Losing Sleep Over Dreams

In the past ten or so years, I’ve only had a handful of nightmares — really closer to three or four — so bad that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, go back to sleep after them. One of them was last night. My friend was dying, and I couldn’t do anything about it. Nothing. One second, I was with him in the nightmare, and the next, I was awake and completely disoriented, my mind still partially entangled in the nightmare, scrambling for my phone to send him a message and chanting “please don’t die please don’t die please don’t die.” 

I actually don’t tend to call bad dreams “nightmares.” In dreams, I’ve been shot or dodged showers of bullets more times than I can remember. I’ve almost drowned; I’ve had people threaten to shoot me; I’ve had people threaten me with bombs. People and creatures have chased me numerous times, and there have been huge conspiracies to kill untold numbers of people. I even had a dream in which I was hiding from the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. And still, I would classify few of those dreams as nightmares.

Last night, though, was terrifying. The worst part was the knowledge that he was dying — the complete certainty that can occur in dreams. Even after I’d woken up, even after I was capable of thinking rationally and realizing that my friend was almost certainly just fine in real life (unfortunately after I sent him a likely incoherent message), I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe — just maybe — something had happened to him.

That’s the thing about dreams — even after reason has reasserted itself, the feelings and emotions remain. I remember knowing that he was going to die. I remember the disbelief and the grief I felt in the dream. I remember seeing him so exhausted, so sick, so unlike himself. I remember all of that, and the feelings linger. Even in the light of day, the nightmare still had a grasp on my mind.

I hadn’t realized just how much the nightmare had affected me until I got a message from my friend letting me know that he’s okay, and all this tension I didn’t even know was there just left my body. Everything seemed a little lighter and easier to deal with.

The brain is an incredible thing — I don’t know how it does it, but everything felt so real. So much that never happened almost feels as though it did. But even beyond the memories of what happened in a dream, the emotions stay with me. I can remember how I felt in dreams that happened years ago. Terror, grief, longing, loneliness. And that moment when I wake up is always the worst because I’m so caught up in the emotion, and it takes time to realize that it was just a dream.

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2 responses to “Losing Sleep Over Dreams

  1. I’ve had a handful of dreams that are completely awful like that. Luckily, I’ve forgotten the last few (ones to which I woke up with a literal scream, or sobs, or gasping for dear life). I’ve somehow gotten good at forgetting what they’re about. But ones from when I was younger still haunt my memories sometimes. It feels as if they’re a real part of my past, because the emotions and images were so real. I’ve had some dreams that are far scarier than the simple idea of life and death… *shudder* I don’t know why our minds put us through this kind of stress.

  2. My dreams have been weird, lately. Mostly not bad, but way more weird (and vivid) than they used to… and also I’ve had an easier time remembering them. Considering the number of drugs (not just hormones) that I’ve started in the last year, I shouldn’t be terribly surprised.

    There was one notable exception… a few weeks ago I had a nightmare so bad that I woke suddenly with a panicked need to FLEE. In my flailing, half-awake attempt to escape whatever it was, I managed to knock over a glass… and then step in it. By the time conscious memory returned, I was already in the shower washing the blood away.

    I’m glad you and your friend are both okay. *hugs*

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