Date
26th March 2021

I have been feeling tired for as long as I can remember, and I have always had nightmares. I used to think it was because of my depression and the fact that the world is a disgusting and terrible place (which it is). I also thought, it was because I was lazy and generally worthless, because that's what my mother kept telling me.
 
Nevertheless, about 30 years ago, I went to our local doctor for the first time to get my blood tested. He couldn't find anything explicitly wrong and told me that my constant fatigue was simply a case of "spring tiredness" (German:

Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

). In other words: I was probably

imagining

it.
 
I dragged myself there once a year for the next five years, but always got the same answer, nevermind the fact that it wasn't even anywhere near springtime when I went to consult him. So, I figured that it was most likely my depression taking its toll, and since nothing could be done about

that

, I apparently had to accept it and live with it.
 
Over the years my tiredness and depression grew more severe ... to the point where I noticed that something seemed to be wrong with my brain. I began to forget things and couldn't concentrate anymore. The song "No-one is there" is partially about that, because I was literally forgetting words.
 
About ten years or so ago, things began to feel

unreal

... and by that I mean

NOTHING

FELT REAL ANYMORE. Everything became like a dream. I only "knew" that I was "awake", because things were generally way duller and more depressing than in my actually dreams, which tended to be VERY cinematic and visually impressive (albeit a fucking horrorshow). I also kept having headaches and couldn't concentrate on anything anymore at all.
 
When I visited a friend in Los Angeles for the first time in 2013, I learned that my nightly screams, which I remembered having since childhood, weren't just part of the nightmares in my head. I was actually, literally screaming for help in my sleep. LOUDLY.
 
There is a term called "sleep paralysis", which - I think - describes the fact that, when your body is asleep, it is essentially

paralysed

, as in you have no (conscious) control over it. This is a good thing, in theory, because otherwise you would be moving your limbs like crazy in your sleep, if, for example, you dreamt of running or jumping around. This natural function becomes rather terrifying though, when something shocks you awake so quickly that, while your mind is now awake, YOUR BODY IS STILL ASLEEP. The resulting sensation is that of being trapped between the worlds, imprisoned inside a completely paralysed body ... and with the terrifying

certainty

that,

IF YOU DO NOT WAKE UP IMMEDIATELY, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

. Horribly.
Oftentimes you have the feeling that you are going to suffocate at any moment. Sometimes you may even see and feel demonic creatures sitting on your chest, weighing you down, as they are sucking the life out of you, about to devour or tear you to pieces.
 
The truly horrifying thing about this is that this is NOT a dream. THIS IS REAL. Or rather, it

feels

real, because your mind is fully awake when it happens.
 
This is the moment, when I start to scream for help ... until I

physically

"wake up". Trapped between "reality" and the "dream realm", I am either trying to get a character from the dream that had just ended to shake my body awake (which, obviously, never works) ... or I call for a person in my actual vicinity. Or sometimes is

just

scream.
 
When this happened in Los Angeles, and I finally woke up and walked to the bathroom, my friend came running down the stairs, asking me, if I was OK. When he told me that I had been screaming as if I was being murdered, I could only think:

"Geeeez, how fucking embarrassing. As if snoring like a damn lumberjack wasn't bad enough!"


 

 

*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *   
 

Around this time I heard about

sleep apnea

(at least, I think, I did) ... but I didn't  investigate it, because ... well ... I

forgot

about it again soon after. It's a symptom of this affliction, to

forget

things.
 
 
Here are some of the other wonderful symptoms (in no particular order):
 

extreme tiredness that never goes away,
suddenly falling asleep for a second (even when I am walking),
headaches,
nightmares,
dizziness  &  fainting,
depression,
severe panic attacks
(very) loud snoring,
unability to concentrate,
high blood pressure...
 

...oh, and my absolute favourite:


pissing myself in my sleep

.
 

Great.


 

 
The cruellest part, however ... and this is truly brutal ... was when sleep

entirely stopped

providing

any

sort of rest. Not only would I wake up feeling infinitely more tired than I did before I went to bed, but I LITERALLY FELT LIKE I WAS

DYING

... and that everytime I "woke up".
 

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.


 
It was, as if "someting" had drained me of absolutely all energy in my sleep. I would wake up, but was too weak and exhausted to even open my eyes.

