Lately, I have been dreaming a lot.
Like A LOT.
Terrifying dreams of drowning, suffocating, running, hiding. Nightmares punctuated by panic and terror. Dreams about my children, my son-in-law, my husband, my parents, work, even my blog isn’t safe from my dreams.
And the dreams aren’t the worst of it.
For years I have suffered from occasional bouts of sleep paralysis. Basically sleep paralysis (in case you don’t just want to click on this link) happens when you are conscious during your dreams, but can’t move due to hormones your body produces to keep you from moving while you dream. This hormone disconnects your brain from your voluntary muscles so that when you dream your body doesn’t act on those thoughts.
Sleep paralysis is often depicted in art as a sleeping woman with a demon sitting on her chest. That’s not far off the mark of what it feels like when it is happening. Before I understood what was happening, I wondered myself if I wasn’t being tormented.
When I have sleep paralysis I realize I’m awake and dreaming, but I can’t pull myself out of the dream. Therefore, I’m conscious of the horrible nightmare I’m having, all while trying to make my body move and wake myself up. The dream goes on while I struggle to wake up. Sometimes I will just fall back to sleep and really wake up later. Sometimes, especially if I nap during the day, I will cycle through several bouts of sleep paralysis until I can finally make myself fully wake up.
One of the most benign–but still very annoying–recurrent episodes of sleep paralysis I have is the dream that I’ve woken up and started my day. I get up, I shower, I get dressed, and I eat breakfast, but, like Geena Davis in Beetlejuice, I can’t leave the house. When I open the backdoor to the garage to get to my car, I can’t go through the door. That’s when I realize that I’m still asleep. Sometimes I cycle through this dream several times before I’m finally able to really wake myself up. It’s really annoying.
Sometimes my sleep paralysis is worse than others. I’ve gone years without it happening, but right now it is as bad as it has ever been.
When I was younger I had sleep paralysis fairly often. So often that sometimes I couldn’t differentiate my dream-life from my waking life. Imagine going through life with regular bouts of Déjà vu. Imagine seeing people and events happen and not being able to remember whether they really did happen or whether you just dreamed them.
(Okay, I warned you. I AM going to talk crazy talk. Although there really isn’t anything crazy about sleep paralysis. It is a known medical phenomenon and has nothing whatsoever to do with sanity. But if you’ve never had this happen to you then it probably sounds a bit loony.)
I used to have to be VERY careful what I allowed myself to be exposed to when awake. For instance, I used to never watch horror movies. I remember giving in once and going to see one of the Nightmare on Elm Streets with my husband when we were newly married. He meant it all in good fun, and I don’t think he believed me when I told him that there were going to be repercussions. He told me I could hold onto his hand and I’d be fine because he’d be there to protect me.
But afterwards, after spending night after night rescuing me from Freddie Kreuger, he never talked me into seeing another horror movie again. Really, a person with sleep and dream anomalies shouldn’t ever watch Nightmare on Elm Street. Duh!
Because this was such a problem for me, I began to research Lucid Dreaming and taught myself how to exert some control over the dreams so at least I wasn’t completely terrorized when it happened. (I chose to link the Wiki article on lucid dreaming because most of the other ones sound so airy-fairy, but lucid dreaming is possible.)
My best lucid dream moment occurred during a recurrent dream where I was being chased and either raped or slashed with a knife by this same man. I don’t know how long I kept having this nightmare, but one night he appeared and I remembered that I was dreaming and that laws of physics don’t apply. Since it was my dream, I was the strongest person, and I was finally able to vanquish him once and for all. He’s never appeared again.
It is ironic that I’m dreaming so much since I’m not sleeping very much, but understandable. I resist falling asleep because that’s when the dreams come, but avoiding sleep is what is making it worse. I stay up too late avoiding sleep, but then either over-sleep (a real trigger) or fall asleep in the afternoon, and the afternoon dreams are the worst. It is a vicious cycle that I need to break very soon.
Why am I mentioning this?
Well, in this morning’s dream one of the main characters told me to wake up and write a post and title it “Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?”
So I did.
And here’s today’s song: