The Nightmare that Wasn’t Paralysis

Vietnamese student, Vy Vo, writes about the frightening symptoms which led her to discover an unexpected health condition and how to better care for herself.

I think most of us have experienced paralysis dreams: the kind of dream that freezes your body and makes you see terrifying things such as figures with spine-chilling appearances trying to kill you, or hearing voices and sounds around you but you see nobody there.

They were once the reason why I didn’t want to sleep at night, because I would always feel helpless trying to escape. However, it’s been two months and I still cannot forget the incident that happened when I first came to America. It was the incident that taught me to be more careful with my health and that cold weather cannot be taken lightly. It happened when I was staying at a friend’s house while waiting to finish assembling the furniture and move into my apartment. I see her as my older sister, she is the daughter of my father’s friend and I just met her twice before coming to America.

I had somehow gotten used to the cold of Utah and I loved it, this was my first time seeing snow in nineteen years of my life. The inside of the house was always warm, sometimes even hot, so I started to get careless about the cold. One night, I didn’t feel hungry so I went to the kitchen and got only a cup of milk; I didn’t want to have dinner, and I guess that was because I had eaten sushi at school in the evening. I was feeling fine, absolutely fine, I spent the night reading and talking to friends. It was 2 a.m. when I fell asleep with my casual outfit on.

At 3 a.m. I woke up and felt uncomfortable, the room was hot somehow; I was sweating a lot and it made my clothes and bed damp so I decided to get up and get change. The last thing I remember was me picking up the blue striped pajamas from my suitcase and walking towards the bathroom.

I woke up and found myself lying on the cold bathroom’s floor a moment later. I was terrified and I panicked; I had no idea what happened. I knew that I fainted and I had no idea why. I quickly stood up and a headache occurred right away. All I had in my mind was that I had to get to my room quickly and get the phone. I realized I was sweating wasn’t because of the heat, I could feel the cold from the inside spreading out to my whole body. I tried to walk but my vision got blurry, my legs got shaky, everything turned upside down and the next thing I knew was me waking up on the bathroom floor, again. That actually scared me, I lost consciousness for the second time. I got up and almost fell again when I tried to walk back to the room.

I got in the bed, lay down, and then came a stomachache; it hurt way more than how a normal stomachache would. Imagine if someone was stabbing your stomach; I couldn’t even stay still, I had to roll back and forth so many times. The sweat dampened my pajamas once again and everything kept fading away then coming back clear. I thought I would lose consciousness and die. Even now I still cannot figure out why I didn’t call my friend, she was right downstairs and she could help me, but I only used the phone for… Google. Perhaps I thought I could fight it alone. Silly me. I stayed calm and thought about all the symptoms, then I searched for it on Google, just to be disappointed by how many people were in the same situation as me but no one gave a clear answer.

Suddenly, something came to my mind, I remembered something like that had happened before, when I didn’t eat breakfast and went biking, I didn’t faint but I sweated a lot and my vision also got blurry. That was when I figured out my blood sugar level might have dropped, or I had hypoglycemia. Luckily, my backpack was right next to the bed, I crawled down and got a bar of KitKat. I quickly ate it and tried to lie still to see if I could get any better. And I did. The pain in my stomach gradually went away, and I started to feel less dizzy; the sweating finally stopped, I have no words to describe how happy I was, but I got really tired afterwards, I was exhausted and quickly fell asleep, the night was crazy enough.

In the morning, I woke up and actually felt glad that I didn’t die in my sleep. I grabbed the phone to search on Google for “hypoglycemia”, all of my symptoms appeared on the list. It seemed that you would burn more energy in cold weather so you had to eat more, too. When I called my parents and told them about the incident they scolded me about how careless I was, but I was relieved because I was still able to hear their voices. Actually I’m kind of a paranoid person, sometimes when I wake up I wonder if I am still alive or am I in some kind of afterworld. I know, I’ve been watching too much movies.

The incident and everyone’s worries made me realize I was alone, that was when I realized I was already in a foreign country, away from my family and friends. I have to be responsible for what I do, no one is going to take care of me or be right there to help me anymore. It was scarier than any nightmares I’ve ever had.

Spring has come and the weather has gotten warmer, even though the cold is no longer here to drain my precious energy, I now have moved out and live alone. So, to prevent it from happening again, I have been trying to provide myself enough nutrients even though it means I have to cook most of the time. I promised myself to never be careless again and start making adjustment to my life to make sure I don’t wake up in an after world for real next time (even though I’m a little curious about what it is like over there, I wouldn’t want a sudden one-way ticket to a vacation I didn’t ask for).

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