Tardsie’s True-Ass Tales: Blowing My Top

By Tardsie

The Brain: With The Exception Of The Penis, Has Their Ever Been A More Treacherous Organ?

There are a lot of fucked-up medical and psychological conditions out there. You don’t even have to stray outside the commonplace to find unenviable afflictions like PTSD, testicular cancer and male-pattern baldness. But when you get to the really wacky shit–like people who hiccough for years on end or have whatever it was that the Elephant Man had–it can be downright horrible. And then there are the maladies that nobody sees–the crazy phobias, crippling personality disorders and ultra-weirdo shit like exploding head syndrome.

It’s Funny Until It Happens To You. Then it Gets Even Funnier.

Yes, exploding head syndrome. It’s not nearly as spectacular as it sounds, and most likely won’t stain your upholstery with skull fragments, blood and grey matter. According to Wikipedia:

Exploding head syndrome is a form of hypnagogic auditory hallucination in which the sufferer sometimes experiences a sudden loud noise coming from within their own head. The noise is brief and is usually likened to an explosion, roar, gunshot, door slamming, loud voices or screams, a ringing noise, or the sound of electrical arcing (buzzing).

This noise usually happens at the onset of sleep or within an hour or two of falling asleep, but is not necessarily the result of a dream.[1] Although the sound is perceived as extremely loud, it is usually not accompanied by pain

This more-than-slightly-fucked-up affliction was once virtually unknown, but recently has begun receiving media attention, not least for its ridiculousness. Seriously, exploding head syndrome? Sounds fake.

Restless Leg Syndrome Is Even More Ridiculous.

At least, that’s what I would have said if I hadn’t suffered from exploding head syndrome myself. It came and went over a period of several months in 2001-2002. EHS is thought to result from stress, and a reader, noting that this period dates roughly from 9/11, might be forgiven for thinking that the greatest American tragedy in my lifetime might play a part in the onset of this disorder. I don’t believe it did; I had quite enough stress in my life during those days to do the trick.

The first time it happened, it was terrifying. I was lying in bed on the edge of sleep when I was brought fully awake by a tiny sensation in my head. This is the hardest thing to articulate, because although I could not see or hear this sensation, it possessed both color and sound. It began as a tight, tiny white ball that roared like the ocean and then quickly began to grow, becoming louder and brighter (still without me being able to hear or see it) until the whole of my world was that roaring white nothingness, and then suddenly it was gone. The closest comparable experience I can cite is orgasm, but without all the fun.

Yeah, But It Was Pretty Lame.

I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Was I having a stroke? Was I dying? While I was quickly able to eliminate those two possibilities, I could never determine what was happening to me. For several months the strange sensation would strike just as I was falling asleep. I never saw a doctor about the problem–it didn’t occur to me that anyone else would have this bizarre issue, and I sensed even then that the problem was (pun very much intended) “all in my head.”

After a few months the problem went away, and I didn’t think about it for several years, until I first heard mention of exploding head syndrome. Since then, I’ve heard it mentioned with some frequency, but this is marks first time I’ve mentioned my experience to anyone other than my wife. You want to know the crazy thing? I’ve never had a headache in my life.

So I’ve Got That Working For Me.

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31 Responses to Tardsie’s True-Ass Tales: Blowing My Top

  1. tomsimard says:

    Somebody really out to consider renaming it.

    • tomsimard says:

      I wish I could blame exploding head syndrome for the out instead of ought. How about those migraines I’ve suffered all my live long day?

      • Smaktakula says:

        Oof! From what I’ve heard about migraines, I’ll take brain-popping (which is way more dignified than Exploding Head Syndrome) any time. I’ve known quite a few people who’ve suffered from migraines, and their symptoms were all very dissimilar except in one respect–IT SUCKED!

        So yeah, I think a migraine would be a good excuse for dropping a couple consonants.

      • tomsimard says:

        Brain-popping! One too many pills…

  2. El Guapo says:

    I think the true tragedy here is that it wakes you up when you’re about to fall asleep.

    • Smaktakula says:

      All joking aside, that was one of the worst things about it. It didn’t happen every night–or even most nights–but for a while, I was THINKING about it every night. Curiously, it never happened more than once in the same evening.

      • El Guapo says:

        Funny, I’ve heard the same thing about older pacemakers. They went off violently, to the point where those that had them had ptsd and wouldn’t go out from fear of it happening again.

        Glad it passed for you!

      • Smaktakula says:

        I hadn’t heard that, but it makes sense. It’s funny–I recall you making a comment some time ago about “useless information,” but when I learn something like that, I feel like the world is just a little more ‘in color’ if that makes sense. It probably doesn’t.

        And thank you!

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Oh, sure, I was going to poke fun until you said you suffered from this malady. Now I’ll just have to say something lame like the condition deserves a more sensitive name. Call it a parasomnia (a sleep disorder that involves unusual sensory experiences). There. That sounds better.

