Get free

The thing about nightmares is that they are insane. Dreams are too, but when you dream something so horrid that you have to pull yourself out of it before shit gets too real, and then you’re lying there with your heart racing, your breath rattling and your eyes stinging, you think to yourself that you must be fucking crazy. 

What I wish this post was about

In 2011, I started having nightmares. This coincided with the death of my grandfather (whom I adored) and the breakdown of my first serious relationship. The dreams were really intense, and around the theme of loss. Every nightmare was full of losing people I loved, either by disintegration of a friendship in a fiery, yell-y argument that ended in them walking away forever, or death (death was the most frequent.) For a couple of weeks they were ceaseless, every night was another fresh terror. Then they began to fade out, once a week for a while, then once a month, until slowly but surely they fell out of a recognisable pattern.

But since they started, these nightmares have been like the swell of the ocean. Sometimes there won’t be any for months, others it’ll be like a tsunami has hit. And I can’t pinpoint any significant pattern in my psychological make-up to be able to know when they’re coming, or to know (aside from the origin trigger) what the cause/s is/are. It’s literally a game of dream roulette.

Sometimes I would have no idea how the featured deceased had found their end, sometimes I’m there to witness it, and sometimes external party will inform me of what happened. Usually the focus of the nightmare is on me and my place in the grief spectrum.

For example, this morning’s technicolour dreamcoat was about the death of my recent ex-boyfriend. Before you all jump to one conclusion or the other, we are getting along perfectly fine as friends who speak now and then. There aren’t any leftover feelings of longing or hopefulness (they died months ago) and there is no reason for the nightmare to have occurred – he was not on my mind when I went to bed (some of my dreams can be fuelled from whatever I fall asleep thinking about), and I haven’t seen him for weeks.

So why then, whilst sleeping, did I get a phone call from my Dad letting me know Ex had died while on holidays? Why did all the circumstances of our real-life recent contact come into it (making the terror more palpable)? Why did I have to call his mum whilst sobbing, to check and see how she was doing? And why, once I wrenched myself free from the terrifying grip of this nightmare, could I not slow my heart rate until I heard his voice?

What is is about fear that drives us to do things we would not normally do?
“Oh hi Ex, just calling to check you’re alive. Just had a nightmare you died on holiday is all.”
Yeah no, not your ordinary conversation at 5am (unless you’re drunk obviously…) or what I’d have done in normal circumstances. But the fact that all of the factors in the nightmare lined up exactly with real-life circumstances tipped me over.

Let’s hope this doesn’t happen!

How much of our dreaming is imagination, and how much is to do with real life? I can usually spot the subconscious thought-unpacking happening in my dreams, but sometimes it’s just really weird shit that feels like I must have been dropping some serious acid at some point (for knowledges, never done that in my life.)

I don’t know whether this is scary or genius, but some say that when we dream, we enter our parallel universe-version of our lives, and that when you dream of falling, it’s your soul falling back into your body. I can see where they’re coming from with the falling into your body thing, but that’s too much Inception for my liking, just quietly, and if my dreams are my parallel-universe version of my life, I’ll very happily stick to my own thanks – no swapsies. Even if that means playing Dream Roulette for a little while more!

But what is it? What are dreams and nightmares and night terrors and where do they come from? How can they play so cruelly out before our “resting” eyes?
If you do a quick google, WebMD tells us that at least half the adult population experience nightmares, although only 2-8% suffer from frequent or recurring nightmares. Oh good, I’m special…

But then Psychology Today tells me that nightmares can live alongside a mental disorder. In fact, having repeated nightmares can lead to what they’ve termed “Nightmare Disorder” – when your recurring nightmares revolve around a theme or event. Excellent, feeling less special, and more insane than before…

Science tells me that maybe it’s just my cerebral cortex trying to organise all the external information it’s processing while I’m in REM sleep.

But what if really, deep down, I’m just kind of fucking scared about losing people I love? Doesn’t that make a ton more sense to you?

Dreams fascinate me – the good ones and the bad ones. That we as humans can visualise things that our imagination could never do whilst conscious is astounding. It just shows us that despite all of our scientific and technological advances, we really still are only scratching the surface.

