In the beginning, I thought it was normal. The shadows that would flash by, the undying anxiety that would overwhelm me to the point where I had to turn on all the lights -- sitting in my room with my cat -- until I felt like everything was better. I also thought that having no recollection of my childhood was normal -- perhaps it was because my father had left when I was young. I even thought the whispers and voices calling my name over and over (either lightly, or sometimes yelling), were normal. I thought I was just one of those people who are naturally paranoid, and just have an overactive imagination. Thinking this made the vivid nightmares seem less scary.

One time when I was a teenager, about fourteen, I tried to cut. You know, that self-harm thing that’s suppose to make you focus on the immediate pain you’re feeling rather than the overwhelming emotions that try to drown you? The one and only time I tried to do this was when the voices were louder than ever, and I was so scared -- my mother was at work like always -- I just wanted the voices to go away. I took a knife, pressing it firmly against my wrist, and pulled across, causing my skin to open. My blood was black. I don't mean it was like a dark red or something, I mean it was actually black. I threw the knife across the room and looked back at my wrist: the cut was gone, as if it never happened. The voices laughed and I went to our medicine cabinet, grabbed some Zzz-Quil, took it, and went to sleep.

The voices usually don't get that loud or say anything really, well, other than my name. After two years, I started having these dreams. Normally I would have nightmares, but these dreams. They were like being somewhere in between consciousness and sleep. Whatever happened felt so real. It looked so real too. It was mostly these shadowy figures -- you know, the ones where they look like a man, but are completely void of all light, color, or natural features other than a humanoid body shape and appendages? Those. Normally, it would just be there, sitting in the corner, or the ceiling, watching me as I thought that I have awoken.

Maybe I did wake up. I don't really know. But then, they started moving; and when they got close, it was like looking into the emptiness of space. Eventually they started trying to talk, not that they had a mouth or anything, but I would hear the voices as the faceless figures would look into my soul, or grab me. It quickly escalated from staring and grabbing to more physical acts, such as scratching or hitting. Funny thing is, I would always wake up with the same scratch or bruise from a hit where they would inflict their actions. I thought it was just me unintentionally hitting or scratching myself in my sleep, because I tend to move and speak in my sleep. Well, I use the word speak loosely, due to the fact that I normally just end up screaming things or names, or just screams in general.

Like I said, I thought all these things to be a normality. All until that one night when I was sixteen and sleeping over at my Grandma’s house. She had a one bedroom apartment in one of those resident facilities meant for old people, and since I wasn't five, I decided to sleep on the living-room floor, rather than share a small bed with my Grandma. The day passed normally, and night came soon. As I grew tired while watching "The Boondocks" on Adult Swim, I felt peaceful.

That peace would soon allow me to drift into a deep sleep. I can't remember much before the shadow had visited, this dream was different from the other ones that I've had before. The figure was there, standing above me, as I laid on the ground. It was just standing above me and peering into me with that empty dark void of a face it had. Then it came down to me, kneeling over my lower half; I tried to move, but found myself paralyzed -- as if it was a case of sleep paralysis. The figure took its hands and wrapped them around my throat tightly. The hands were so cold it felt like someone had placed a noose of ice upon me. It choked me, and I was helpless, incapable of screaming or yelling -- I couldn't even close my eyes. Then it reached to my side -- out of view -- still keeping a throat crushing amount of pressure with one hand, it pulled something back into my line of sight. An axe. My mind raced, more so confused at why it had that item there, than how it had gotten the item, and what it would do next.

The axe was made out of the same exact void-less composition of the figure, which had arched it all the way back and took a full swing into my skull. The pressure caused a head splitting pain -- it was as if the axe truly was smashed into my head. My ears rung and everything went black all at the same time. The darkness was all there was for a split second, and suddenly everything came back. I gasped for air as my paralysis had left along with the figure. My throat and head were still in pain, and I looked around the room in complete and utter fear. The thing was gone; I thought it was a dream, but then again, there was no mental transition from being asleep to being awake. My consciousness didn't have to be put into gear, it was as if it was all one fluid occurrence, as if I had woken up to that thing and had been awake since it was with me through the attack, and to the point there-and-then, when I was sitting in a frantic, heavy-breathing mess.

I felt like something was watching me for the rest of the night, so I was unable to go back to sleep -- not that I had any desire after that "dream" to allow the figure to return. Since that very point, I have been unable to sleep properly. I always go to bed when my body is completely exhausted and when the sun will rise in a few hours, and I always know I will wake up two to three hours afterward. The toll of my sleep deprivation was not something that I expected, the constant fatigue and incapability to focus at certain times was unbearable in the beginning, but you get use to it after a few years.