NOT FOR AN ENTIRE HOUR.

Then, after finally being able to barely drag myself out of bed, it took me another 90 minutes to even

attempt

to do

anything

.
 
Now, everybody needs sleep. Obviously. The human body (and mind) cannot function without it. To me, however, this was especially hard, because sleep had always been my retreat, or place of rescue (despite the nightmares). When depression would become too much to bear, I would escape into sleep until the tide had ebbed away. Sleep had always been my friend. More than that: sleep used to be my

saviour

.
 

But now sleep was gone and there was no place to escape to anymore.
 
Worse even, sleep had become dangerous.
It had turned into an enemy, a beast that was trying to kill me.

 
So, I basically avoided sleep for the past two years. I would stay "awake" for 24 hours, then collapse, "sleep" for two hours and then shuffle around like a walking corpse. There was no rhythm to this. It was completely chaotic and random.
 
 

*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *

SleepOfDeath
The sleep clinic

2021 not only marks the 30-year-anniversary of SOPOR AETERNUS' first tape,
it is also the year that I was officially diagnosed with

sleep apnea

.


 

In fact, two days after my birthday. How fitting.

sleep_is_the_brother_of_death

Now, this should have been a simple enough task, and any "normal" person would have just ticked off the right column and be done with it. Easy.
 

Not our dear Auntie Varney though. Oh, no. This is not how my brain works.
 

One might say that I over-analyse things. Well, I can't help that. I just need to be as precise as I possibly can. Always. So, this is how it went:
 

#1

I am sitting in a chair and read


 

OK, now ... when I sit down to read a book (which rarely happens these days, but that's beside the point), it is a conscious decision. When I notice that reading becomes harder, and I have trouble keeping my eyes open, I stop. I put the book away and do something else, because I don't want to fall asleep, drop my book and damage the corners. So, the answer is: "No, absolutely not, I will not fall asleep!" -- However, if I didn't have that coping strategy, and if I didn't try to keep my books (like all my stuff) in pristine condition, then I would totally let the book slip out of my hands and fall asleep in my armchair. -- So, I ticked both

"

none

"

and

"

high

"

.
 

You can guess where this is heading, right?

*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *   

 
When I was eventually granted an appointment with an ear-nose-throat doctor, described my symptoms and asked for a referral to a sleep clinic, he looked up into my nostrils and said:

"Oh, we have another problem here first!"


 
Turned out, I had huge nasal polyps, which almost entirely blocked the air-passages in my nose. He wondered, how I was even able to breathe. Well, what can I say? I thought this was normal.
 
So, I was scheduled for an operation to have my nasal polyps removed. A few days after my birthday. Ironically, the

same week

that DEATH & FLAMINGOS came out ... an album, which opens with a track that mentions the operation I had at the age of six,

when I had my nasal polyps removed for the first time

. Further proof that there are absolutely

no

original stories in this universe. It's all just repetitions and reruns.
 

 
*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *   
 

Almost two years passed, and I was back at the ENT doctor's. By now I was desperate. I couldn't go on like this anymore.
 
In Germany, before a referral to a sleep clinic is even considered, you need to have a home screening done, where they strap a box on your chest and monitor your sleep. Waiting time for this was/is four months plus, the doctor said ... unless I would pay him a 100,- Euros to get an appointment in two weeks.
 

I did.


 
 
When he read the results to me three weeks later, he said that he couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. Sure, I had stopped breathing about 8 times per hour, but that was nothing special and perfectly normal.
 

I thought:

"This is complete and utter bullshit. This

cannot

be correct!
It makes absolutely NO fucking sense! Did this box even work properly?"


 

He suggested that I should go see a shrink instead and get on anti-depressants.

 

FUCKING ASSHOLE.


 
He said it was my decision, though. He could either write a referral for a psychiatrist or one for a sleep clinic. It wouldn't make any difference to him.
 

How generous.


 
I insisted on the sleep clinic.
 
 
*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *

on_the_road

Another two months later. February 2021. Two days after my birthday.
On a cold and dreary day, we drove to the sleep clinic...

Road_01
Village_02
Village_01
Road_02

It was a nice drive though ... and I was being hopeful.