    • Smaktakula says:

      Oh, sure, I was going to poke fun until you said you suffered from this malady

      You must think I have Exploding Memory Syndrome. You’ve already mocked sufferers of EHS in The Write Transition (well, as I recall, you mentioned it in conjunction with other weird things or bizarre maladies). As I was writing this, I actually went to your site to search out the post, but you don’t have a search feature (or if you do, I lazied out before I found it), because I wanted to see my comments. I don’t remember what I said, but I recall debating whether to say, “Hey, I had that!”

      Parasomnia does have a classy ring to it. “Hey everybody, I’m a recovered parasomniac!”

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        I did mention it on my site, but I didn’t poke fun at those afflicted. And I do have a search button. It’s at the top of my homepage. Unfortunately, the new theme I have doesn’t put the side widgets in the post pages. Didn’t discover that until I paid for the thing. Here’s the link if you’re still interested: http://carrierubin.com/2012/02/28/scaring-your-doctor-from-a-to-z/

      • Smaktakula says:

        but I didn’t poke fun at those afflicted’

        Which is why I added this: well, as I recall, you mentioned it in conjunction with other weird things or bizarre maladies, which was pretty much spot-on. I think that’s a pretty good recollection of a ten-month old post, particularly if you consider that I can’t always remember what I had for breakfast (true). I’m actually at a loss for this morning’s repast. It was probably…ah, it was Greek yogurt.

        So maybe I do have Exploding Memory Syndrome. My recall for some facts is pretty amazing, but first names are a bitch.

        Here’s the link if you’re still interested

        I was still interested. What a great post to revisit for so many reasons. Thanks again for the kind mention, also for all the freaky ailments (including the ridiculous and probably made up Exploding Head Syndrome). Sure enough, my comments made no mention of my infirmity.

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        I WAS impressed by your recall of the post. But then again, it had personal meaning given its ties to your own exploding head, much like your North and South Dakota posts have for me…

      • Smaktakula says:

        True…but I also remember several instances of awful offspring offal, your trip to some Baltic backwater, Mr. Rubin’s ‘orchid’-shaped head and so many other good things.

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        I guess my drivel has staying power.

  4. More crazy than Exploding Head Syndrome, I find it super weird that you’ve never had a headache… and I am SO jealous of that!. LOL

  5. Seriously?! You’ve never had a headache? What are the side effects of a hangover for someone who has never had a headache?

    • Smaktakula says:

      Seriously. I’ve had ice-cream headaches {known more popularly as ‘the brain freeze’} and my head has hurt after being struck real hard, but never have I had a spontaneous headache. However, have no fear, hangovers are still very real for me: nausea, joint ache, fatigue and occasional incontinence.

  6. Bumba says:

    I liked the part about the light orgasm.

  7. If only it was like an orgasm but with all the fun. Dammit! I’m sorry you suffered through all this. I had never heard of it before.

  8. unfetteredbs says:

    this is funny and yet it is not. How do you do that? Get me laughing then feeling sorry for you? OUCH

  9. So, when you discovered that your temporary affliction was common enough to already have a name attached to it, was that satisfying, or disappointing? Because you know that dozens of the other people out there right now who suffered this are making a huge deal out of it, probably writing books on the experience, appearing on the Dr. Phil Show, etc.

  10. jmmcdowell says:

    Wow, as someone whose allergies take the form of swollen sinuses resulting in headaches, I am envious. Occasionally as I’m falling asleep, something in my brain will trigger the sensation of a loud noise or sudden burst of music. I’ve never thought of it as an explosion, though….

    • Smaktakula says:

      I’ll bet it’s the same phenomenon, though. You’ll note that in the wiki piece it details a variety of symptoms. Is your experience unpleasant? The loud noise doesn’t sound great, but the burst of music…what’s that like?

      • jmmcdowell says:

        It’s like someone turned on a radio at full volume for a few notes, then turned it off. Sometimes the music sounds like a symphony orchestra. Other times, it could be a punk rock band. I don’t recognize any of the music, and it may not be an actual piece. No matter what it is, it does a great job of waking me up when I really need to get some sleep.

  11. renxkyoko says:

    Sometimes I can hear someone calling me, and I’ll wake up… and it sounds real….. does that count?

  12. It’s comforting to know that when you suffer episodes where your head explodes it’s confined to your mind and not the pillow, sheets and walls. I do not envy that sensation you’ve described and I’m glad I’ve never experienced it. Possibly due to these explosions in your head, you’re headache immune i.e., all the suffering that goes into an ordinary headache is concentrated when you have an episode of EHS. If I sound like I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, ta da!

    • Smaktakula says:

      Happy New Year! Well, it’s an intriguing theory, but if it’s true, I only had to do about a year of penance for my pain-free head. And the exploding head didn’t really hurt at all, although it was most certainly unpleasant. But I am very grateful never to have had a real headache. Some people get killer headaches, and I feel awful for them. Everybody’s got their issues, though. I suspect there’s some “normal” part of my life that someone else would find intolerable.

  13. Oh perfect, I think I have that octopus restless leg syndrome. No kidding. I should check that out.

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