NIGHTMARE ON MY STREET
By: Lauren Anderson
Forgive me if I sound a little different today, but my entire reality has been altered, and I don’t know what’s what anymore. You know, no bigs.
Also, I miiiight sound different because I just had 1,000 birds of prey fly outta my mouth.
Oop! And almost forgot! I’ve been running for my life down dark alleyways for the past three nights.
“What’s going on?!” You might be wondering.
Oh nothing. You know, just a series of endless and horrific nightmares for the past 3 nights. Resulting on average about 3-4 hours of the worst kind of sleep. It goes like this:
Nightmare! Wake up screaming, or in fits, and sweat. Sometimes all of the above. Get up, pace around. Drink some water. Watch Stephen Colbert clips on You Tube for an hour to erase my mind. Eventually fall back asleep. And then NIGHTMARE! Rinse and repeat.
You name it, I’ve dreamt it too. Everything from the classics of trying to run and not being able to move. Trying to hide, and being discovered. Trying to speak, but no one can hear me. Being chased. Falling. Being tied up. Gagged. Imprisoned. You know, all the fun ones.
Then they get a little more obscure. Did I mention the birds coming out of my mouth? And not only did it shock and destroy everything as they came out… I was also screaming in intense pain. They hurt me. That’s one where I woke up legit screaming. I’m surprised my neighbors didn’t call the cops.
Then there was one where I was trying to run away from a couple trying to get me to join a Conga line with them at a wedding from hell. And no matter what I did, they always found me. It’s like they were seeking me out. It was Conga– OR DEATH.
It sounds funny when I type it this morning, but in my dream it was a terrifying dose of surreal horror. I was as annoyed by them as I was scared of them. And they just wouldn’t leave me alone! They had big black eyes, and they were smiling and SO FRICKIN HAPPY. Like the altered reality in Coraline, or that Black Hole Sun video. *shudders
Then I had one where I was maniacally skinning the flesh off a live tiger. And it was biting me and clawing me, and I didn’t care. I just kept gritting my teeth and skinning.
Jesus Anderson, you sick MFer….
Then I had a dream where I methodically murdered a house full of faceless people. Like, No Country for Old Men style. I just went down a hallway and murdered. And when I was done, I very cooly wiped blood off my chin and woke up.
OH MY GAWD. NOW I’M THE MONSTER.
I don’t know what’s worse! Dreams where I’m running from the terror, or dreams where I’m the terror itself. Either way I don’t want them. For someone who is rather notorious for never wanting to sleep, and staying up too late, all I want to do is to go to bed. I want to fall asleep and dream nothing. At this point, I’m not picky. I don’t need a good dream. I just want nothingness.
Sweet black nothing.
And now in some stupid pre-Halloween joke, I’m afraid to go to sleep. Like I’m in my own lame Freddy Kruger movie.
So what do you do when you need sleep, but you’re not up for being terrorized by your own subconscious? Well, I think you can guess where I started first– Alcohol.
I tried doing a shot (or two) of whiskey. Just to deaden the senses. I don’t mess with sleeping pills or anything like that. So this was gonna be as far as I go.
But it didn’t do squat. I still had nightmares. And also a headache when I woke up.
So then I started to look up DREAM MEANINGS on the internet. As you can guess, all the running and being chased episodes are classic anxiety dreams. Same with not being able to speak. Being bound and gagged or imprisoned is pretty on the nose too if you think about it. Your subconscious wants to get something out, and feels like they can’t.
Screaming birds? Well that’s similar too. Birds on the attack apparently represent conflict, or something disrupting “your life path”. Them coming out of the mouth means wanting to voice that conflict… but it hurts to do.
And that Tiger I skinned alive? Well according to the VERY REPUTABLE internet sources I spent 2 minutes googling, Tigers usually represent a difficulty or an obstacle. And the fact that I was skinning it, was actually kind of positive. Because I was trying to destroy the obstacle.
