Welcome to my nightmare
Welcome to my breakdown
I hope I didn’t scare you
That’s just the way we are when we come down
We sweat and laugh and scream here
’cause life is just a dream here
You know inside you feel right at home here
I’m going to be honest, I don’t really know where to start with this week’s Food for Thought topic. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say about nightmares, it’s that I have a lot to say, or at least a lot I feel about nightmares and untangles those feelings enough to write about them coherently is tough.
I tend to refer to all my nocturnal brain activity as dreams. Even the ones that are terrifying and cause me to sleep with the light on for a week. When I’ve told people about some of my dreams in the past one of the most common responses I get is ‘you should write it all down, sounds like a good book’.
The difficulty I have is that my brain that thinks up my dreams, is the brain that thinks up my writing. If I use my dreams, well specifically the bad ones, as writing fodder I worry that rather than the dream fuelling the writing, the writing will fuel the dream. If I expand on my dream, adding details to it and giving it more layers so that it is a better story then I am almost certain what I will actually do is create more terror for myself when I sleep.
Only once did I use elements of my main, reoccurring dream to write and that resulted in Between the Worlds. I know there is often an element of catharsis in writing about things that trouble us, but with this topic, I feel like that may never be the case. When I express the details of my dreams, I can only scratch the surface of how deeply terrifying they can be.
One of the tricky things for me when discussing my dreams is how to separate the various things that occur during them because they so often happen all at once. I’ll start with a little more information on my recurring visitor because it has the most things happening at once.
A brief summary of this dream is I’m ‘awake’ in the same bed I fell asleep in, the room looks exactly how it does in the waking world, down to every single detail. If I left a tissue on the nightstand before I fell asleep that will be there. If I recently removed something from the room, even seconds before bed, it won’t be there, even if it had previously sat in the room for years. My brain is a master at making sure I am constantly second-guessing myself.
When I first ‘wake up’ in this dream I think I’m genuinely awake, because everything looks the same. Then I realise I can’t move, I am completely paralysed I can’t move a muscle and I know in that instant that I am asleep, that I am dreaming and I can’t do a damn thing about it. The worst thing is I know what’s coming, he’s coming.
The figure I see in this dream is not unique to me. In fact, Cat describes something very similar in her post for this week’s F4TF I’m Gonna Die in My Sleep. People who dream as I do, specifically it seems those who suffer from sleep paralysis often describe something that others can identify with. For me, he is something of a shadow or dense smoke. He is darkness, whatever he is made of, or whatever he represents is pure horror and he knows me and I amuse him and my terror is everything to him. I want to not give it to him, I want to wake myself up and flee, but I can’t.
He stands at the bottom of my bed, sometimes, in fact, he will just stand in the doorway. Somehow it’s actually worse when he stands in the doorway, it seems more foreboding. He stands there though and he weighs upon my chest. He never physically touches me, I don’t know if he can. He can make me feel him though, and he makes it so that I cannot breathe. With the air draining from my lungs all I want to do is scream. I want to scream and I want to wake up and I want him to be gone.
When I finally do wake up for real from this dream it’s will an audible scream filling my room, I’ve heard that scream many times over and it never ceases to horrify me that I can make that noise. I also wake up breathing like someone who’s been deprived of the pleasure for almost too long. Once I’m awake I struggle to go back to sleep after one of these dreams, if I do fall asleep again it’s usually with the light on and sometimes in a different room.
If you google sleep paralysis you will find lots and lots of account fairly similar to mine. One of the other things that seem to occur for many of us, and it happens to me more often than I’d like. Is the ‘waking up’ not being real more than once. So I have to relive the visitation more than once, each time it becomes more intense.
My brain doesn’t like to keep things too samey though, so I get surprise horrors too. I get regular nightmares that would make the worst horror movie seem like a walk in the park. I genuinely withhold the details of these from everyone ever, because they’re honestly too unpleasant to put into words and I do worry that voicing them would put my sanity into question.
