Monday, August 13, 2012

When worlds collide in the "real world" I am a Polysomnographic Technologist. As my then six-year old son so elequently announced to his WHOLE first grade class during their annual "What Does Mommy and Daddy Do For a Living?" presentation, it's a fancy word for saying I spend the night with strangers, but I get paid alot of money. Now I would go a little FURTHER with that definition and explain, "yes, that is true, but I also don't get the diseases OR the bad reputation". I actually did have to go to his school and talk to his teacher about my job, but THAT'S another story..... I specialize in sleeping disorders, which is actually really handly when it comes to interviewing potential paranormal clients. I have many clients who experience sleep paralysis and often mistake that with a paranormal occurence. I routinely screen them for a variety of sleeping disorders because they often go unreported and under-diagnosed, especially in children. In fancy sleep terms, sleep paralysis is "cataplexy" and there is another term called "hypnagogic hallucinations". These two events are actually signs of possible narcolepsy and happen because our dream state (called REM) invades our periods of wakefullness. They can be very frightening to experience, but there is treatment available for it. I found myself in an interesting situation, however, a few months back. I had a patient who presented with all the classic signs of narcolepsy. She had sleep paralysis, the hallucinations, the whole she-bang. She spent the night in the sleep center for us to rule out other sleeping problems. When her nighttime test was negative for sleep apnea, she remained in the sleep center during the day for the narcolepsy test. It's not just get to hang out with me all day and take naps when I tell you. Kinda like being four years old again, but without the cookies and milk. In order for someone to have a diagnosis of narcolepsy they have to have a certain number of dream events in a certain amount of time during a certain number of nap trials. What struck me as odd was the fact that she did not have any dreams during her daytime naps so I looked into her past sleep history a little further. She indicated that she had experienced the sleep paralysis since she was a child and also had the hallucinations, but she went on to indicate that she also heard voices. Now normally when I interview clients about possible paranormal activity, if I even suspect a sleeping disorder I go in to my medical mode. There ARE other explanations for what the client is experiencing and our job is to rule all of that out, to "debunk". Well, I found myself in the odd position of being at the other end of the spectrum with my sleep patient. My ghost-radar perked up and I tried to figure out a way to talk to her about it. She was seeing a medical professional for something that might not really be medical at all. Obviously it is a delicate subject and many people are afraid that others will think they are nuts if they even mention seeing ghosts. Many patients would not even think about TELLING their doctor about hearing voices, but she took that leap of faith. As luck would have it, when I went in to visit her in-between her nap sessions something came on the TV about paranormal shows (was there some Divine work at play there??). She showed interest in it and I took the opportunity to tell her about my "side-job". She slowly began to open up to me and tell me about the voices, the apparitions, all of the things that she has been experiencing all of her life, about how terrified she was as a child when spirits came to her. And they STILL do. I found myself in a very difficult position professionally. I can tell my paranormal clients that there might be a medical condition involved, but how can I tell a patient that she might actually be experiencing paranormal activity?? She appreciated the opportunity to have someone listen to her for once. I think I found a way to reach out to her though. I gave her my card and told her "IF" the doctor came back and told her that her daytime test was negative, there MIGHT be other avenues to look into. I knew from her testing that she was not narcoleptic, but I could not SAY that to her (some funny thing about not having the initials "MD" after my name....). I told her that there were groups in town for people experiencing the same things she was and she gave me the biggest hug imaginable when she left. Overall it was a great experience and I appreciated her trusting me enough to open up to me. Sometimes that is all it takes to make someone feel better, just someone to listen. It was first for me, this particular situation, so it is something I will keep an eye for in the future!

1 comment:

  1. That was a great story. I bet it was a hard not to just blurt out you may have ghost.