 

Soon, however, I began to drift off ... and then watched the insane (but totally plausible) idea unfold in my head that this clinic was secretly run by a demon-worshipping death-cult, who, under the pretence of treating sleep apnea, would drug patients, in order to trap them in an artificially induced "gateway" state between dream and reality, only for the

night-terrors

to be ritually invited and thus enabled to eat their way through the patients' flesh, break through the "barrier" (literally) and enter our sphere of existence...


 

I pushed that thought away.


 

*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *
 
I was being hopeful.
 
 
*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *

the_house_of_sleep

Upon arrival at the clinic, my imagination took over again once more. I couldn't help it. Everything about this place had a decidedly late 70s/early 80s Euro-Horror vibe. Think

THE LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE

meets something Argento with a touch of Fulci.
 
First thing, a nurse Ratched type at the reception desk sent me to the old part of the building to get tested for COVID-19. While the reception area was all windows and light, this part of the building was not. It was dark and creepy as hell. Mind you, it wasn't filthy or anything. It just had this very distinct atmosphere of an old insane asylum/hospital that was haunted by the echos of decades of pain and abuse that were forever sealed within its cold walls.
 
When I arrived at the deserted looking wing of the clinic, a soldier in camouflage gear stopped me and asked, where I was going. I guess, I must have looked lost. Admittedly, I kind of was. As always.

"I am supposed to get tested for COVID"

, I politely replied.

"This way"

, he said, and I followed him into a room, where two soldiers (also wearing camouflage) were already waiting. In my head, this was now a full-blown zombie movie. I completely expected to hear screams and gunshots next, as this place would get overrun by brain-eating, walking cadavers. I was so tired though, if this had actually happened, I wouldn't even have had the strength to care.
 
This was my first COVID test, and, thankfully, I didn't feel a thing. I was then escorted into a rather large waiting room, which had exactly three chairs in it.

Aaaaaah, the beauty of social distancing

, I thought. How can you not love it?! Seriously, it's wonderful.
 
After about ten minutes or so, one of the soldiers came in, handed me a stamped and signed sheet of paper and said:

"You're negative"

. I was about to reply:

"Bitch, I'm goth. What did you expect? I've been

negative

all my life!"

, but luckily I came to my senses. Instead, I merely thanked him, took my papers and headed back to the reception and nurse Ratched.

the_idiot_test

I had to fill out a number of tests prior to the actual sleep study. I think there were three of them, but I only remember the name of the first one, simply because this test was the shortest. It was called the

Epworth Sleepiness Scale,

and this is what it looks like (I translated it from German):

Epworth_Sleepiness_Scale

But let's continue anyway...

 
#2

I am watching television


 
OK, this is an easy one. Mind you, I don't have a television, but I like to watch DVDs on my computer, which is basically the same thing. Sort of. And, yes, I do fall asleep ... without even realising it. Answer:

high

.

#3

I am sitting in a theatre or a meeting


 
This situation does not happen. EVER. Outside is hostile. People are disgusting. If I was forced to do this, my adrenaline level would be through the roof. If I could not keep my eyes open anymore, I would get up an leave! -- Answer:

"

none

"

and

"

high

"

.

#4

I am a passenger in a car that has been driving for an hour


 
Easy. Answer:

"

high

"

.

#5

I lay down in the afternoon to rest


 
Easy. Answer:

"

high

"

.

#6

I am talking to someone


 
This hardly ever happens, and when it does, it is always over quickly. I take care of that. After all, it would be both rude and embarrassing to fall asleep in that situation. -- Answer:

"

none

"

and

"

high

"

.

#7

I am sitting in an armchair after lunch


 
Easy. Answer:

"

high

"

.

#8

I am driving a car that has to stop at a red traffic-light for a few minutes


 
I don't have a car, and I don't drive. If I did, however, I would have stopped driving years ago already, because - in my condition - it would be way too dangerous to get behind the wheel. It would have

involuntary vehicular manslaughter

written all over it.  -- Answer:

"

none

"

and

"

high

"

.

The other multiple choice tests were even longer and more complex, so I went to one of the nurses and said that I have trouble answering these questions, and, in order to do this correctly, I would have to explain my answers to the doctor. Would that be possible?

"Oh, yes, sure. Absolutely!"

, she replied.
 
Well ... no. Turned out, the doctor had no patience with my stupidity.

