I woke up at 2:30 this morning with pulse racing and limbs twisted under the covers. I had been having a dream where I was trapped in a house with some unknown person that I felt protective of and my former neighbor and her baby (as they were in 2002 or so). Outside the house was a postapocalyptic scene, and I think there may have even been zombies (that’s what happens when you binge on Walking Dead:) ). I remember panicked dashes across the house to get to safer areas and shooting the zombies outside.
None of that was the scary part. At some point just before I awoke, my ex made an appearance. I don’t even know if he was a zombie or a ‘good guy’ trapped in the house. His arrival was enough to pull me out of my dream and leave me unsettled.
Dreams are such strange things. As a kid, I used to have very vivid and memorable dreams. Some were repetitive and told overarching stories of strange characters (I remember a walking, talking frog with a shirt and no pants, in particular. don’t ask.) where as others would come and go in a single night. I had many dreams that seemed to be premonitions or interpretations. I used to listen to these. I remember waking from some of those meaningful dreams and heading out to my monkey swing in the backyard (kind of my ‘go for a run’ substitute as a kid) where I would swing and spin as I pulled apart the dream, searching for clues. My early nightmares were of the typical monster variety and would send me to a pallet next to my parent’s bed for comfort as I worked my way back into slumber.
As I got older, the intensity of my dreams decreased but the frequency remained the same. I would wake shaking the remnants of a vision from my head several times a week.What’s interesting to me now in retrospect is the theme of the dreams. Not long after my ex and I were together, I started having very vivid dreams every couple of months or so where he cheated on me. I would wake up filled with rage, the sight of his slumbering form next to me making me want to lash out. Perhaps it was due to the lack of a monkey swing to properly analyze these dreams (or more likely my mind’s inability to face the content head-on), but I never did put any merit in those visions. Nonetheless, those were tough days that followed those dreams. I would alert him to my nightmare and he would respond by being especially gentle and affectionate. Even still, it would usually take hours for the residual anger and anxiety to leave my body. It’s strange. Those dreams are the only time I felt anger towards my ex while I was with him. I was just too bone-headed to listen.
After he left, I didn’t sleep. The anxiety gripped my body and caused it to shake, its own tarantula dance, as though I was trying to rid myself of his poison. I spent weeks sitting on the edge of the bed, my eyes fixated on a point on the wall, my mind inhabiting the nightmare that had become my reality. Eventually, I agreed to medication – dosages that would cause a horse to enter a permanent coma barely eased me into slumber. I had only a single dream that entire fall. In it, I was near some benches at a whale watching facility in the Pacific Northwest (where I planned to move at the end of the school year). A male was sitting on a bench, facing away from me. I approach him and place my hand gently on his shoulder. He turns, and I discover it’s him.
Those nightmares stunned me enough I wished for my childhood pallet next to my parent’s bed. He had become the monster, yet he looked like the man I had loved. Variations on the that dream persisted for the first six months. Until finally, they began to fade.
I remember my excitement when I awoke one morning and realized that I had dreamed of another man – a guy I had been dating. I was thrilled. It was like calling in the Ghostbusters, his appearance sweeping my ex into the vacuum canister.
I weaned myself off the medications that first spring. I left the primary sleep aide until last, fearful that the demons of the night would reappear. For the most part, they haven’t. In fact, my dreams are now few are far between and most are quite innocuous. My ex rarely makes an appearance, but when he does, I still react with panic.
Most importantly, I never have dreams where Brock is unfaithful. I don’t have dreams that cause anger or anxiety that lingers. But if I ever do, you better believe that I’ll listen. And maybe install a monkey swing:)