Fuseli who uses photography to portray his own episodes. Around the age of 14, Bruno began to deal with sleep paralysis almost every night. Speaking to Vice, he says that a teacher suggested he could ‘start sketching’ his intense hallucinations. Now, photography has become his ‘go-to’ in dealing with sleep paralysis; aiming to ‘create that sort of purgatory’ he feels.
Bruno’s work is a menagerie of dollhouses on fire, dark water and ladders which all combine to create a strange, whimsical place outside of what we know.
The media of photography allows Bruno to have full ‘curation of what goes into the pieces’. Considering that sleep paralysis is usually something he doesn’t have control over, this media allows him to regain power over his own torments.
Figures within his photos usually have their heads covered which acts as a visual representation of not only sleep, but as a reminder of his experiences with mental purgatory.
Much like Fuseli and other greats, art remains a way to express our deepest fears and thoughts.
If you’d like to see more of Nicolas Bruno’s work take a look at his Instagram @nicoladbruno
Have you dealt with sleep paralysis before?
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We just like to take this opportunity to thank all those while we involved in this piece. We are incredibly grateful for all their brutally honest testimonials