I get night terrors, which are episodes that are terrifying when I’m in them but I don’t remember the details afterwards. I know I have these based on other people being present for them. I know they’re classed as night terrors based on telling the doctor that my ex-husband was concerned about my behaviour during my sleep. It’s a little alarming to be woken by someone screaming, flailing, crying and staring at you wide-eyed whilst saying things that chill you to your core but have them question your honesty when you tell them about it the next day.
All the above dreams tend to be above nothing in particular. They’re just horrible and there and I just live with their existence. I’ve tried all the advice out there about how to minimise them, I’ve given up hope that I’ll grow out of them and I suspect they are a manifestation of me being an anxious person who sometimes worries too much.
There are dreams though that are far more familiar and honestly feel a lot like emotional masochism. It’s as if my brain enjoys being cruel and it’s these dreams that I find the most difficult to deal with. All these dreams relive the worst moments in my life or make me face the fears I have in everyday life.
When I dream about my Mum it is never comforting. I often dream that she isn’t dead, but is still poorly but never phones me from the hospital, or forgets to tell me she’s at the hospital. I try to call her myself, but she often doesn’t pick up the phone or when she does she’s a bit too busy to talk to me. I dream that she’s well again but distant from me, either she’s cross with me or disapproving, or simply has chosen to spend time with someone else over me. I have dreams where she dies all over again. And again. And again.
I have dreams about being pregnant, where I don’t get to keep my baby, again. I don’t, in reality, want another baby but in my dreams I always want them, so very, very much and I always have to give them up before they can be born. Sometimes the scenarios are far fetched and extremely cruel. Far worse than what I actually went through if I’m honest, but these are the dreams I most often wake from in tears. As a mother, these dreams are heartbreaking on many, many levels.
Then there are dreams about Bakji. Again the scenarios always differ but the themes are the same. He’s usually indifferent about me, maybe he’s found someone new to play with and has forgotten to tell me I’m no longer going to be seeing him. Always when I confront him in these dreams he so cold and couldn’t care less that I’m hurting. Sometimes he says he’s still into me but spends the whole time we are out somewhere ignoring me.
These dreams make me feel discarded and I know for certain they highlight the things I know I would find difficult if they occurred in real life. Being ignored is an absolute no for me and I’d rather be told upfront that feelings had changed rather than be forced to confront a person with their behaviours as proof that they are no longer into me.
It’s the emotional dreams I find most draining. They are also the ones that play on my mind more as I go about my business during the day. I sometimes get flashbacks to dreams I’ve had when I’m awake. Out of nowhere, they’ll just pop into my head and just like that my mood can be changed.
I understand that this probably all sounds very unpleasant, so I think it’s worth noting that I love going to bed and I love sleep. There are also benefits to having a brain that seems to revel in providing nocturnal entertainment. That benefit being that my sexy dreams are really fucking sexy.
I have dreams about sexual stuff fairly often, I’d say at least once a week. Often they’re about Bakji, sometimes though they’re about other people I know. Sometimes people I know I’m attracted too and sometimes people I’m definitely not attracted too. Either way, I always enjoy them because they feel every bit as real as my nightmares do.
I’ve woke up from more than one of these sexy dreams with the unmistakable feeling of post-orgasm tingles still lingering. Sometimes though I just wake from them feeling good. The same way you might feel after a genuinely good fuck with someone hot, they make me feel like I got something I was itching for and even when they’re about someone unexpected I can still enjoy them for what they are.
I sometimes think to trade in the bad dreams would mean trading in the good ones too and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve spent a lifetime dreaming this way. A lifetime exploring another world that exists only in my dreams, perhaps as a way to better understand the world I actually live in. I can’t imagine being a version of myself that doesn’t dream this way.
Welcome to my nightmare
I think you’re gonna like it
I think you’re gonna feel like you belong
A nocturnal vacation
You want to feel at home ’cause you belong
Words in italics from Welcome to My Nightmare by Alice Cooper