Identifying Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS)
An uncommon phenomenon that causes a person–usually female–to suffer from sudden, loud, and unexplainable noises right on the verge of sleep.
Noises which are jarring and can sound like the popping of fireworks, gunshots, the bang of slamming doors, and even loud explosions. In some cases, violent screaming or sobbing is heard.
The most exceptional thing to note about the sleep disorder that is EHS, is that noises do not occur within the head. Sounds are out of body and can be heard anywhere up to a block away by both ears.
Although very little is known, psychiatrists speculate that EHS occurs when certain synapses in the brain fire off rather than settle down.
What synapses and why, however, is still unknown.
No one has proven this theory to be true however, and doctors aren’t even sure where to begin looking–let alone find an actual cure or remedy.
Many subjects have claimed that a little rest and relaxation can help, but EHS never truly leaves those afflicted–and those with insomnia experience it much worse. Some claiming to see flashes of light, even short bursts of unexplainable pain along with the noises.
In extreme cases, EHS can develop into a more serious mental illness.
When I was a kid, maybe ten or eleven years old, I began hearing things right at the verge of sleep. You know that point I’m talking about? Where you’re still semiconscious and things are fuzzy, but you’re aware? That state.
I’d be moments from drifting off to dreamland when BAM this horrible loud noise would startle me awake. For the life of me, I can’t really explain to you what the noise was like…what I could relate it too, but it was loud and it scared the shit out of me.
For the first few months, it happened maybe once or twice a week. I couldn’t really explain it, and I was terrified of bringing it up to my mother because I didn’t know if she would believe me. I was an imaginative kid after all. So I kept to myself right up until I got into my teens.
I remember those nights.
Sometimes, I didn’t even get any sleep.
Time after time, just as my exhausted brain would begin to drift, BAM! And again I’d be wide awake, full of terror and paranoia.
Occasionally, on particularly bad nights, I’d hear other things. High-pitched noises…like screaming…it’s the only thing I can think of to relate it to.
The final straw was the night I kept hearing the banging. It was aggressive. I was so out of it that I didn’t even need to close my eyes. I was constantly in that semi-conscious state, trapped with those damned noises, when finally, I saw a bright light flash through my room.
It lit every nook and cranny. Like a flash bang. It made my skin hurt just being near it even though it was there and gone in less than a second. It woke my ass up completely and I didn’t sleep at all that night. I didn’t even try.
So I finally told my mom. I couldn’t take it anymore. It had gotten to the point that I was failing every class because I was dozing off constantly. I was lethargic, exhausted, and it felt like my brain had begun to shut down. I felt like I was going insane.
She didn’t believe me at first and I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t have believed me either. She hadn’t heard any of the noises I told her about and the fact that I had heard them was even more strange to her. Why did I experience it when she and dad didn’t? My inability to describe the sounds didn’t help either.
It took some coaxing, a little bringing up of grades, and finally she agreed to take me to a psychiatrist for a mental evaluation.
Not exactly what I was hoping for, but then again, who else to go to but a psych doctor?
After a few tests, a few more weeks, and countless sleepless nights, they still had nothing but a hunch as to what my problem was.
They guessed it was a rare form of Synesthesia.
The abnormality that causes senses in the brain to fuse together. They assumed that was why I was seeing and hearing things at the same time. But because I had only one occurrence of that, and because of my condition, they needed to do more intensive tests.
The kind that even our insurance didn’t cover.
My mother rejected the offer immediately, even when they offered to cut the bill since I was a bit of an abnormality. I still don’t blame her, I saw the cost after it had been cut and it was far more than we could afford.
So, as a last ditch effort to help me, they prescribed me a drug called Cereneroxomil, or Cerenew as it was written in some fancy scribble on the bottle. But in order to do so, they had to go for their second theory as to what was wrong with me.
They had diagnosed me with paranoid, delusional Schizophrenia.
Not something anyone wants to hear, especially at only thirteen with the knowledge that they aren’t crazy at all.
Fortunately, the drug worked a little like Perphenazine (an anti-psychotic medication) and Methylphenidate (ADHD medication). I know, that sounds weird because they are exact opposites of each other. One blocks dopamine, and the other releases it.
Apparently, the hat trick here was to try and and regulate my brain. Cerenew wasn’t on the shelves yet and was still in testing so I was a guinea pig, but at least it was free. And I could tell myself that I wasn’t actually taking antipsychotic medication. Not technically at least.
