Can you sleep at night? I find there are all sorts of people with sleep patterns I envy. Some people fall asleep in seconds while others stare at the ceiling trying desperately to stop thinking. It’s 12:30am so you can probably guess where I land. As kids we long to stay up late but as adults we wish we could be sleeping by 9pm or at the very least have workplace nap times.
Do you dream? I’ve met people who claim they don’t or hardly remember their dreams. I don’t just dream though, I dream vivid nightmares and wake to remember every terrifying detail. Unfortunate observers have said that sometimes I talk, cry or scream while sleeping. I wish I could just close my eyes and wake up happy and refreshed but most of the time I wake up wondering where I am and what has happened to me.
As a child I suffered from Night Terrors. The Mayo Clinic describes these as “episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep.” My parents would describe these nights as something out of the Exorcist. Yep that’s some scary shit to witness. Apparently I have also done this as an adult. This disrupts the unfortunate people you live with and leaves you waking up to be very tired all day.
Nightmares in children are common but in adults it is far less. From what is known of chronic adult nightmares they can be a result of anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, post traumatic stress disorder, medication, and several medical conditions. In my own case I would guess that anxiety and PTSD are responsible. I have suffered from anxiety all my life, mostly as a result of the instability of my childhood I assume. We moved often and I never had any close friends or family. As an adult I was in a very controlling relationship turned marriage to a vindictive narcissistic sociopath.
While married, my nightmares were often about being forced to stay and the intense situations I was in. Since I have left they have fallen into the following themes:
I never really left – I am back in my old house or in a familiar location with my ex-husband and my divorce was a dream. Everything is completely back to the terrifying normal that my life was. I am sad, scared and looking for a way out. I wake up from these afraid to open my eyes and it takes me a while to realize that I am not in my old bed in my old house.
I am forced to go back – In these dreams something extreme tends to happen and I am forced to go back to my ex-husband. Because of the situation I am even more terrified as I am not only living with someone who hates me but now he hates me that much more for leaving and has ultimate control over me. I am generally abused in these dreams in various ways. When I wake up I am usually sweating and in tears.
I am being hunted – My ex is an avid hunter and a crack shot at 250-300 yards. This concerns me when I am awake but when I am asleep it is that much more intense. I have had dreams that he breaks in, hunts me down, sabotages my car and ultimately is trying to kill me. This honestly isn’t completely unrealistic if you knew him. While he personally never physically hurt me in the past the emotional and psychological abuse was intense and it had increased to threats of physical violence. Living in a house full of guns with a controlling narcissist is stressful to say the very least. Waking up from these I am in a state of panic and it takes me a while to lower my heart rate.
He takes my daughter away – This has to be the worst one of all. I can handle being shot, raped, run over, tied up, forced to stay, hunted and subject to various other forms of violence but I can’t handle losing custody of my daughter. Thanks to a pathetic court system, my ex and I have joint custody and he has a very generous visitation schedule. He threatens more court action to have her live with him on a regular basis. These threats turn into realities in my dreams. They are the most possible to come true making them the most terrifying of all.
My nightmares may not have serial killers, demons or giant man eating anaconda but the evils they do have are very real. The Jabberwocky in my dreams is a real person and he is totally capable of 90% of what happens in my dreams. So why can’t I sleep? I think we have figured it out. There is a cute Dr. Seuss quote that states “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” I always get a good laugh from that one. I can’t fall asleep because my reality is better than my dreams but it has nothing to do with love, my dreams are fucking terrifying!!!!!!
’Twas brillig, and the slithy tovesDid gyre and gimble in the wabe:All mimsy were the borogoves,And the mome raths outgrabe.“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!Beware the Jubjub bird, and shunThe frumious Bandersnatch!”He took his vorpal sword in hand;Long time the manxome foe he sought—So rested he by the Tumtum treeAnd stood awhile in thought.And, as in uffish thought he stood,The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,And burbled as it came!One, two! One, two! And through and throughThe vorpal blade went snicker-snack!He left it dead, and with its headHe went galumphing back.“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?Come to my arms, my beamish boy!O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”He chortled in his joy.’Twas brillig, and the slithy tovesDid gyre and gimble in the wabe:All mimsy were the borogoves,And the mome raths outgrabe.
Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)