Bring on all the Freud’s, I need to get some fucking sleep.


As a sidenote: Though he’ll never read this in his life, I have to write it down: I am infinitely sorry for calling you at 5am on a Saturday morning about a nightmare you died in. Definitely not something I wanted to happen, but when things are that realistic, sometimes Inception plays on your mind and you wonder just how much is actually real. Thanks for not yelling at me about it (because jesuschrist I don’t know that I’d have stayed calm if someone called me this early to tell me they’d dreamed my death) and understanding the fear these nightmares can inspire.

One thought on “Get free

  1. Matt Taylor says:

    So against my better judgement, I’m actually going to throw my 2 cents into this and see what happens 😛

    Have you ever heard the saying that something is only worth what somebody is willing to pay for it? Cars are expensive things; only for the reason that someone is willing to pay a lot of money for one. I can buy a car for $2,000 that gets me from A to B, just as effectively as a car someone has forked out $30,000 for. The value of that $30,000 car does not actually exsist, it is a construct of society. If that “value” were a tangible object, it would exsist as something that was created in one’s mind. In essence, the $30,000 is worth no more than that afforementioned cheaper car, or alas, a ride on the bus for $2.57 (or about $13 if you live in Brisbane).

    How does this relate? to a normal person it probably doesn’t, but in my strange mind, I can make it 😛

    The idea of a nightmare, from what i can tell, is percieved as weakness by the majority of society. From reading what you have put here, you perhaps percieve it the same way. I mean, why else would this post exsist?

    So let me throw another analogy at you – when we think of dreams, we consider them to be a positive hope and want for the future. When we think about our nightmares, they perhaps are visions of the future, but usually they resemble negative emotions tied up with past events in our life (exactly what you have described above). But going back to our first, and now hopefully soon our somewhat relate-able analogy, is this actually the case, or just the perception of our our society? to put it more simply, while your nightmares relate to your past and some bad events within it, who is to say they are not your mind’s way of organising your deepest thoughts into some sort of strength for the future?

    We can probably all agree that you are a fairly strong person (even if you try not to admit it). You have your shit together, you can deal with both your positive and negative feelings and issues in appropriate ways, using the people and mediums that are most effective. But it doesn’t matter how strong a person is, everyone has a subconcsious. A subconcious that is filled with events and emotions that we can not even comprehend (hence why it’s in our subconcious), and those events and emotions need a release that, like those at the front of our minds, have their own effective medium and ways of escaping. At this point, I’m going to go out on a limb and promise you that this will eventually all make sense (maybe).

    So here’s the point: You are throwing around terms such as “nightmare disorder”, “parallel-universes”, “night terrors”, and “fucking crazy” (your words, not mine). My advice, or suggestions, since we don’t like the word ‘advice’, is to try not to determine or categorize your thoughts and nightmares. Don’t necessarily percieve your nightmares as a negative emotion simply because other people in society may think you are wierd or crazy; consider the fact that maybe your nightmares are far more simple than anything of what you described. Your nightmares could possibly exsist, as some sort of contorted event, to somehow teach your subconcious about the future. dealing with your past in a nightmare, may help your subconcious to deal with your future subconcious thoughts. Take this thought with you:

    Your nightmares are simply a result of your subconcious trying to deal with those emotions, which are so deeply engrained into your mind that you can’t even see or feel them conciously, in the most effective way possible, and to prepare itself for future journeys.

    “It just shows us that despite all of our scientific and technological advances, we really still are only scratching the surface” – why must we try to understand every little thing that our minds do? let’s find comfort in the fact that some things are simply a result of us being the perfect people that we are, and that they were never meant to be understood. Let’s embrace our subconcious and say “this is the part of me that I don’t, and will never, understand, but I am ok with that; because I am a living, breathing, human being, who lives my life and is a result of those emotions and experiences I can not see, nor can I remember.”

    You are not going crazy. You are a human. You are you.

    I doubt any of that makes sense or is on topic. But hey, did you hear about the fire at the circus? It was in tents. My humour knows no bounds 🙂

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