"I need

one

answer"

, she said. So, from then on I only gave her a standard answer to her standardised questions:

"

high

"

.

Death_Bed

Eventually, we came to the test that she seemed to be tasked with to make all patients perform: a test of vigilance. For this I had to watch

a white dot

hopping clockwise from one position to the next...

DeathBed
doctor_death

While all the nurses at the sleep lab were really friendly and helpful, the actual doctors were ... well, not so much. Don't get me wrong, though. They weren't downright hostile or aggressive towards me. Not at all. But it was obvious that they had ... well ... a "difficult time" dealing with somebody outside of "the norm".
 
My doctor's name was

Doctor Death

(German:

Doktor Tod

), and this is not a joke! When I first read her name, I though:

"You've got to be kidding me. I know, I'm the Goddess of Goth, but ... come on, universe ... this is just too much on the nose!"

 
After she had given me a physical examination, she sat down and said:

"What's wrong with your stature?"


 
I was perplexed and had no idea what she was talking about:

"I'm sorry, I don't understand"

, I replied.
 

"Your stature"

, she said.

"It doesn't match your name!"


 
It took me a moment, until I finally realised what she was talking about.

"Oh, I'm transgender"

, I replied, feeling rather stupid having to explain the obvious.

"No hormone treatment?"

, she asked.

"No"

, I answered.
 
When we were done with all the questionaires, she looked up from her notes and said:

"I need you to talk to our psychologist!"


 

Great.
 

*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *

Here is the thing ... and this is serious:
Unless you have a very specific problem, and you are consulting a "therapist" out of your own free will,

NEVER EVER TELL THE TRUTH TO A SHRINK

.
 
I mean it.
 
But ... I was tired ... and I forgot. Besides, I always speak the truth. So, the inevitable happened...
 
*   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *
 

...about ten minutes after Doctor Death had left the room, there was a knock on my door. A woman came in and introduced herself:

"Hello, my name is Raven. I'm a psychologist. Doctor Death asked me to talk with you"

.

 

At this point in the story I had fully accepted to overarching cliché of the plot, so I didn't even bat an eyelash, when I heard her name (in German it was "Raabe"). I did, however, make a mental note of it and groaned inwardly.
 
She asked me all kinds of harmless questions, and I answered truthfully. I couldn't make her understand though that I had no problem with the "concept" of sleep at all. She didn't seem to believe me, when I said that the problem was a

physical

one. I tried to tell her that it was my

body

that was the problem,

not

my mind. I casually said:

"I have always liked sleep. It's a wonderful thing. I always used to escape to it, whenever my depression became to severe"

.
 

BIG MISTAKE !!!


 

Her face lit up, like she had just hit the jackpot.
 

Great.


 

What followed was an hour long interrogation. I cursed myself for being this stupid, but eventually managed to get her off my back. (I think). I still had to sit through the full 60 minutes of a painfully boring video on "how to become your own sleeping pill" though. (I am not joking!)

vigilance
vigilanz

...and whenever the dot would move forward by

two

positions, as in

skipping

one, I had to push the

green

button on this ridiculously oversized controller...

controller_

This test lasted for 30 minutes.
 
I failed.
 
I fell asleep.

the_night

At 8:00 PM the night nurse came in and put the cables on me. Then I went to bed. When Doctor Death read the results to me the following morning, she informed me that I had stopped breathing

70

times per hour

.
 

Fuck that asshole ENT doctor !!!


 

The following night I had to sleep with a full face CPAP mask on. When Doctor Death looked at the results in the morning, she said: "Well, you still stopped breathing 15 times per hour, but this is definitely better. You actually

can

sleep!"

I was truly grateful that there wasn't a gawddamn crucifix on the wall above my bed, something you tend to find in hospitals. Had there been, I would have had to ask the staff to have it removed, which probably wouldn't have gone over too well.

Resurrection

I have been sleeping with a full face CPAP mask for 1 1/2 months now. I also tape my mouth shut with 3M surgical tape, because otherwise I wake up from dehydration and with so much air in my stomach that I feel I have to throw up.
 

I am still tired.

 

It is better than before though.
Much better.
 

The terrible nightmares are gone (at least I don't remember any), and I don't wake up exhausted anymore, feeling that death is trying to tear me apart. That's a lot.
 

As for the rest, we shall see...

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