The first night with the medication brought me silence and dreamless sleep. And the following night, and the one after that, and so on and so forth. It was wonderful.
Sure, it made my head feel like a fuzz ball most of the time and the side effects weren’t great, but I could sleep. It made the noises stop completely. I managed to pull my grades out of the gutter and even graduated at the top of my class five years later.
I still thought about it though. The idea that I had been wrongfully diagnosed for all those years…it set me a little on edge if I thought about it for too long. I mean, it made the noises stop, but what was really wrong with me?
After moving into my own apartment and putting college on hold for a while, I decided to do some investigating of my own. I couldn’t exactly afford good mental health care–even with my insurance–so I went for the internet with my fingers crossed and hoped for the best.
They say to never look a gift horse in the mouth…but I was only curious.
I managed to find a medical site with a recently posted blog about a sleep disorder called Exploding Head Syndrome or just EHS. All I had done was type in my symptoms and there it was. Everything matched up perfectly.
The only problem? No one really knew what it was.
They knew the symptoms, and narrowed it down to the time of the phenomenon in the brain, but nothing else. It was a completely new topic in the medical field, despite the claim that it’s been documented for ages.
I thought I was back to square one until I happened upon a forum for people with EHS. Like any good researcher, I immediately went in to interview people on their personal experiences.
Thankfully, everyone I spoke to was very informative, many even suggested I try simple sleep aids like Melatonin. I compared what I could remember of my sleepless nights to their accounts and with every passing minute I became more and more convinced that all I had was a simple sleep disorder. Everything matched up too perfectly to suggest otherwise.
Just as I was about to get off, a new person joined the chat room. His username was TheWatcher and he introduced himself as such.
At first, he seemed a little arrogant, listing off all of his symptoms to me in an almost hoity-toity manner. But after I informed him that I had concluded my interviews and had come to a personal decision, he asked me what it was all about.
So I explained to him my situation in the most detail that I felt comfortable with and he asked me what medication I was on.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a private person. But I also know how important it is to not be too open on the internet. This guy though…I felt like he was looking at me under a microscope. We were only in a chatroom, merely words on a screen, but something just felt…off.
Despite my better judgement, I told him about Cerenew. By this time the drug had passed all FDA regulations and had been on the public market for almost three years, so it was common knowledge. I then asked him why it was important.
He dodged the question at first, and instead rattled off things about the drug that I already knew, until finally making a point that it was a very good drug for people with advanced cases of EHS.
By this time, I had already made up my mind. I was going to stop Cerenew and start taking homeopathic sleep aids instead. Again, yes it worked, but that fuzzy head feeling had worn out its welcome after five years, not to mention the occasional nausea, loss of appetite, and stomach cramps.
I began to type out a message thanking TheWatcher when he posted again.
It was a single word: Wait.
I looked down at my message box to see my half-typed goodbye still waiting to be sent and felt a shiver run down my spine.
Another message popped up almost immediately after: Don’t go yet. Please. This is very important.
I instinctively checked my security programs and saw nothing. If this dude was hacking, he was doing a fairly good job of it.
I stared at his message and gave a moment of consideration before deleting my departing message and simply responding with: What?
His response was quick and to the point: Don’t stop taking Cereneroxomil.
So, with a sigh, I asked: Why?
He responded with: Because it’s the only thing keeping Them from finding you.
Now I was fully freaked out, and possibly a tiny bit irritated. Was this guy fucking with me? I didn’t really expect trolls to dwell on medical forums, but I guess they’re everywhere. Still, I didn’t leave the chat.
A golden rule of the internet is to never feed the trolls, but I’ll admit, I was curious to see where this was going. So I asked what he meant, and who They were.
I wish I had never asked.
This is what he said to me:
EHS has been around for centuries, but only has it recently gained attention. The reason? More people have it. And why do more people have it? Because They’re getting hungrier. They’re becoming gluttonous and greedy so They’re marking more and more people for The Feast.
Those sounds you heard?
It’s simple. It’s Them attempting to open the door to our world. Those sounds are echoes of Their dimension slamming into ours. And only the unlucky hear the warning.
The light you saw?
That’s the door being yanked open. But if you wake in time, the door will close. That’s why it only appears as a flash.
The final warning is pain.
