Friday, March 23, 2012

David Is Not My Pal

They are at it again. The Davids. They are after me and this time they tried to break my brain.

[Back story: Read this post which explains, in chronological fashion, how the Davids have plagued me so.]

Over lunch a few weeks ago, a friend of ours (whose name is Mark and is in no way affiliated with any Davids of which I was previously aware) told us about this "sleep machine" that he had purchased. So well did this machine work that the only problem with it was that he would awake at 4 AM, completely refreshed and ready to go. The Chief Lou was intrigued and I was really only half-listening because I was still mulling over the previous conversation topic - some sort of water repellent that you could spray on your phone and then dunk it in water to no ill effect. I asked if it helped with the cell phone face cheese problem and everyone at lunch acted like they had never gotten face cheese on their phone before. Which is, of course, a lie. (Score one for the Blurters! Nothing says polite conversation like "face cheese".) So, imagine my surprise when this past Sunday, the Chief Lou danced up to me holding what looked like a camera bag. "He brought it!" [Insert confused conversation here. Who brought what and why? And why does that bag say "Brain Wave" on it?!]
Figure 1: David Pal. I have no idea what those nipple
clamps are for. They weren't in my kit.
Photo courtesy of Mind Alive Inc.

Skip to bed time Sunday night. We crawl into our bed, immediately roll into the giant divot in the middle, claw our way back up to our respective sides and turn on our reading lights. I am reading a book of essays with my hot pink reading glasses. The Chief Lou (so I thought) is reading some sort of dreadful "Hard Sci-Fi" (otherwise known as man-mances in our house. "Just because the women are robots does not mean they are not being objectified," says I. "I like the descriptions of the planets and technology," says he. "Suuuuurre," says I.) I momentarily thought his sci-fi had come to life because suddenly our room is full of beeping sounds and flashing lights. I look over and he is reading what looks like a homemade book whose cover says simply in block letters: David Pal. "I think I need setting C-3," he says and slips on the glasses and headphones. Yes, the glasses and headphones. (See Figure 1) Within about 10 minutes he's snoring away and it looks like a disco in our bedroom.

When I awoke on the couch the next morning I asked him how David Pal treated him last night.
 "I don't know, he did something. It was weird."
"Well, I'm sleeping with David Pal tonight and you can lie there and have seizures while I snore."

A few excerpts from "David Pal Operator's Manual":
"Welcome to the experience of the DAVID PAL, a digital audio-visual entrainment (AVE) device, designed to support you in your quest for wellness by promoting various areas of the brain to work together in a harmonious fashion. Through the use of AVE, you may experience yourself in a new and beneficial way."
Sounds good. Exactly how, you may ask does David Pal harmonize your brain? Well, according to the manual, in three ways:
"The first aspect of AVE involves dissociation.... Secondly, cerebral blood flow increases... Thirdly, EEG activity changes."
These all seem like very safe and innocuous things to mess with in the privacy of your own bedroom, right?
So, I selected setting C-3 because I was overwhelmed with my choices (there are 18 in varying wavelengths) and that was what the Chief Lou used and he didn't die or start to bleed out of his eyes or anything.
"Delta - The Sleep State - These sessions help bring on sleep by turning off the 'chatter' that sometimes occurs after a busy day"
C-3 is "Sub-Delta" (sounds like a cut-rate sorority) and is listed as being only "mildly dissociating". I donned the glasses and headphones and lay down. The glasses are muffled with a piece of foam on the inside of them and you are supposed to close your eyes when you wear them (so you can't read the warning sticker about seizures or scald your retinas, I suppose.) Lights pulse in patterns and rhythms across the glasses, which immediately my brain glommed onto and tried to make sense of. The headphones emit a series of tones in different frequencies, overlaid with a steady heartbeat that sounds suspiciously like a bass drum. In short, it's kind of like an instant, legal acid trip. (Hey, I've read Ken Kesey novels!)