And good news for Dream Murderers! Murdering in dreams usually means putting an end to an old habit, or former way of thinking. It also could mean some hidden aggression that you haven’t expressed. So the fact that I was so methodical about it, is a good sign I guess?
Not sure about the significance of the Conga line… but weddings can mean transition. And how you feel at the dream wedding can represent how you feel about the change. So the fact that I felt like I was stuck in a live-action horror museum, might mean something. Like maybe I’m going through a hard transition?
But why now? Why all the nightmares back to back? Well, I did a little more research. According to Web MD, and a few other sites, nightmares can occur in adults for any number of reasons. Everything from increased metabolism from a late night snack, to a traumatic event.
My heart sinks. Oh damn. I might be on to something…
* * *
Here’s where I have to come clean with myself. You see, recently I went back to therapy.
It has been going really well, and after the first session– for insurance reasons– sometimes they give you an initial diagnosis as a starting off point. My therapist diagnosed me with having an Acute Stress Disorder. I had never heard of that before.
It’s not PTSD, but it’s under the same umbrella. Basically Acute Stress Disorder means at some point, I had an “abnormal” response to a stressful or traumatic event(s). And instead of releasing it, or being able to work through it at the time it happened… my mind and body buried it.
I’m assuming to survive it.
When I heard that, I started to cry. I mean, I never considered myself as stressed or traumatized. But after peeling back a layer or two… there’s definitely some stuff there. Maybe a few somethings there.
And for me, it was particularly potent, because up until then, I would’ve never considered what I had been through a trauma– per say. I just thought it was this looming shitty thing from my past that was super hard to talk about…
But hearing that word from a professional, was a lot like naming a monster. You know, when you turn and face a thing and you give it a name, it loses some of it’s power? Well, having an initial diagnosis like ASD, was like turning on a light in the dark room where that trauma lives.
It’s not gone. But now I can see it for what it is.
And when you can see something, you can deal with it.
Soon after I had that session I’ve started crying a lot more frequently. It’s not really sadness either. The tears feel a lot like a release. To quote one of my favorite poets Nayyirah Waheed again,
“Keep coughing up the smoke from all the deaths you have died.”
That’s what the tears feel like. Releasing the beast that’s been caged at the bottom of me.
And soon after, that’s when the nightmares started. At first, they were lighter and occasional. And I haven’t gotten to the bottom of why they increased so much in the last three days… but you can bet it’s all related.
I’m writing about it today, because to me, this is just another example of how layered our over-all health journey is. There are so many factors into living our best lives. And it is so wildly different for everyone! If I think about it, I had to mentally prep before I felt strong enough to physically prep my body at Solcana.
After working out at the gym for a while now, my relationship with my body started to heal and grow. I could finally hear it try and speak to me. And that physical aspect of our relationship has helped me get to the point where I can finally weed through some of this deeper down stuff.
That old ASD, or trauma, when left untended, probably showed up physically in my body too. Maybe that explains some of the previously inexplicable weight fluctuations? Or the random aches and pains that have shown up throughout the years? I’m shaking my head as I type this, because I just can’t get over how cyclic it all is!
It’s not just getting enough sleep. It’s the quality of our sleep.
It’s not just a nightmare because we had some cheese after midnight. (Although that can be a part of it! And yes, I do have occasional midnight cheese.) Maybe it’s our big bad brains using that REM time to finally work out and work through some deep-seated trauma?
And the releasing of that trauma allows the release of aches and pains in the body. Which means you now desire to get more physical! And that physical exercise/ movement helps in preventing– say it with me now– NIGHTMARES.
It’s still early in the process of working it all through, but I am excited at the prospect of what I will discover. It’s also serving as a great point to look back and see how far I’ve come on this health-capade.
It is also quite shocking to find out I am not as much of an “open book” as I thought I was. There are layers here that even I didn’t know about. I’m excited to see who emerges when I peel back some of this detritus.
And hopefully I will be able to peel back without peeling away any more tiger skin in my dreams. I could really use a night without murder or mayhem or… Conga lines. *shudders again
But I dunno, something tells me after putting this together, I may just sleep much better tonight.