Laughing Gas


Photo provided by flickr

“I think it is human nature to practice for death.”

Fisher Meyerink, Staff Writer

I think I have sleep paralysis. This wave of nothing generally strikes me as I’m falling asleep. My thoughts slowly blend into reality around me, my body slowly but steadily losing control as I’m pinned down by whatever demon my conscience has conjured up for me to face. The only way I can escape this purgatory is by screaming as loud as I can to wake myself up, though this perceived scream only manifests into a squeak in the real world. But there are nights where I decide to experiment. Where instead of fleeing, I edge as close as I can to losing myself to nothingness. But still, I’m not sure if I have sleep paralysis, because I often get the same feeling while wide awake.

There is a concept known as the call of the void. This call occurs when someone is in a potentially fatal situation and feels a twinge of desire to give in. No matter the history of mental illness, material circumstances or personal experience, everyone can feel this call. It’s one of the only things that we can all relate to. I can usually hear this siren song when I’m driving. I’ve been in three car accidents in my life, (two that my parents know of) and anyone can tell you that I am less than a perfect driver. I’m generally in a state of either accelerating or decelerating. This makes for an unpleasant experience for any passengers, but it’s what I’m used to. There will be times where I feel the urge to never stop accelerating. While this temptation only occurs for a fraction of a second, quickly replaced by whatever other thing I’m concerned with that day, it exists nonetheless. This stab of curiosity feels like a sliver of sleep paralysis. 

Being alive is a weird thing. It’s largely believed that humans are the only species on earth to be aware of their own mortality. This is speculated to be what causes us to create art and to work hard. The hope of forging a legacy able to outlive us. It’s considered human nature to create. To distract from the inevitability of death until finally it catches up to you. If this is the case, though, why do so many practice and prepare for that very occasion? Why do we sleep, or meditate and try to numb the things that make us alive? Why do we sit in silence when the gravity of our situation should make us scream? I think it’s human nature to practice for death.

There are times in my life I wish I had less control. I sometimes want to taste, see, feel and be nothing. This feeling has certain triggers for me. This feeling is laying on the wood chips of Sertoma Park in the middle of the night, staring up at the stars. It’s sitting shirtless in the Dairy Queen parking lot with a few friends, listening to them talk. It’s walking on stage and feeling your muscle memory take control away from your nerves. It’s pressing your head against the window of  your girlfriend’s car, and listening to her sing along lightly to the radio and knowing the relationship, the thing you’ve been wanting for the past three years, isn’t going to last. It’s sleep paralysis.

This feeling of empty is most concentrated when laying in a dentist chair before having a tooth removed or a cavity filled, and feeling the assistant press the cold mask against your face, telling you to “Let me know when this gets to be too much,” before pumping your lungs full of laughing gas. It’s feeling every part of your body tingle and then lose feeling all together until you can hardly see, and the only sound filling your ear is the same type of buzz as fluorescent lights. It’s realizing that when the gas becomes too much, and you become completely consumed by nothing, you’re unable to ask it to stop.