You are supposed to think soothing thoughts during the first half of the "program" and then go to sleep during the second half. And then roll over and smash the glasses while you sleep and get tangled in the cords? (More on this in a minute.) Convinced to really give it a go, once I stopped giggling about how ridiculous and sci-fi I must look, I tried to think soothing thoughts. I think soothing thoughts all the time. It is a regular practice for me as I go about my day to soothe my bedraggled brain hamster. But when I am supposed to think soothing thoughts, this is what happens in my head:
SOOTHINGTHOUGHTSOOTHINGTHOUGHTSSOOTHINGTHOUGHTS!!!STOPTHATANDTHINKSOOTHINGTHOUGHTS!SHUTUPANDFOLLOWDIRECTIONS!STOPSHOUTINGATME!IDON'TEVENKNOWWHATASOOTHINGTHOUGHTIS!DOITNOW!STOPWRITINGINYOURHEADYOUSHOWOFFJUSTRELAX!!!RELAXRELAXRELAXRELAXRELAXRELAXRELAX and so on.
I believe this is why I have never been successfully hypnotized.

Meanwhile the heartbeat bass drum is bah-booming at a steady pace that does not in any way correspond with my own heartbeat or breathing. The tones start changing from high to low and some background feedbacky kind of noise and the lights are still flashing and it's a regular Pink Floyd laser light show in my very own bedroom. Nay, in my very own brain. So, I try to focus on my breathing like any good transcendental meditator will tell you to do... In... Out...wheeeeee ooooo wheeeee ooooo flash blink top side left side bottom side bah-boom In... Out... SOOTHINGTHOUGHTS! In... Out... What if this gives me a heart attack? In... Out... In... What was I thinking about? Out... In... I'm going to kill Mark In... Oops, I'm holding my breath Out...SOOTHINGTHOUGHTS! In... Out... boing boing boing wheeee ooooo boing boing boing bah-boom In... Out... what will my children do if I die in my bed? In...Out... what if the paramedics come and find me wearing this ridiculous contraption? In... Out... In... Out... what if I fall asleep and roll over and break this?!I don't want to buy Mark a new one! In... Out... what is my name again?

THINKSOOTHINGTHOUGHTS! Hanging with David Pal.
David Pal, that rascal, did do something strange. I found myself in the position of not being able to complete a coherent thought. I would test it by trying to think about something and then lose it right in the middle, drift off into Neverland with my lights and my boinks and my bah-booms and feel like I was floating on some sort of sensory deprivation island. Not quite asleep, but completely at rest. Can I say this? I don't often get to experience a quiet mind, not even while I'm sleeping. It was at once uncomfortable and a blessed relief. I suppose at some point either the Chief Lou finished laughing at me and took the contraption off, or I did it in my semi-conscious state because it was on the floor by my bed the next morning. (I've got to say, the latter option is a little disturbing. I'm not entirely sure what my body would do if left to wander around at loose ends while my mind was vacationing on Neptune.)

But let's talk about the next morning. The morning on which I thought for a good 3 hours that I had broken my brain. Or rather, that David Pal had. I stood up out of bed and immediately fell over. Stood up again and the room was spinning. Not the room, exactly, but the inside of my cranium. I was so dizzy I could barely see straight. I crept down the stairs and went about my morning: making breakfast, packing lunches, getting the monkeys to school - all very quietly and calmly so as not to alarm small people. I got home and sat down and watched the room slow its whir and seriously panicked for another 15 minutes or so (including a quick email to the Chief Lou: "David Pal broke my brain! Mark is dead!") until I sneezed. And sneezed again and again. I never sneeze unless confronted with direct sunlight, so three in a row only means one thing. That one thing is decidedly not "some crazy brain wave apparatus dislodged some really old fat soluble psychedelia from deep within the folds of my brain and now I am ruined for life just like all those pamphlets and after school specials said I would be". Thankfully. It means I'm catching a cold.

I just returned from the doctor's office where she pronounced my left ear "full of fluid" and issued prescriptions for dealing with said fluid. When describing my symptoms, I did not in any way describe David Pal or his presence in the sudden onset of this cold and its terrifying implications. I'm pretty sure I would have ended up with a few more prescriptions and possibly a referral if I had.

I will declare this a win. The Davids tried to get me down again and I rose triumphant with the aid of a simple antibiotic and a nasal spray. Until next time, THINKSOOTHINGTHOUGHTS!

*I am in no way affiliated with Mind Alive, Inc. or its products. I am not being paid for this post except in the way of comment love and my experience with David Pal is pretty much like my experience with other mind altering activities - abnormal. 

25 comments:

  1. That thing sounds... incredibly weird. From your description, I'm guessing that I'd have a panic attack on the first "bah-boom".

    While I'm sorry you're not feeling well, I'm glad that it's a cold, and not an aneurysm.

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    1. I think you should start a line of get well cards and sell them on Etsy. "I'm glad that it's a cold, and not an aneurysm" will be a bestseller! Ha!

