People Call Me a Vampire

I’m really not a vampire, but I have a couple of the symptoms.  I wish there were such a thing as the immortal life of a vampire, but I’ve studied the origins of the belief/myth and can see from a scientific perspective where people got their ideas.  I’d love to be able to live forever, but that just isn’t in the cards for any of us.  Well, maybe we’ll be able to transfer our brains into other bodies one day, or into machines that can keep our brains alive, but that’s another subject entirely.  Never mind the moral issues of who gets to live, and how we control the population on the planet.

What I really am is someone who has a fairly mild allergy to the sun, and something called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.  Garlic, crosses and silver have no impact on me, except for mild distaste at the religious symbol.

I don’t really understand why people are comfortable wearing a cross or crucifix (depending on your religious affiliation).  It isn’t what actually killed Jesus, from everything we hear about the historical side of things.  Supposedly it was the Spear of Destiny, when some Roman soldier got bored and decided to take a poke at one of the prisoners.  Still, it would be kind of like wearing a hangman’s noose as a piece of jewelry, don’t you think?  People wear those, too, but it’s not generally an accepted religious practice to do so.  What would people be wearing if Jesus had been beheaded?  An axe or the chopping block?  It might have been somewhat appropriate for him to be drawn and quartered, seeing as four horses were used.  It would have a nice symmetry with the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  Hard to wear four horses on a necklace, perhaps, but a charm bracelet would work I suppose.  Yes, yes, it’s sacrilegious to say these things, but I’m agnostic – I’ll say what I like.

Doesn’t anyone else think it’s a little morbid to wear the cross?  Oh, well, maybe it’s just me, but that’s part of where my discomfort lies.  There’s also the factor that I do believe there was someone named Jesus a long time ago, but I don’t necessarily think there was anything all that special about him.  I think people were easily convinced of magical tricks back then.  It was, after all, a couple thousand years ago, long before the general population was showing any cynicism regarding superstitions.

Back to the original subject, however, of my so-called vampire-like tendencies.  I’ve gotten a rash from the sun since I was about nine or ten years old.  I wasn’t imagining I was some sort of vampire back then, either.  I hadn’t seen a lot of movies at that age, as VCRs were just starting to be available in movie rental places.  To buy one was horrendously expensive at the time, so people rented the equipment if they wanted to rent a movie to watch at home.  That seems so weird to me now.  The point is, I doubt very much if I’d even seen a vampire movie until I was in my teen years.  My first rented movie was Gandhi – a weird first choice I suppose, but it was my aunt who brought everything to my grandparents’ place.  Three hours and eleven minutes of watching someone go on hunger strikes really didn’t instill any sort of interest in vampires, as you can probably imagine.  My first actual theatre experience with movies might have been E.T., but maybe it was Annie at a drive-in.  I don’t actually remember, and they all came out in 1982 according to IMDb.

Even as a child, however, I could not sleep at night.  I never fell asleep before two or three in the morning.  I was an extremely physically active child who also went to school the regular amount of time.  My grandparents had me in figure skating, highland dancing, ballet, gymnastic and even Judo.  I was also a competitive pianist, which I try not to say aloud seeing what the word ‘pianist’ sounds like when spoken.  When I do say it I make sure I enunciate very clearly.

One would think, with my level of activity, that a child would have no problems getting to sleep at night, but that has never been the case with me.  I knew there was a sleep disorder having to do with poor sleeping at night, but it wasn’t until my curiosity compelled my to look it up again about an hour ago that I realized what it was called.  The common term, Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (or DSPD), is officially termed circadian rhythm sleep disorder, delayed sleep phase type in the second edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders.

DSPD is common in teenagers and young adults, at a rate of about 7% of the population.  People think teenagers are just being lazy, when in reality it’s part of the growth cycle.  Apparently, in some US states, high schools are experimenting with delaying class times so that student can get their proper rest and perform better in school.  Must be nice to be a teenager in those schools, because I have to say it really sucks to live your life on almost no sleep.

In my case the DSPD is much more uncommon as I’ve had it for as long as I can remember.  It’s very prevalent in people with the genetic predisposition toward any form of ADHD, which is something that’s part of my genetic make-up, so I guess in that sense it’s not uncommon.  In the general population, however, it afflicts approximately 3 people out of every two thousand, or 0.15%.  Family doctors aren’t particularly familiar with it, if they’ve even heard of it at all, so they tend to think it’s simple insomnia.  In reality, people with DSPD will sleep just fine if they’re allowed to sleep at the time that’s natural to them.

According to the entry on Wikipedia, people who are forced to compensate and attempt to live their lives during the socially accepted times, generally live their lives in a perpetual jet lag-type state.  I’m here to tell you it feels exactly like that.  I used to work in the corporate world, and getting by on about three hours’ sleep a night is not easy.  On weekends you try to make up for it, but there’s really no way to ‘catch up on sleep’ once you’ve missed it.  It takes a toll on your body.  There were times when I would go for days without sleep, which is not healthy at all.

This sudden burst of curiosity again about something I’ve had my whole life was brought on by watching the latest Nightmare on Elm Street.  It was interesting to me, although not the least bit scary.  It takes a fair bit to scare me these days.  Maybe that’s because I’m a somewhat lucid dreamer, meaning I can have the worst nightmares or craziest dreams, yet I always seem aware that it is just a dream.  I’ve experimented a bit with controlling my dream environment, to vary degrees of success, and that gave me a feeling of control over my sleeping mind in general.  The things is, if your own nightmares don’t really scare you, a movie just isn’t going to do it.  The most I seem to feel these days is the creepy factor.  Darkness Falls got me, which I thought was a bit weird.  As my daughter said, you know what’s coming, you just don’t know when.  There was something about their version of the tooth fairy that made the thing seem a lot more frightening than you’d expect.  You just really do not want to see her face, and you’re practically begging the kid not to peek.

I suppose I do have the usual fascination with the vampire myths, and I really do wish I could live forever, but I don’t actually believe that it’s at all possible.  The documented cases of so-called vampirism are easily explained with modern forensic science.  The various stages of human decomposition, particularly at a time when people were not embalmed, accounts readily for the appearance of corpses that were supposedly reanimated at night to feed on the living.  Rosy cheeks, youthful looks, etc.  As the gases in the body expand and bloat a corpse, the skin is stretch and wrinkles disappear.  Blood vessels break, the skin starts turning toward purple, and the features relax so that people look happier.  When you remove the blood from a corpse and replace it with embalming fluid, you circumvent these natural processes, so we no longer see healthy-looking corpses if we happen to disinter them.

Besides, I’ve never been completely dead, so it would be kind of hard for me to be classified as a vampire.  I’ve only been ‘mostly dead’, which makes me think of Billy Crystal’s character in The Princess Bride.  Maybe it was more like I was close to being dead…twice.  Once when I was two and had carbon monoxide poisoning, and once at the age of thirteen when I stupidly attempted suicide and nearly succeeded.  I don’t think that counts toward defining me as the living dead, but you can call me whatever you like.  I can take it.

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