Memoir and Creative Nonfiction Writer

Madison, USA

Catherine Lanser is a writer from Madison, Wis. who grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She ate so much salmon as a child, if you cut into her you would find flaky flesh that you could easily lift away with a salad fork.

She has lived in the Midwest her whole life and writes blogs, essays and narrative nonfiction about her life and growing up as the baby of a family of nine children. Catherine is looking for a home for her first full-length memoir about how she found her place in her family, told through the lens of her brain tumor and her father’s stroke.

She reads a lot of memoirs and writes about the brain, migraines, being sick, and other things. If you want to learn more about why she writes about illness this link will take you to an article Catherine wrote on that topic.


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The Terrors of Waking Up, Asleep

Mar 06, 2019 1 year ago

Sleepwalking or sleep talking, which makes a person who is asleep appear to be awake is the opposite of another sleep abnormality, sleep paralysis, which inhibits the body of a person who is awake. As someone who experiences both, I can tell you they both bring terror in different ways. Sleepwalking or sleep talking, it's not as hilarious as it often appears in movies and sitcoms. For every person you see perching over the edge of a cliff or walking into the bedroom of someone inappropriate, there are hundreds more sleepwalkers who get stuck in the corner of their bedroom. The most dangerous thing I do when I'm sleepwalking is to stand up on the bed and knock my head on the overhead light. But sleepwalking or sleep talking can be a distressing wakeup call to bedfellows at 3 a.m. I'm usually yelling and standing and pointing to something that I'm sure has mysteriously appeared in the room. I once nearly gave a friend I was traveling with a heart attack when I jumped up and bellowed, “What's that?” We were in Costa Rica sleeping in a room with an open-door policy to geckos, iguanas, and stray cats. “Where?” she asked, popping out of her slumber. “That monkey!” I pointed. “Where?” “There,” I said, pointing in the direction of a lamp. “Where?” Over there, wearing the hat!” Certain there was no monkey wearing a hat, she returned to her sleep after her heartbeat returned to normal. The next morning, she mentioned the monkey. I didn't have any recollection, as I usually didn't. Sleepwalking and sleep talking are kind that way. The panic usually lands on the other person. But sleep paralysis is not that kind. Sleep paralysis, where someone is awake but unable to move occurs when the mind wakes up before the body gains its ability to move again. Paralysis is a normal part of REM sleep, designed to keep the body still during dreaming to protect it, which is precisely what does not happen when someone sleepwalks or sleep talks. Dreams from REM sleep can carry over into this paralyzed moment causing waking dream-like hallucinations. For me, it begins with a dream in which I am trying to wake up. Someone is holding my eyes shut or sitting on top of me so I can't. Recently it was my husband, who resembled Philip Seymour Hoffman. To make matters worse, Philip Seymour Husband was forcing me to wear a winter coat even though I was also inside a sleeping bag. I could feel the heat radiating off me, and I told him that I wanted to wake up, but he held the sleeping bag over me and I could feel my temperature rising. I couldn't move to take it off and that meant I couldn't wake up. We struggled until I realized he was the real Philip Seymour Hoffman, not my husband. Since I figured out the riddle, he let me out. I could move again and opened my eyes. For a moment I felt relief, from the heat and the inability to wake up, sure I was physically kicking off my real heavy quilt. But my joy only lasted a minute because I realized that I was still hot. This meant that I was only awake in my dream and not in real life. The scene started again. I told Philip Seymour Hoffman that I wanted to wake up. He smothered me again. I couldn't wake up and was burning up. Then, before I combusted, he let me out of the sleeping bag. I could move my arms and legs and open my eyes. The relief at not being stuck in slumber forever felt almost like a shot of adrenaline. But it only lasted a second when I realized I was still asleep. The dream repeated so many times I lost count. It's not always Philip Seymour Hoffman who keeps me in dreamland. Sometimes it's an unknown ghoul who is holding my eyes shut. I struggle again and again and win, finally opening my eyes to the real world. But then I come to understand that I am still trapped in the dream. No matter how hard I fight I don't have the physical power to leave the dream world behind. I try to open my eyes, but they will not move. I try and lift my hands, but I have no control. I try to roll my shoulders so that I will flip over, but my body does not respond. Defeated, I fall back asleep. Hope returns each time I see myself opening my eyes in my dream followed by desperation when I realize I'm stuck in sleep. Unlike sleepwalking and sleep talking, where I talk, but do not know that I am doing it, I try to scream to let someone know that I am trapped, but my voice does not work. I cannot move my mouth to get the words out and I don't have the mechanics to speak anymore. The solution is easy, though unknowable as it occurs. If I stop fighting and go back to sleep, the sleep cycle would continue, paralysis would eventually go away, and I would wake up. When I eventually claw myself to alertness, the relief is as great as I imagined it would be, but the fear remains. I am groggy from waking during a disrupted sleep cycle and exhausted from the struggle. Unlike sleepwalking or talking, I do not want to risk going back to sleep and into the place of no escape.

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