You mentioned feeling your skin burn, but that was only a side effect of being so close to the door opening. No, the real pain felt by those with EHS is much worse. It’s a rending of flesh from bone. It’s Their claws digging deep into your skin. But again, if you manage to wake in time, it will stop. Unfortunately, there will be no proof of them ever touching you. Not a single mark on your body, as if it never happened.
The reason I beg you not to stop your medication is because it’s the only thing keeping Them from finding you. You may think it’s only a dopamine regulator, but it’s more than that to Them. Those synapses firing off in your brain act like a GPS locator. And only when your mind is in that twilight state between waking and sleeping can They take you.
But your medication is acting like a restrictor. It’s preventing Them from finding you again and taking you. You didn’t make it to the final stage of EHS, but it sounds like you were close.
So please, PLEASE, if you value your life, never stop. They’ll find you if you do.
I’m a pretty open-minded person, but this was ridiculous. I let TheWatcher speak his piece before closing out the window and shutting down my computer. I didn’t even attempt to write a farewell. It was too late and I was too tired.
I hadn’t even noticed how long I’d actually been on the internet, but once I got off, I realized it was far too late to take my medication. I remember feeling a twinge of guilt and fear at the time, but I brushed it aside and decided to go to bed without anymore help from Cerenew.
I had already made my decision anyway, and there was no risk of seizure or stroke if I stopped abruptly. And besides, I wasn’t crazy, I just had a sleep disorder.
In the morning, I would go out and and buy some simple sleep aids and get back to a normal life without the fog of medication.
That night, I got the best sleep I had ever experienced.
The next morning, I did exactly as planned and picked up a couple bottles of Melatonin, along with some generic stuff from the medicine aisle.
For about a week everything was wonderful. No more fog, no more side effects, and not a single noise.
But that all changed a few nights ago…
To be honest, I can’t really remember how long it’s actually been…I haven’t slept in so long.
It all started when I took a few sleep aids before bed. I took them a little earlier than usual, but I felt like dosing as I watched some mindless TV before turning in.
It had to have kicked in rather quickly, because the next thing I remember was being woken by a loud slam from somewhere in my house. And as I opened my eyes, I saw a blinding flash from across my living room.
In an instant I lost power and everything in my home went completely dark. All I could see was that damned after image of the flash in pitch darkness.
I don’t know if I could ever explain the fear I felt in that moment. Not being able to see…not knowing if someone was creeping up on me at that moment. It was horrible.
I panicked for a brief moment before talking myself into believing that it was only a power surge. It didn’t explain the noise, but I just tried to ignore that. Within a few minutes, the electricity came back on and I stayed up for a few more hours before the drowsiness became too much and I headed off to bed.
I was nearly asleep when it happened again, flash and all, in my dark room.
By the time the sun had risen the next morning, it had happened maybe five or six more times and I hadn’t gotten any sleep.
It happened again the next night.
And the next.
I’m taking caffeine pills now instead. I’m scared to fall asleep.
But I can feel myself slipping. These past few hours I’ve been jarred into consciousness by this horrible pain in my legs. And there’s this new noise…it comes in intervals…
I think it’s saying my name. I can’t be sure…but I assume that’s what it is.
I can’t help but think of TheWatcher’s warning. I should’ve listened. I can’t even remember where my Cerenew is now. But I’ve got this feeling that it’s too late anyway.
They’ve already found me.
Soon, I’ll end up stuck in that constant state of semi-consciousness and then They’ll be able to grab me whenever They wish. I would imagine They’ve worked up quite an appetite trying to get to me.
The only thing keeping me awake now is focusing on writing this. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be. A memoir maybe? A warning? Let’s call it a word of advice.
Why should you believe me instead of writing this off as the words of some crazy person who should’ve never stopped taking their antipsychotic medication?
Why should you believe me when I tell you that TheWatcher was actually right when even I didn’t believe him?
And why should you go looking for help immediately if you are experiencing symptoms of EHS?
It’s pretty simple actually.
It’s the only reason I know that what is happening to me is real. The reason I know They are real.
It’s the reason my mother refused to believe me at first and why the psychiatrists insisted on further testing.
It should be physically impossible for me to experience the symptoms of EHS. I shouldn’t be able to hear the things I do. The loud noises, the high pitched noises…the noises that sound like they could be calling my name.
Even now, as I write this I can hear it. I hear Them. But I shouldn’t be able to hear any of it.
I was born deaf.