A Strange Aubade

I don’t often experience hypnopompia at this point in my life, but I did this morning. It was an auditory hallucination in the distinct voice of a someone I know who may have COVID19. She is one of my partner’s dearest friends, and she’s quite sick right now; I’ve been really worried about her. Fortunately, she was able to get a test on Wednesday, but we are still awaiting the results from the lab.

In my hypnopompic hallucination she shouted “I have the virus!”. It was accompanied by a myoclonic jerk that startled me into full wakefulness, my heart racing. For a moment, I thought I had overheard a phone call in which she shared her test results with my partner via speakerphone. But, as I gained consciousness, I realized what just transpired was an encounter with the hypnopompia I knew so well as a child.

Hypnopompia is the brain status leading out of sleep and into wakefulness, a term coined by researcher Frederic Myers. The hypnopompic state is the neurocognitive milleiu we all experience as the brain tries to make sense of the conscious world. Hallucinatory phenomena in the midst of this transition toward alert perception are fairly common for young children. When I was a toddler and school aged child, I frequently had sleep paralysis upon waking, accompanied by auditory hallucinations. I would hear my mother call my name, but would be completely unable to move, which always brought me to tears. Sometimes, I would hear the doorbell ring, one of the more common auditory hallucinations of the hypnopompic state. By the time I was a teenager, I had minimal hypnopompic phenomena, and even less as a young adult. By my late 20’s, hypnopompia was replaced by the mirror experience of hypnogogic hallucinations that occur at night as I am falling to sleep. 

I’m really worried about my friend, and have been thinking about her much. And, as one might imagine, I am stressed out in general about the coronavirus pandemic. I had coffee yesterday morning for the first time in a few weeks, and I know that caffeine amplifies some of my neurocognitive differences. Caffeine makes my synaesthesia, OCD, Tourette’s, and narcoleptic symptoms worse, yet it calms my ADHD. Such is the conundrum of my neurodivergent brain. I have a mixed relationship with coffee and other stimulants, yet I never anticipate they will create such flagrant hypnopompia. 

I hope my friend will return to good health. I’m feeling anxious about her well being, and I hope we will soon learn that her test is negative and that she is okay. I distracted myself this morning by creating a manipulated photograph that illustrates my visual hypnogogic hallucinations. That photograph is at the top of this post. Unfortunately, my  auditory hypnopompic hallucinations are hard to depict with anything but an MP3. I doubt there’s anyone in these pandemic days who wants to hear me, or anyone else for that matter, shouting “I have the virus!”.

Edit, 2:36PM PDT: my friend’s test came back negative! Still, she is very sick with COVID19 type symptoms, so we are doing our best to support her and stay connected. Also, there are reliable reports of false negative tests. We continue to be understandably worried about her well being.