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    2. Hahaha I loved the idea of get well cards too!

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  2. Didn't even know such a thing existed- truly bizarre! Relieve it's just a cold but you are braver than I, woman...

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    1. Perhaps "foolhardier" would be a better word than "braver"... :)

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  3. I have a thing with Davids too! Unfortunately my thing is that I don't like Davids. All the Davids I've known have been very unpleasant to me. No offense to anyone who's reading this and is named David. I'm sure you are the one exception.

    Your description made me crave In 'n Out, so it's working. The PAL, I mean. Or your blog. I don't know, but something here is working.

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    1. It has been 8 years almost to the day since I've had In 'n' Out! That was my last trip to LA. Hmmm. Glad something's working and hope you got your burger.
      What's up with the Davids?! It's like a plague.

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  4. That soundso interesting! Except the sickness part. For a person with terrible anxiety, and OCD, and a brain that refuses to shut up while I'm awake, the most amazing thing happens when I close my eyes - I go to sleep. Almost instantly; anywhere, anytime. It is a gift from God, to make up for all the other mental bullshit He has saddled me with.

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    1. Here's the really dumb thing about my story: I sleep like a rock, too! I can sleep anywhere. Sure, I have crazy dreams sometimes, but insomnia is not my problem. So really, why on earth would I try this thing? Because it's there, of course.

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  5. You guys are crazy! And adventurous. I would no more buy and use a David Pal then what???? I don't know.....Go to Vegas? But that's just me. Loved reading the piece. You made me laugh. And the photo is priceless.

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    1. Glad I could give you a laugh. The David Pal is kind of like Vegas, now that you mention it - what with the lights and the noise and the panic attacks. There are fewer sunburnt Midwestern tourists, though.

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  6. I laughed loud enough that Hubs started asking the cats what's wrong with me. I'm sure that ties in somehow.

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    1. I wonder what the cats would make of David Pal?

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  7. Who knew that antibiotics and nasal spray would save the day? Multiple points for you, for the win!

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    1. Nasal spray is hot. That's a definite win.

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  8. Robot ... Man ... Robot ... Man ... Robot ...

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  9. SOOTHINGTHOUGHTSOOTHINGTHOUGHTSSOOTHINGTHOUGHTS!!!STOPTHATANDTHINKSOOTHINGTHOUGHTS!SHUTUPANDFOLLOWDIRECTIONS!STOPSHOUTINGATME!IDON'TEVENKNOWWHATASOOTHINGTHOUGHTIS!DOITNOW!STOPWRITINGINYOURHEADYOUSHOWOFFJUSTRELAX!!!RELAXRELAXRELAXRELAXRELAXRELAXRELAX and so on.

    This describes my entire experience of meditation. I ultimately decided I would prefer to just tear the top layer of my skin off with paper clips instead. Now, to address the need for a quiet mind, I write brief vomited puddles of grey matter and call these "meditations" instead. Thank you for reading them.

    Two more things: One is I am dying to try this. This is really because I am still an addict, if almost 20 years sober. Anytime I hear about anything mind-altering, such as freon, nitrous oxide, oxygen deprivation–I feel I really must try it. This would be like taking LSD all over again!

    The second thing is I had a bad trip two out of three times on average that I used LSD. This would be like that. Everything with me is a fiasco. If you woke up with a cold, I would wake up with a brain hemorrhage. Or Ebola.

    I am jealous that you had this experience. Now I am going to create a Pink Floyd playlist.

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    1. I have a similar relationship with meditation, yet I keep at it. I'm hoping for a breakthrough just any time now.
      "Everything with me is a fiasco" - ditto. This is why I am squeaky clean.

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  10. I once had an inner ear infection that mimicked many of the sights and sounds provided by the David Pal goggles, including wiping away the ability to think coherently. I have yet to figure out a way to blame that on a David, but I shall persevere.

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    1. That's exactly what I had! It is surely the Davids' faults. It always is.

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  11. I did not even know such a contraption existed! We too, have a giant trench in our mattress. How does that happen?

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    1. I think our 17 year old mattress might have something to do with it. Apparently, you have to replace them every decade or so... who knew?

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  12. That thing is incredibly scary. You really are brave.
    Thanks for the laughs!

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  13. I. Can't. Stop. Laughing!!!

    SOOTHINGTHOUGHTS is my mediation mantra.

    I don't meditate so well. There may be correlation between my inability to meditate and random panic attacks.

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